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Toy Train Museum Tunnel


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Large Scale Railroad
Construction Progress 201

Help Wanted

Work sessions are on Saturday mornings usually around 8:00am.
Come down and help build a railroad!

For more information, or to volunteer, contact Burt Wright (cell #) 444-0661

The Golden Spike Ceremony was December 1st 2012

[Large Scale Railroad info...] 

Large Scale Railroad 2014 (July-Dec)
Large Scale Railroad 2014 (Jan-June)
Large Scale Railroad - 2013
Large Scale Railroad 2012 (July - Dec)
Large Scale Railroad 2012 (Jan-June)
Large Scale Railroad 2011

Planned for Halloween, Saturday (October 31, 2015):

This Saturday, we have a regularly scheduled work session that will begin at 8:00 AM, 30 minutes later than previous. For early arrivers, the building will be open at 7:30 and there will be coffee & donuts available.

The schedule this week will include the following tasks:

  1. As difficult as this may sound, we need to try and reduce the amount of growth occurring within the drainage channel along the back side of the Museum. Pulling some weeds may be helpful and additional pruning will be needed as well. We can put a work train together to haul the trimmings to the front of the Museum to load into a truck for disposal. This project, if delayed, will only get bigger and more difficult. Please bring heavy gloves if you can assist.

  2. There are a couple of minor tracking-leveling needs that shouldn’t be difficult to remedy.

  3. Inspect the electrical boxes and conduit runs connecting the signal block to the flashing signal at the Museum entrance. Heavy rains recently at the Museum may have contributed to the signal operating continuously at the last Open House thus necessitating it to be manually controlled. It was again checked Wednesday evening at the Museum although it appeared to be operating correctly. There have been no rains for a week and things are drying out. We need to make sure that water isn’t trapped in the electrical boxes and/or conduits.

The Open House last Sunday was successful as we again had good ridership although it didn’t start out being busy. With a full consist of cars due to Brian generously allowing us to use his two riding cars and the caboose, we were able to load a lot of passengers onto a single train. One challenge confronting us is the need for us to get some good photographs of the train carrying happy passengers. The happy passengers are easy to find, but we need to get written permission from parents of children and/or adults riding the train to use the pictures on our website. This will be a challenge for us during a future Open House. One possible solution might be to simply “stage” a train with our own members families, kids and/or grandkids to avoid any potential problems. This can be discussed this Saturday.

Last Saturday, although not an official work session, a few of us showed up at the Museum to “test drive” the recently completed Museum engine. Bob Swanson was busy again with his lopper. It’s never ending.

We went ahead and put a full consist together of the four Museum cars and Brian Scott’s two gondolas bringing up the rear and made several laps around the Museum in preparation for the Open House. Suffice it to say that everything worked as it should although the horn button is still a little bit finicky. We put square white pieces of tape onto the side front corners of each car with writing to designate the front of the car plus the intended order/placement for each car so that safety chain lengths would all be correct and we shouldn’t have issues when putting the trains together. The tape is only temporary until a more permanent making system can be employed.

Kudos to those members who put this engine back together because it worked perfectly both days. We put the full consist together and made several laps without incident. While we were at it, we used the train to haul tree trimmings, cut down by our most qualified arborist, Bob Swanson.

Saturday (October 24, 2015):

There will be no regularly scheduled work session this Saturday, but it’s a good bet that some of you will come down anyway. If you decide to come, the doors will be open by 7:30 AM with donuts and coffee available as usual. Recent rains suggest that we should check track conditions to make sure we are safe to operate at the Open House scheduled for Sunday. The great news is that we have our engine back and ready to go.

Below is what we started with last Saturday morning.

