Mike Stokinger

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on October 17, 2010

Mike Stokinger A long time railroad buff and friend of many, died Sunday September 26th, he was 56 years old. There will be a gathering of friends to celebrate Mike’s life at the Josephine Randall Museum on Wednesday, October 20 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm.

From the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club blog:

Last week, the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club lost a long time member and friend: Mike Stokinger. Mike was not only an active participant with the GGMRC but also a great person and very much involved with building the organization and ties with the model railroad community and friends of the GGMRC. Help us remember him and his love of model trains by stopping by to see the passion that he lived for.


From The Peter Pan Express in April 1997 Salon

I recall Mike Stokinger, the genial treasurer of the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club, who described his love for trains in such different terms. “There’s something very soothing, very musical about them. When you’re in a train, you’re in a cozy enclosed space, you’ve got movement, this hypnotic hum of sound and it’s almost like being in the womb.”

My memories of Mike

I grew up in Noe Valley in the 1970’s and took classes at the Randall Museum. Open houses at the GGMRC were rare and big events. The line typically ran down Museum Way and the wait seemed like hours. I grew up, moved away, school, etc. but made it back to the Bay Area in 1996 and was a member of the GGMRC for a few years in the late 90′s.

Mike was a great guy. We had him over for dinner one night and he brought over a projector, a screen, and 4-5 slide carousels (several hundred slides) of his recent train trip to Chicago on Amtrak as well as photos from his trip to China. Mike managed to make a three hour slide show very entertaining. Mike was always passionate about passenger trains and I fondly recall his long strings of name-train cars snaking around the layout. I’m very sad and sorry he is gone and agree that he will be missed.

Cross-posted from my Autistry Studios blog.

Switching Track

Ryan is another of our railroad-minded students and he chose to model a railroad yard. We used a classic John Allen Timesaver track plan and we added an Atlas turntable at one end.

We built the layout on a block of pink foam-board and glued 1/4″ plywood on the sides and bottom making a light but extremely rigid foundation.

Switching Track

Ryan soldered all the electrical connections.

Ryan Soldering

Dan Running the Trains

Here the ground has been painted and the track has been airbrushed. Ryan is cleaning the paint off the tops of the rails.

Cleaning the Tracks

The temptation to run some trains as soon as possible was irresistible.

Running the Trains

Ryan and the Layout

Next we ballasted all the track.

Ryan's track

Then we got Ryan started building some structures. He quickly mastered the plastic buildings.

Ryan's building kit

Ryan building some structures for his layout

We have placed the buildings on the layout and we’ll blend the bases into the scenery in the coming weeks.

The turntable

A small place of our own

Ready for some more scenery, grass, trees and trains.

Looking down thw tracks

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This is a quick progress update and a state-of-the-project report. Erik is one of our railroad-minded students at Autistry Studios. In the spring we brainstormed ideas by collecting and organizing photos of scenes that Erik liked.

We found several trends in the photos that Erik liked and the one we focused on was Northwestern Pacific Railroad scenes in and around Sausalito, California. In the 20s and 30s Sausalito had a large passenger facility with electric, steam, standard gauge and narrow gauge trains connecting to ferry boats to San Francisco.

Eric's Ideas


After we negotiated a footprint size for the project, Erik started by making a foam base.

Erik's Diorama Base

Erik has completed the bay shore with rocks.

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Laid all the track and preparing the electric third-rails — actually fourth-rails in this case because the Northwestern Pacific had dual standard-narrow gauge track at this station. Erik also painted the rails and the ties.

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The third (fourth) rails ready to attach and the station platforms.

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Last week we took the Amtrak Capital Corridor train from Emeryville to Sacramento and walked over to the California State Railroad Museum. I had never been there before and it is really a great place.

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Pretty winter day in Old Sacramento.

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We had the place pretty much to ourselves in the morning.

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SP 4294

SP 4294

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There are more photos at my pages on Flickr.

Foothill Station - Finally

In the summer of 1989-90 I worked at The Roundhouse model railroad shop in the North Hollywood/San Fernando valley area of Los Angeles. I really enjoyed that summer job and bought several kits while I was there. One of them was Detail Associates kit number 7003, Foothill Station.


I’m very happy I recently finished the structure but embarrassed to say it took me 20 years to complete.

One of the great side effects of almost continually building things with young adults in our Autistry Studios workshops is that I find I am much better able to just sit down and build things without procrastination. I probably did 10% of this model’s construction in 1989-90,  another 10% in 2000, and the final 80% in a couple weeks of December 2009.

My review of the kit: This was actually a pretty tough kit. I did a little Google searching this evening and cannot find any pictures of this kit built-up. I’m thinking that maybe other folks found this kit hard too. What was hard?

