Okay, yes, I went to see Unstoppable. I had every expectation of not liking it because my “train buddies” almost to a man began to pick the movie apart before it ever reached the theaters. I expected, at best, it would be like Twister was to us real meteorologists: amusing but agonizingly disconnected from reality. But all those shots of SD40-2s on former PRR and B&O lines, plus shots of Wheeling & Lake Erie trains called to me. So I took the family.

I liked it.

THERE I SAID IT. I liked it a lot, actually. The rote old guy versus new guy dynamic, the predictable evil corporate boss putting cash above safety, and the regular suspension of physics, along with a few just plain mistakes (an SD40-2 does not generate 5000 HP, nor does it have problems running in reverse) were not enough to keep me from wanting to own the Blu-Ray.

What’s to like? Well, the scenery is awesome. The mud season in western Pennsylvania is something I’m very familiar with… It’s brown and desolate. Perfect for the story. The trains, well… Awesome too. The SD40-2 was a workhorse of Conrail and many other roads. The AC4400CWs were in a somewhat hokey scheme, but they do look menacing. Overall, the use of railroad jargon was just enough to feel somewhat realistic and not enough to overwhelm a non-railroad fan. And, for the most part, it’s pretty close to correct.

The movie makes the situation much, much worse and more threatening than the real event, the so-called “Crazy Eights” runaway in Ohio in 2001, involving CSX SD40-2 #8888.

Wikipedia article on Crazy Eights

Overall, unless you have a railroad spike up your tailpipe, if you like trains, you’ll enjoy this movie. Leave the physics book at home, please.

Expanding the Empire…

Like any good American, I see opportunity in real estate. Call it Manifest Destiny, or if that’s offensive to you, call it something else. When I placed my 36″ x 80″ N scale model railroad into a rather large basement in Nebraska, it looked really small. I mean tiny. Since I model the mighty Pennsylvania Railraod, the self-proclaimed Standard Railroad of the World, I asked myself, what would the PRR do when confronted with the same situation?


Of course. It’s so simple. But wait…! I’m a military guy, and I move every 2-3 years. How can I expand this thing and still know that it’ll fit into some future home I haven’t even seen yet? Well, that took a leap of faith. But how to expand? What to add?

The main thing holding me back from experiencing real model railroad operations on my glorified roundy-round was a lack of staging for off-layout trains. I had made a tiny, rickety 3-track yard that wasn’t anything to look at and added only marginal play value. But this time I wanted to do it right. Not wired to do anything half-assed, I threw my whole ass into it and added a classification yard with an engine terminal. Because it sits “railroad east” of my fictional depiction of the PRR’s famed Middle Division, it became the famous Enola Yard outside of Harrisburg, PA.

So now trains can be made up, broken down, or staged, and locomotives have a place to be serviced.

On the road again… Again.

So clearly I’ve not been much of a blogger. I’ve been active on multiple model railroad forums and have recently added a Facebook fan page for my layout, the N Scale Juniata Division… but a model blogger I ain’t. But since I staked out this little corner of the Internets I figure it’s high time I revisit Rail Time.

The biggest news recently has been the fact that we’re moving AGAIN. I’m hitting the road tomorrow to the Florida panhandle and duty station number 7 for me. Now last time I had the movers move the Juniata Division in a crate I’d built. Well, this time the layout’s twice as big. Oh yeah, I guess I didn’t blog about that either… OK, I owe you another post! Anyway, this time it seemed more prudent just to move the thing myself:

The layout is shock-corded in place in a 5×8 U-Haul trailer. Here’s hoping it doesn’t bounce too much! And, if you’re not keeping up with the Juniata Division’s website, Facebook fan page, or the 4 model railroad forums I frequent, here’s a shot of the layout with the new Enola Yard extension as it sat yesterday in the empty basement:

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that planning up front for portability, though sometimes a real pain and an added expense, pays huge dividends down the road. You may not have as mobile a lifestyle as I do, but if you’re in a starter home or have big plans for the future that involve a relocation, you can have your layout now instead of having to wait.