Here is another picture of just the cab – Signarama (owner: Doug Baker) did an absolutely great job taking the artwork prepared by Jesse Miller & translating it into beautiful graphics, applied flawlessly. For your information, the name “Lily” applied to the bottom of the cab under the Museum Logo is in honor of the very first passenger carried on a train pulled by this locomotive. Lily is Bill Kaval’s daughter – we miss Bill and his entire family.
Special thanks to Glenn Ellis, Jesse Miller, and Roger Phillips for the careful efforts to make this project go so incredibly well.
The installation of wiring, original run along the sides of the batteries was elevated and put into a loom to make lifting the cab on and off easier as well as prevent damage to any of the exposed wiring.

The only thing remaining to do will probably happen tonight at the Museum and that’s installation of the “gingerbread” which are the handrails and ladder rungs, etc. on the frame & body. All the pieces will be at the Museum tonight beginning about 6:00 PM.

Don’t forget our Open House on Sunday, 12:30 to 4:30 as usual. Weather should be awesome.

Hope to see some of you Saturday as well.

Planned for Saturday (October 17, 2015):

There is a scheduled work session this Saturday beginning 30 minutes later (7:30 AM) than previous work sessions. The S4 graphics are completed and the engine is ready for re-assembly which will be the order of the day. As always, donuts and coffee will be available.

Brian Scott bailed us out last weekend as virtually the entire group were either out of town or committed to other events. Brian invited his wife & kids to help with the public train during the open house including the maiden voyage using his flat car with sides & seat installed for additional passenger capacity. The car looked great and worked better. One train hauled a total of 16 passengers (has to be a record).

Below is a picture of the entire consist including the Museum’s engineer car, 3 gondolas, Brian’s flat car converted and Brian’s gondola with his caboose bringing up the rear. It’s impressive & worked well.

Hope to see you this Saturday at 7:30 AM (new start time). Should be lots cooler.

Saturday (October 3, 2015):

This Saturday morning at 7:00 AM, there will be a scheduled work session at the Museum. Work tasks will include re-work of the siding on the back side of the building which is long overdue. It has some fairly significant humps and valleys which need to be shaved and/or filled to get that track level. Although it’s a siding and probably can function with the bad track, it looks bad and we should correct it.

We will also get an update on the progress on the S4 graphics application.

Saturday (Sept 26, 2015):

There will not be a regularly scheduled work session this Saturday at the Museum although there will be members present as usual. The building will be open at 7:00 AM as normal and donuts & coffee will be there as usual. With the Open House scheduled for Sunday (the following day), and the Alco S4 not yet completed, we won’t be able to run on Sunday. That is somewhat disappointing, but it happens. That doesn’t mean that your help wouldn’t be appreciated on either or both days. On the task list is re-assembly of the Big Joe control panel to correct the failed solenoid which occurred during the last Open House. In addition, we might want to begin prepping Big Joe for some paint work as it really could use some sprucing up. If you come Saturday AM, it will be great to see you. If you don’t, please consider coming to the Open House on Sunday to help the rest of the crew & spread some good will.

Here’s proof that the engine is painted. On the left is Gilbert Lopez, retired owner of Tucson Auto Collision Center, who took a lot of pride doing the paint work for us. If you ever have a chance to meet Gilbert, please thank him for his efforts as he gave us a pretty big break with the work he did. The engine (frame & cab) is now at the graphics shop getting the graphic design made & installed. Since that work is being donated, we really can’t dictate the schedule. We hope to have the engine back soon so we can begin the re-assembly before we forget how it goes back together.

Saturday (August 8, 2015):

Perhaps a little bit cooler (maybe even less than 100) and virtually no chance for monsoon rain, we will have another work session scheduled for this Saturday morning beginning at 7:00 AM. Donuts and coffee will be there – will you?

Sorry, no pics from last work session although there was more alignment and leveling work done at the location where the new turnout was placed. We didn’t have much time to test the area with a train, so that will need to be done this weekend. We also want to get some clear understanding of the grade work that will need to be done into and out of the turntable area so that any cut/fill work can be planned.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday (July 25, 2015):

This Saturday, there will be a regularly scheduled work session beginning at 7:00 AM. The gates will be open at 6:30 if anyone wants to arrive early. Coffee and donuts will be available as usual. Expect it to warm up fast so we will probably only work outside until we lose shade.

