Monday, November 15, 2021

Out-of-town operating: conclusion

 This post concludes my series about the trip five California guys made to the Twin Cites and western Wisconsin for an intense week of operating as guests on a great series of layouts. (Here’s a link to the previous post: .) 

I’ve mentioned it before, but want to emphasize again, the enjoyable hospitality of our La Crosse-area hosts and of our primary Twin Cities hosts, Rich Remiarz (left) and Joe Binish, see below. They were instrumental in making it a great trip.

This final segment will emphasize Rich’s excellent layout, called the Great Northern Willmar Division, centered on St. Cloud, Minnesota. Rich’s layout is well along and is complete in many areas, with lots of highlights. I will just show a few. One of the most eye-catching is his granite quarry, a signature of the St. Cloud area.

The area around the quarry, as with a number of layout areas, is beautifully handled. with a range of vegetation and even a few flowers in the grass and weeds. The layout shows that Rich is a master in using static grass and other vegetation.

The same kind of care is visible in non-railroad structures like “Val’s Hamburgers” in the town of Monticello, complete with a typical 1950s “geometric” sign, shown below.

Lastly, here is one of Rich’s photos, of the industrial area just east of St. Cloud Yard (where I got to do some serious switching!). Here you see 0-8-0 GN 837 spotting an empty flat car at Royal Granite, as a big Class O-8, GN 3391, a 2-8-2, brings a freight into St. Cloud. An excellent layout to operate on or just to railfan.

One evening we had the wonderful opportunity to visit Dave Vos and his Cumberland Northern layout. This layout, in places, is more than 50 years old, and Dave has stuck to “what works,” even though some of it is perhaps startling to those not yet weaned from issues of Great Model Railroads. Old fashioned it may be, but it sure ran nicely.

Talking to Dave was half the fun, but looking over the layout and then getting a chance to do a little yard switching was even better. And one part of the fun for me was to see Dave’s well-worn car cards, immediately recognizable to me as the Allen McClelland modifications of Doug Smith’s original design (Smith, Model Railroader, December 1961; McClelland and Steve King, Railroad Model Craftsman, February 1978). I used the exact same system on my first large layout!

I’m sure you can tell from my enthusiasm that I thought it was a great trip. Our hosts were all so hospitable, and the layouts and operating schemes of such uniformly high quality and interest, that it was just a great experience. I’m already penciling in future operating weekends such as RiverRail in La Crosse, and MinnRail in the Twin Cities, as future priorities.

Tony Thompson

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