Thursday, October 28, 2021

An out-of-town operating trip!

 Last week, several local California model railroad operators paid a visit to the Twin Cities and to La Crosse, Wisconsin. It all began with Rich Remiarz and me, exchanging emails about how it would be fun to visit and operate on a few layouts as the pandemic eases, and ended up with five Bay Area guys traveling to the Midwest for an intense, week-long trip. (I should mention that everyone involved, guests and hosts, was vaccinated.)

We began with four layouts in two days in the La Crosse area. The hospitality, headed up by Dave Burman, was really first-class, and they even made up name tags for us, taking off from their biennial Riverrail event.

First up was Dave Waraxa, whose BNSF Kootenai River Sub was really a good-looking and enjoyable layout to operate. I chose the Potlatch Mill job, a challenging complex of mill trackage. I show Dave’s semi-schematic map of the mill below, and this was a guide for ongoing inbound and outbound switching, exchanging with the adjacent yard.

The area was nicely modeled, as you see below, with the switcher pair in the foreground, and with the wide variety of cars to be switched, really interesting as a job (of course, all the tail tracks were too short! making the job that much more interesting). The morning flew past!

That afternoon, we moved to Al Lesky’s Milwaukee Road River Division, another layout with some challenging switching jobs. I chose the Red Wing job. This includes the large Red Wing Malting complex, shown below, along with Red Wing Shoes, as well as Cargill  and ADM elevators. All involved moving a lot of cars!

This complex was nicely provided with clear directions on the switching to be done, and train interactions. A nice job and well thought out. In the schematic below, Red Wing Malting is at lower right.

That evening we all converged on the Freight House restaurant in La Crosse (originally an actual 19th century freight house) for a nice dinner — classy logo below.

Terrific venue, good food, and a fine end to an excellent operating day. But it was only the beginning of the week! More later.

Tony Thompson


  1. Interesting looking car cards and waybills depicted in a photo but not enough pixels to enlarge. Can you elaborate?

  2. I assume you mean the Red Wing Malting photo. They are pretty conventional 4-cycle-type waybills, somewhat modified and (as you can see in the photo) color coded with a stripe. That was helpful, with cars moving in a variety of trains.
    Tony Thompson