At the previous work session, we installed the previously removed turnout at the north end of the site that will provide access from the main line into the turntable area and eventually into the engine & train storage building that will be constructed. The hardest part of this job (like most projects) is just forcing yourself to get started. This first step was to lay the previously removed turnout on top of the existing curved section of tract that exits from the existing turnout. This allowed us to approximate where the turnout would be installed plus where to make the first “rough cuts” of rail.

With the rough cuts made, we removed the section of rail and raked out all the ballast.

We then placed the new turnout with the curved section of track overlapping the rails from the turnout. We then connected the turnout to the straight track.

We knew that re-alignment of the curved section would be required to create a smooth transition into the new turnout. Thus, we had to remove a lot of ballast from that section of curve track and begin the process of re-aligning the track to provide a smooth transition into the turnout.

A lot of “ooching” and tapping resulted in what we thought would be an acceptable transition.

Once we were relatively comfortable that we had the curve track alignment close to where it should go, we made the final cuts of the overlapping rails and made final connection between the turnout and the curved section.

A kink is quite obvious in the curve section connection to the turnout in the picture above, however the turnout needed to be straightened by aligning the straight portion with the approach rail (rotating the turnout slightly clockwise) which was helpful. We called it a day as the heat began to become too much.


Last Saturday, although not a scheduled work session, the turnout and track leading into it were leveled and ballast replaced. The track was test run and it was judged to have too much of an abrupt entrance into the turnout just north of the frog. Correcting this will be the task for this week’s work session. While we worked on the leveling, the outside G-gauge guys were busy as usual. Electrical conduit was placed under there mainline to enable them to get track power from the north end of the layout to the south end.


Under the highly qualified supervision of our new “resident electrical guru”, the effort produced the needed result on the first try. No plumbers here (no “wise” cracks – pun intended).

Those G-gauge guys had incredible foresight when they chose this location under the shade of the two largest trees on the property. When the sun is shining, it’s hot plus it’s humid. The shade provides enormous relief thus enabling us to work well into the morning hours before giving up.

The finished product appears the same as before we started but a lot of work was accomplished. While we finished cleaning up outside and putting stuff away, Glenn Ellis, our glue sniffing expert, was inside the (air conditioned) building cutting all the plastic support structures for the G-gauge track including gluing all the plugs.

The outside project is moving along at good pace. Come on down and enjoy the process.

Hope to see you this Saturday morning again.

Picture credits to John Roads and Jesse Miller.

Saturday (July 11, 2015):

There will be a regular work session scheduled for this Saturday beginning at 7:00 AM.  The outdoor G-gauge group will also be at the Museum working on their layout. 

Yes it will be hot and it will be humid, but luckily we don’t have pressing issues to contend with.  Thus we can take lots of breaks and just enjoy the camaraderie. 

Tasks at hand may include beginning grade work for the turntable and/or placement of the turnout where the spur from the turntable will connect to the mainline.  Hope to see you at the Museum.

Saturday (June 6, 2015):

Work session Saturday beginning at 7:00 AM (new start time)  As summer approaches, we’re moving the start time up a bit. Although this Saturday won’t be too terribly hot and we might even get some welcome rain (probably wishful thinking), we’ll have the gates open early. We’d like to have some discussions about the construction/design of the turn-table as that construction needs to occur this summer. We also need to review and discuss the proposed changes to our safety & operations rules.

We’ve had our last Open House of the season and below is the last photo taken of the public runs.

Hope to see you Saturday AM.

Saturday (April 18, 2015):

7½" ga. .Work Session this Saturday at 7½'o'clock.
Also this Saturday we have a birthday party starting at 11am for 12 children (ages 4-7) plus adults.  So having a few crew members to stay (a bit later maybe) and help give those folks some rides.

CAUTION: work may spill over to 'Garden' related tasks depending on attendance. There might also be cake, ...or not.

Below are some photos from our last work session on March 28 as well as some recent Open-House shots.

