October 2009

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.

Picture 007

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?

Walt Disney was a model railroader. Indeed, his idea of Disneyland was as a huge walk-in, live-in complete model railroad. Recently the Walt Disney Family Museum opened in San Francisco.


We just went this morning and it is a very nice display of the work and life of Walt Disney.

Photography is prohibited inside but some folks over at Mouse Planet have a great set of pictures and a detailed description.


My rating of the museum? It is a MUST SEE for die hard Disney fans.

For everyone else the quality and richness of the environment and displays is very impressive. If you are an autistic or aspie (and/or have one in your family like we do) bring earplugs because the audio in the displays can be a bit overwhelming otherwise. The price  is appropriate for the quality of the displays ($20 for adults, $12 for kids) but may be too high for some families.