Category Archives: National Parks

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/

 

 

The Summer Tourist season is now over.

August has found it’s way to Washington, Missouri. The town’s Town and Country Fair has come and gone. So let me catch you all up on Mrs. Shuttletrain’s and wanderings over the three months. Over the Memorial Day Weekend, we set off to Northwestern Tennessee, to visit the South Fulton, TN Railroad Museum. The Museum is in the back of the town’s city hall. The Museum is staffed by real-life railroaders. We enjoyed seeing their collection, and taking with three staff members about their memories. Next, we headed to the town of Union City, Tennessee. We visited with the mayor of Union City at his television station. Not sure that a television station should be a mayor though to remain objective. Afterwards, stopped off at the town’s railroad station which houses the County Chamber and Economic Development office. Spoke to the ECO Director about railroads and railfanning in the town. Checked into the Hampton Inn. This Hampton must be a re-brand because it had all outside room doors and a very small breakfast area. I would hope that the owners would close down and move to a new building near the Discovery Park of America. That was real destination of  our wandering that weekend.

The Discovery Park of America, is true wonder. Built in the northwest part of Tennessee near it’s border with Kentucky. It seems to be in the middle of nowhere. The park is way larger than it appears from the roadway due to berms hiding the place from the main roadway. The location sits next to a future Interstate.The science center, living history, gardens facility is just so wonderful.The exhibits inside Discovery Center range from dinosaurs to space exploration. The tower rises about the building allowing visitors a great view of the place and it’s surroundings.

The Pioneer village shows the careful planning that went into the thought process. The Railroad Depot Area has a steam engine, three passenger cars a caboose on loan from the city. The depot itself is a replica of a nearby station from the past. It has lots memories inside. Very nice detailing. Did I mention it also has a G Scale train running around it inside?

We left DPA and headed back towards home, but ended up in Cape Girardeau, Mo  for the evening. The next morning we traveled to Bollinger Mill MO State Historical Site. We walked the mill and over the covered bridge. It was a very neat place. MO State Parks takes very good care of the place. Mrs. Shuttletrain suggested that we visit Elephant Rocks State Park. We tried too at least. The place was packed, No parking anywhere. So we headed to Arcadia, to visit the soon to be Amtrak station. e found out that nothing has been started, no platform or loading area or even a waiting room. And if you ask the Historical Society volunteer inside, they don’t want the waiting room at all. Just wonder how many people will use the new station considering the train will stop there in the middle of the night. No big cities in the vicinity. We left after walking through the museum and headed back to WashMO.

The next weekend, for the Let’s Talk Trains program I aired the interviews that I had recorded in Union City. Then went outside and tried to clean our roof gutters. Mrs. Shuttletrain had a wildlife pet control company over while I was hosting the Let’s Talk Trains show, for a squirrel problem. Why do I mention that? Well, as I was cleaning the gutters I needed a screwdriver, which I had Mrs. Shuttletrain retrieve from the garage. As she was entering the garage, she saw a squirrel and screamed for me to come get rid of the squirrel, forgetting that I was still up six feet on a ladder. She screamed again in panic, so I started to climb down off the ladder, the center of gravity changed and the ladder and I went sideways. I fell between our two cars. and cracked three lower vertebra. I checked myself over found no bones sticking out and found my way to the bedroom. Took some pain pills and then fell asleep. Two days later after the swelling went down called the doctor and he sent me to get x-ray. In the meantime, Mrs. Shuttletrain’s Aunt had died in northwest Illinois. So we traveled there on a Wednesday night, then went to the funeral on Thursday and came back home on Thursday night. The next morning, Friday we then traveled the other way to Springdale, AR for the NRHS National Convention Banquet, since LTT was a sponsor of the convention. The 5 hour drive down was tough. As soon as we arrived in the hotel room, found the bathtub and proceeded to soak in hot water Then went to the banquet, and had a great meal and listened to the CEO of the Arkansas Missouri Railroad. Great speaker and even better railroader.

The next day, did the LTT show from the Springdale train station with one of the show’s special guest host, Skip Waters. Skip is a board member of the NRHS. It was a delight to finally meet him. That night went to one of the seminars about Arkansas Railroading through the eyes/camera of John Barriger. On Sunday, left and headed back home to Washington.

Got home and went to a spine doctor, who confirmed that I had three cracked vertebra. He told me to wear a ortho back brace for the next three-four months. So that is what I am doing. I does make it feel better. Our next wandering brought us to Bowling Green, KY. The Historic RailPark and Museum is our host this time. I was amazed at how beautiful the building has been restored. The station has a museum is the bottom third of the station and part of the top floor as well. They have a double decker model railroad layout on the ground floor. Very cool. We set up from the LTT show, under the old passenger platform, and under cloudy skies. As the show progressed, the sun came through and warmed thinks including my neck up very well. After the show we walked through the rolling stock, packed up and headed back to the hotel.

The next day, we visited Mammoth Cave National Park, and viewed the steam engine and combine car that was used to bring visitors and supplies to the area in the golden years of railroading. After seeing the visitors center, (because of my back could not go down under), we headed to IN, to see the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home National Historical Site, taken over from the State of Indiana, construction looked just like the George Clark NHS, also a former State of Indiana park.

We stopped off in Illinois to visit a friend from the garden railway club, then headed home.

I decided to stay home and rest my back for a couple of weeks, except, for my annual visit to the APRHF Silver Rails Country Lookout Point. I am always amazed at how many trains go by that place and how fast they go. After co-host the LTT show, we headed over to the Depot Inn and met up with APRHF board member Tom Anderson, to discuss so show stuff and APRHF stuff, along with the new Silver Rails Wine Trail. It is going to be really fun. Can’t wait.

We leave La Plata, and back south towards Columbia, and meet up with our best friends, who live south of Columbia for dinner and ice cream. I is always a great time when we get to hang with them. After visiting with them for over an hour, we make our way back to Washington. Traindog Ajax got to come along and eat some pizza and enjoy lots of trains too.

The next week, was my birthday week and as usual, I had a couple of invites for dinner, which Mrs. Shuttletrain & I gladly enjoyed. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful friends in person and on Facebook and Twitter. I had over 900 well wishes. Glad the came via electronic way, or my mail person would need shoulder surgery.

The first Saturday, I went to the Central Missouri Railroad Assn. Train Show and Swap Meet. I hosted the LTT show from there. I got to speak to people from the club also spoke to a member of the Wabash Railroad Historical Society.  Very interesting day without having to travel too far. The next wandering back to my second home of Kansas City and the Kansas City Northern Railroad, for a LIVE broadcast, then the weekend of the 23rd, head to Taltree Arboretum in Valparaiso, IN and their Railroad Garden Can’t wait.

 

We that’s it for this time. See ya soon.