As we begin to prepare the museum's Alco S4 (#3975) for it's new paint this Summer, this also comes just past the 100th hour of run-time, according to the counter.
This will serve as a good point for us to perform a periodic maintenance and check on the systems and layout for wear and any last minute improvements before getting painted.

We did it! We've finally gotten around to installing those awesome 'mile' markers created by Dale back in July of 2012 (3 years ago!, before the containers where painted, pre-big-joe, and before the brick walkway)...also the new parking lot has been completed and is very nice looking.
The markers are labeled 0-7 in ½ increments, so keep an eye out for these about ever 50 feet along the outside, about 3 feet from the track.

After the new lot work was completed, it was decided we could use some additional drainage just North of the curb our track goes over, just West of the loading area.
Installing a ~4" diameter PVC a couple feet long was fairly academic at this point for our growingly-experienced track crew.


Thanks again to Brian for 'heading-up' the Open-House rides with his Conductor and their 1.6" scale GP-40-2, #1428.

Planned for Saturday (March 14, 2015):

This Saturday, beginning at 7:30 AM (30 minutes earlier than last session), there is a scheduled work session at the Museum. The parking lot pavement has been placed, but work is continuing. At the request of the Board, the gates will remain closed and locked for at least another week as work in the parking lot is continuing. There are many things that need to be done this weekend. Of significant importance is needing to have discussion regarding the experiences from last Sunday’s Open House. The following tasks are needing to be performed:

  • We will need to remove the broken crossing signal light damaged by pavement contractor. A cast aluminum fitting was broken which may be repairable and/or replaceable but it needs to be removed.

  • We need to re-check gauge & levelness of track various track sections experiencing derailment events.

  • We need to thoroughly inspect the yellow gondola for mechanical issues.

  • We need to have discussion regarding several sections in our Operation Rules.

  • In order to better identify specific locations on our layout, we should install the mile post markers created by Dale Cover.

  • We need to come to a final decision on paint scheme for the Alco S4.

At the last work session, the Roger took on the task of painting the south gates. Now, both sets are freshly painted and looking good.





Several of the group pitched in to assist the Outside G-gauge group with some drainage ditches that were expertly dug by Jacob Payne using his walk-behind ditch witch trencher. Not an easy task, but way easier than hand digging. The pipe got installed and the ditch covered up in preparation for the up-coming Open House. Kind of looks like a County Job.


Hope to see you all this Saturday @ 7:30 AM.

Saturday (March 7, 2015):

This Saturday, beginning at 8:00 AM, we’ll meet at the Museum for two purposes:

1. The 1st and primary purpose is to make sure track conditions haven’t deteriorated due to recent rains. That shouldn’t take long as we had a successful Open House operation on February 22nd. Having said that, we are now into March Open Houses scheduled for the 2nd & 4th Sundays, the normal work session schedule will become the “in-between” weekends. There may be exceptions as we go toward the summer and into the fall (such as this weekend), but we’ll try to stay on schedule if possible to facilitate personal scheduling needs. When there are changes, and there likely will be for well-documented reasons, we will attempt to provide as much notice as possible. Therefore, besides showing up a little early on Saturday for the Rails in the Garden Tour, normal work sessions for March will occur on Saturday the 14th and 28th. April will be the 4th & 18th. May will be the 2nd, 16th & “possibly” the 30th. The Museum will be closed for 3 months this year (June, July & August) rather than two.

2. The 2nd purpose to come on Saturday is the “Rails in the Garden Tour” which is scheduled for both Saturday & Sunday. The Tour starts at 10:00 AM and ends at 4:00 PM each day. This year, unlike other years, the Tour is free to the public and it has received great publicity including a blurb in today’s AZ Star. The GPD Toy Train Museum is one of 16 locations that are identified on the Garden Tour so we should expect a lot of visitors.  Sunday is also a normal Open House for the Museum but we will need to open a couple hours early to accommodate the Tour.

