JULY 2016 Updates

Well hello everyone, I know it has been over a year since I have updated written anything. I have been kind of trying to rethink things as far as railfanning and model trains. After taking a year and half off from the working world, I got a job in May 2015 as an United States Postal Service Rural Mail Assistant. So that keeps me on-call everyday to back up the regular rural carriers in a three postal code area. I still found time to do a couple of On The Road trips for the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (aprhf.org). The I Got to visit with the editor of Passenger Rail Journal, Mike Schafer at his office outside Rochelle, Il. Then next at couple of moths later headed to Monticello, Il and the Monticello Railroad Museum. I was really amazed at the preservation work they are doing. I was a great visit. In October 2015 we headed to Mississippi to the McComb Railroad Museum. It had been on our most recommended by listeners list ever since I started hosting the podcast. On the way back home, We stopped off for a site visit at the Vicksburg National Military Park since we would be talking with them the next week. As most followers know I love American Civil War history and National Park Sites in general, so this was a treat. I am most surprised by the amount of NPS sites that have a railroad feature or history with the unit. Vicksburg didn’t disappoint either.

The town is almost stamped in time. The views of the River are a sight to behold.The railroad bridge and depot are must see’s. The railroad cut through  the NPS unit is a great railfan picture spot when the trains come through. The locals are most inviting and offered great hospitality when asking questions. The next week after getting back, I got to interview Ken Patterson about his model building and model picture taking fame. He truly is a world class artist.

I got a weekend off call in November to head to the TrainFest in Wisconsin. It was another long requested place to visit by podcast listeners. I took my wife and another couple with us whom we know through our garden railroad club. We headed up north from the St. Louis area, stopping in Rochelle for a quick windy visit to the diamonds there. We arrived in Milwaukee about 2:00 in the afternoon, unloaded and setup in the convention center at the State Fair site for TrainFest, then checked into the Crowne Plaza, an IHG property the lodging sponsors of the Let’s Talk Trains show and had dinner a a Firehouse Sub shop nearby. The next morning headed back for the first day’s broadcast from TrainFest, Then came back to the hotel for dinner, On Sunday, headed back for the second day’s broadcast. It was pretty cool to hear the recorded announcement as guests entered the lobby that we were here broadcasting. We were set up right next to our partners, APRHF Rail Rangers. They had all sorts of stuff on their table, they were selling. They even had the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger ambassador there on Saturday, we interviewed here too.

December was a very a busy month for the US Postal Service and I, only had two days off the whole month. Christmas packages kept us very, very busy. It carried on into January for a couple of weeks. I would either take the last 1/4 of a regular carrier’s route or just deliver over-sized packages. I learned a few more areas because of the the packages.

February meant that I could visit with the folks at Applied Imagination, the company that build most of the train layouts at the world’s botanical gardens. It was a fun interview to do, learned a great deal with the folks. Then later in the month, after having to turn down an invitation to ride on the Amtrak Inspection train that was going to tour the old route  between New Orleans and Jacksonville, I found a stand in that I could interview, Doug Alexander. He provided a recap of his trip and his observations.

March came and I took a Saturday off to do another listener requested On The Road shows. We once again asked our garden railroad friends to travel with us. We left Washington, at 5:00 and headed east on I-44/I-64, we picked our garden railroad friends up in along the way.to North Carolina. Just as we were pulling into Marion, Illinois, the police were making everyone off the highway, we then started a 25 mile detour to get back on I-24.  Did I mention that it was a driving rainstorm. We stopped off at the NPS Fort Donleson and USFS Land Between The Lakes. We then continued towards North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains. Our host hotel for our night was the IHG, Holiday Inn Express Cherokee.  We got to tape a show on the first train of the season of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. The four of us got to travel on the Moonshine car with the General Manager of the railroad. The staff even surprised us with a BBQ lunch. The next day we visited Chattanooga and IHG, Holiday Inn Express-Lookout Mountain for a little while. We spent the next day in Nashville at IHG, Holiday Inn Express-Lebanon. We made it back to the St. Louis area on Sunday, a four day road trip. I got to work a couple days at the Post Office when I got home.

April rolled in and found another weekend that my wife and I could escape for a three day On The Road trip. This time it was Texas. A fan favorite, the Rosenberg Texas Railroad Museum RailFest. My wife was able to get off the whole day Friday, so we set off at 5 am again this time taking Missouri 47 south to US. However, about an hour into the trip the LTT Canyon developed a problem. The infotainment system crashed, no radio, no GPS etc. So we stopped off at the GMC dealer in Poplar Bluff, to get it looked at. After spending an hour and a half and them not finding anything wrong, we continued out travels down US 67 towards Little Rock. and Interstate 30. We then got on US 59 to Houston and then spent the night in Sugarland at the IHG,  Holiday Inn Express-Sugarland. We then got up early on Saturday and headed to Rosenberg. On the route over the truck emailed us that our right rear tire had an issue. So did the RailFest then found a Walmart to have the tire looked at. The tech found two nails in the tire. We we called AAA and had the tire changed to the full spare. Then on Sunday we headed back via the NPS Fort Smith National Historic Site. Then back home and USPS work.

May came very quickly and our visit to Wichita, Kansas.We left on a Wednesday and headed Southwest again down Interstate 44 to MO Hwy 7, We went trough Lake of the Ozarks and spent the night in Nevada, Missouri at the IHG, Holiday Inn Express-Nevada. The next morning, we visited Fort Scott, KS. Fort Scott is the home to NPS Fort Scott National Historic Site. I do believe that Fort Scott has a better layout and historic preservation going on than that of Fort Smith. We spent about four hours in Fort Scott, then continued westward to Wichita, and our base hotel for this trip the IHG, Staybridge Suites-Wichita Airport. I had lived in Wichita for three months while I worked for a school bus company back in the 1990’s, so I spent the evening driving around trying to remember where I lived and traveled and trying find the location for the show taping.. The next morning headed back to Botanica. Botanica is the botanical gardens for Wichita. They have a small but packed garden railroad layout. We interviewed a city council person, the Visitor’s Bureau Director, The Economic Development director, overseeing the rebirth of their Union Station, Great Plains Transportation Museum, Botanica Director and volunteers that man the railroad garden. After being treated to BBQ at a local restaurant Thursday night we, headed to Kansas City and a personal tour of the KC Streetcar Office and maintenance facility then a ride on the streetcar a week after opening. As you may remember, I have been a big supporter ever since having them on the podcast three years ago as they first launched planning. And got to see how it reacted to rain. Then back east on Interstate 70/MO 47 to Washington, MO.

I got to work an average of four days a week in May. June came in with a heat wave. So work became very interesting. I love delivering mail and packages to people. People are always surprised when we come on Sunday with Amazon Sunday packages. Some people are sorry that we are working on Sunday, but, I tell them that is actually my Tuesday, since our work week starts on Saturday. Since I work on Sunday I have missed a the Gateway Garden Meetings but attend the gathering a couple of times. Our personal garden railroad is still stuck in planning stages due to funding, but, still will be built.

By the way. The Let’s Talk Trains Senior Host/Producer is getting married in October so he has been very busy planning that, so he has not been able to catch up his episodes or the Let’s Take Trains website which is understandable. We are looking for volunteer hosts and volunteer web producers. If your interested, contact him at nathan@letstalktrains.com/