Foothill Station - Finally

The multi-level nature of the kit and the many walls which make the shape so appealing are really hard to get properly square and level. In fact, I failed to get the walls truly square although it does not show in the pictures. Overall it is a great kit and I’m really pleased with how it came out.

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The building has a VERY small footprint which makes it ideal for smaller layouts. The admittedly UGLY bunches of grass around the various posts as they enter the ground scenery are intentional and hide that the building is not glued to the base so the posts all are in rather large holes in the scenery. Hopefully someday I will move the building to my layout.

Don’t get me started about how long I have been “building” my layout!

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

Foothill Station - Finally

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If I can’t build things a bit faster — I’ll be dead before I make any sort of a dent in my un-built kit collection! NOTE: the picture above was what it looked like three years ago — I have even more kits now.

I prefer to model the 1920′s. I settled on this era in a process I outlined years ago. However, I was not alive in the 1920′s. My parents weren’t either.


My grandmother died over ten years ago and while she was born in the teens she was pretty young in the 20′s. I want to have a body of stories and information about the era so that my model work will reflect the correct “feeling” of that time. Since first-hand information is hard to come by, here are the resources I’m using.


Dasheill Hammet stories are very readable and give some insight into life in the 20′s. A bonus is that many of Hammett’s stories are set in the Bay Area and they imply a seedy grittiness that I want to portray.


Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940: How Americans Lived Through the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. A very good recent (2002) survey

Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s. Very interesting, especially when you consider that it was written in 1931!

Local history:

Both Sides of the Track: A Collection of Oral Histories from Belvedere and Tiburon.

A Pictorial History of Belvedere 1890 – 1990 a California Island Town.

Any number of the local Arcadia Publishing books…

In a separate post I’ll discuss what books I use as source material about the local railroads.

I’m not a big diesel guy. I like some of the early unit passenger trains like the Pioneer Zephyr and M-10000. I can usually tell E units from F units and I love the early slant nose E units like the E3 or the E6. I like steam and pre-Super Power steam at that (that would generally be considered pre-1920′s steam engines).

However Ryan, someone I’m building a yard module with, is big on diesels and so when he saw this engine on my blog about some pictures I took in Point Richmond, California, we wondered what it is exactly.

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I speculated it was a GP35 but Ryan didn’t think so. He though it looked like a GP20 (one of his favorites) but the cab was wrong. I did a little digging and here’s what I found:

First, there are people on the Internet who are way more obsessive about the details of the complete rosters of every engine a railroad ever owned than I ever will be — and thank God for them!

I ended up at this very interesting site ATSF Diesel Rosters and found BNSF 1683:

BYW2, 15-in “BNSF” patch on cab, “Santa Fe” on long hood, “SANTA FE” cigar-band herald

Yep, that’s it. Anyway, BNSF 1683 started life as AT&SF 713 — a GP9 delivered in May 1956. And it is still trundling the rails in Point Richmond 53 years later.

MRH Cover

Note: This review is my own opinion, unsolicited, and based purely on my experience as a customer.

I’m generally sad about the state of model railroading magazines. In August of 2006 I started a series of blog posts analyzing what has happened to Model Railroader to make it the raging wad of mediocrity it is today. I grew up loving MR. I have 46 years of MR back-issues in the loft bookcases of my office.

I have 32 years of Narrow Gauge & Shortline Gazettes and a few decades of Railroad Model Craftsman. They have ebbed and flowed as well but overall are reading now much as they did many years ago.

I’ve been open to the idea of other model railroading magazines and have subscribed to several. None stood any test of time.

I have something to be happier about.

Joe Fugate and friends started Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine in January of 2009. Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine (hereafter MRH) is published quarterly (bi-monthly in 2010) as a free download in PDF format using many of the rich media extensions available in that format.

I really liked the first issue and I wished them well in the tough world of model railroad publishing but I must admit I said to myself “I bet they threw everything into that first issue and the content will dwindle over the next few issues.”

I got busy with life, work, and other non-modeling pursuits and while I downloaded the 2nd and 3rd issues I did not read them.

This week the 4th quarter issue came out and I started to read it. And read it. And look at it again. It is great. I learned something new, several times. It was fun to read. It is what I think a great model railroading magazine should be.

I double checked by sitting down this morning and reading through all four issues back-to-back. I’m really impressed. I’m really happy I have these issues on my hard drive. It’s exciting to have a new magazine where I’m actually curious what the next issue will bring.

I carefully read Joe’s editorials and articles to see if he actually delineates the secret sauce. In issue #1 he says that it’s the rich media. In another issue he says it’s because he advocates “layout modeling.” I think he’s missed on both. It’s the content. Not only are the articles excellent quality but they have room to breathe. In a medium where megabytes are cheap MRH can allow an article to go long, go deep, have more pictures. Print can’t compete.

MRH Article

I highly recommend Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine.

Go look. It’s free and I feel really confident that you will find it time well spent.

Have you gone yet?

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