We have found a possible source for “automatic switch machines”. They are produced by the Big Boots & Western Railroad ( and There is a YouTube video showing them in action:

This is what they look like not installed:

Here is what they look like installed:

The cost for one switch machine assembly is $90. Two can be purchased for $170. Shipping is $16. They run on a 6V battery pack (4 C cells) although they can also be operated manually if needed. They come with a push button control that you mount on a ¾ PVC pipe or conduit. They can also be adapted to operate from a DC power supply if needed.

Bill Kaval indicates: “They could easily be integrated wirelessly as well (RF key fob). Remote turnout signaling can be done using hall effect transistors (solid state version of a reed switch”). Someone out there may actually understand what that means. I certainly don’t.

At any rate, it appears that these may be the switching solution we’re looking for at the front of the Museum. This will get discussed & perhaps decided upon this Saturday so that we can place an order for them.

Hope to see everyone this weekend either on Saturday or Sunday or even both.

Saturday (Feb. 21, 2015):

There is a lot of track & ballast maintenance needed so this Saturday is going to be important to us. If track maintenance isn’t your cup of tea, there are other projects beckoning for attention like painting the south entrance gate to match the repainted north gate. The crossing signal pole also needs to have the painting completed. Testing the weight limits on the three gondolas also needs to be done ASAP. We figure to get a relatively accurate weight for one of our bricks and use them to load each gondola to see what these cars will be capable of safely carrying.

We didn’t get much done two weekends ago for reasons shown below. This was an incredibly rare event for Tucson, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the rain – although I’ll readily admit that I can’t hear very well.

Last Saturday, we took off again in honor of our Valentines. My Valentine was happy to see me working on the house for a change. What did you get your Valentine for Valentine’s day. I got mine a new roof ! ! !

Jesse has been exercising his creative juices again and below is his latest effort. He has single-handedly taken this effort on and he is to be congratulated for all his great work. I really like his latest design as it is simple yet very creative. But I also liked his last efforts as well. Who is Lilly? I’ve attached most of his noteworthy efforts for your review. We need to make a decision soon so we can begin getting painting estimates – perhaps even donated work. The BOD approved our budget at the last BOD meeting which included $600 for paint & graphics work on the engine.

Previous efforts are shown below:

At the last work session where we actually did stuff, a huge amount of human capital was expended. Manual Labor showed up and obviously Burt got first choice of the tasks. In his defense, the gate did need to get painted.

While Burt was hard at work, the others did a little digging in the back. Jurgen didn’t seem to mind the work and he certainly knew which end of the pick to hold. Although most of the trenching was mechanically done with a gas powered walk behind Ditch Witch generously provided and operated by Jacob Payne, the stretch across the main line of the 7-1/2” track however, had to be hand dug, in fact, bored through using the Dale Cover provided invention “water-pic”. Although it got us where we needed to go, it did make a bunch of mud in the process.

Once the hand digging was done, we were able to get the 2’’ pipe donated to the Museum by Jacob Payne installed with the obligatory 18” burial depth. Once installed, we backfilled, tamped, re-ballasted, check gauge & levelness.
Then the group began chasing the trencher down to the north end of the property picking out rocks where necessary although the trencher did a great job making the trench straight & consistent.

The 2” pipe was then installed into the finished trench, terminated at the north end. The entire trench backfilled, tamped, and raked to restore the grounds for the Open House scheduled for the next day.

Hope to see everyone this Saturday morning again. Start time is 8:00 AM although the building will be open at 7:30 as usual.

Saturday (Feb. 7, 2015):

This Saturday at 8:00 AM, we’ll get together and do the stuff we couldn’t do last weekend as we got a way too much rain. With the ground totally saturated, we called off the public runs on Sunday as well. Although there were some disappointed visitors, everyone seemed to understand why. This Saturday, with temperatures in the high 70’s expected and no rain, it should be a great day to work on the railroad.

Here are some of the tasks which might be considered for this Saturday:

  1. Replace the billboard material with something that won’t warp, crack, delaminate etc. as the current ¼” plywood is doing. Suggestions offered so far include acrylic plastic, galvanized sheet metal, and tempered Masonite. Anyone else with an idea?

  2. Re-adjust the front drive gate so that the ends come together in alignment. Re-paint the front drive gates.

  3. Paint the top of the crossing signal pole.

  4. Test the gondolas with weight to determine their riding capacity.

  5. And last, but certainly not least, with 2” of rain falling on the layout, we want to make sure that the track system is safe to use.

Of course, the G-gauge group will be working outside with us during the morning. There may also be effort to begin the utility trenching under the 7-1/2” mainlines.

Saturday (Jan. 31, 2015):

Could be a little wet this Saturday, but we’re planning on trying anyway.

We do have a work session scheduled for this Saturday morning with intention to meet at 8:00 AM. While we drink some coffee and eat a few donuts, we can discuss what we’ll be able to do, weather permitting.

John Roads proposed that we should to do some load testing on our three gondolas. The purpose is to attempt to ascertain exactly how much weight will result in compressing the springs a specific distance. We currently don’t know this information and probably should.

Track maintenance is on the agenda as it always should be. In fact, an on-going track maintenance program is strongly suggested and encourage by our insurance carrier. With Open Houses planned for each of the next 4 Sundays, we want to make sure our track conditions are stable and that any changes or deterioration due to the rainy weather is corrected.

In addition, the outdoor G-gauge group may begin a trenching project to install electrical & water utilities to their layout location. Those excavations will cross our track plan in a couple of locations. We need to make sure that work is done carefully and restoration of the area is completed properly. This will involve having to compact the backfill – especially under the R.O.W. Track alignment and levelness must also be checked. If it’s raining, that work probably won’t happen this weekend. We need to cooperate and assist that group as needed as we share the north end of the property.

Jesse shared some pictures from the previous work session when the Outside G-gauge group began their work.

The property has been completely Blue Staked before any excavation work was done. Even though the only digging is to occur in the north end of the property, we had the entire site done as replacement of the parking lot is going to occur soon. With the G-gauge layout painted on the ground and the utilities all identified with paint markings on the ground and little flags pushed into the ground, Glenn was ready to begin the digging.
First task at hand was to move / relocate the Ore Car. Luckily, Glenn’s bobcat came in really helpful as he carved out a shelf in the center hill section of the property. He then quickly moved the Ore Car with track to its new home. Restoration of the landscaping made it seem as if the car had always been there.
Then, the chain link fencing material was rolled back exposing the entire front face of the property to the street. This enabled Glenn to get inside the area without having to drive over our 7-1/2” R.O.W. He then started getting the rough grade carved out in preparation of placement of retaining wall materials.

Several block have been placed along the sidewalk defining the finished grade for the lower level of G-gauge track. Backfill was placed and the ground compacted using the plate tamper. At some level, it was kind of fun to get back into doing manual labor using shovels, rakes, and picks. I can say that because the back pains have subsided somewhat.

Expect more of this project to move forward quickly.

Saturday (Jan. 17, 2015):

This Saturday, beginning promptly at 8:00 AM, we have scheduled a work session. The Work Session coincides with a Birthday Party scheduled to begin at 10:00 where we need to man a 7-1/2” gauge train for the 20-30 kids plus adults that are coming.

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve concentrated on the layout and there are some track issues, mainly on the curve track exiting the caboose enclosure. That area is begging for some attention. In addition, we need to check the track leaving the station as we’ve experience a few derailments in that area as well. We need to complete our budget request for 2015 so bring your thoughts about that to the work session. There are already ideas being presented. The inventory should be done by Saturday, so that will be off our plate.

Weather should be clear, in the low 70’s, perfect for playing with trains outside.

Large Scale Railroad 2014 (July-Dec)
Large Scale Railroad 2014 (Jan-June)
Large Scale Railroad - 2013
Large Scale Railroad 2012 (July - Dec)
Large Scale Railroad 2012 (Jan-June)
Large Scale Railroad 2011

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[Page Published October 29, 2015 ]
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