ModelStory: Cup of Joe

There’s a tiny coffee counter in a corner of the Salvation Point depot where, my wife says, they make the best skinny vanilla latte west of the Rockies, though I wouldn’t know, I never touch the stuff. I can’t tell the difference between “good coffee” and “crap.” It’s all crap to me but 50 million Elvis fan’s can’t be wrong.

Anyway, sitting on the platform at the depot this morning, sipping our drinks (mine’s a hot chocolate with caramel – room for whipped cream? Oh yes!) we overheard some drama brewing in small-town coffee.

joeHis name’s Daniel (NOT Dan – Daniel) and he just signed on with National Roast as a junior regional rep. Today he’s shadowing Joe (yup), who’s been schlepping beans throughout the Four Corners for thirty-three years. A good mentor to a kid new to the coffee game?

We’ll see.

(Yes, there are regional coffee reps. The family diners, the donut shops, the counter in the depot – they all buy their coffee from big conglomerates, and there has to be someone to sell it to them.)

Joe is two cups – black – from the Oster drip maker with the newspaper in the morning. Daniel is a half-caf-soy-macchiatto-165-degrees-no-whip while his free hand skates across his tablet on the train.

Daniel doesn’t see Joe as having much of a shadow and he plans to grow out of it swiftly.

Joe’s comfortable book of business is mostly sleepy lunch counters with three kinds of pie and one kind of customer: hardworking southwest folks with enormous bellies over enormous belt buckles. The proprietors count on Joe for caf and decaf, and to make sure it’s good, abundant, and the coffeemaker’s working.

To ease the new kid into the routine, Joe has planned visits today to his gentlest accounts.

But then Daniel unlocks his tablet and reads from his notes: “Do you track unused seasonal blends and what do those returns tell you about market opportunities?”

Joe blinks. “Track?”

“Something we should really be doing,” Daniel says authoritatively.

“You know, our customers aren’t usually that sophisticated,” Joe says, bemused. “Tracking their unused grounds goes like this: ‘Don’t give me that pumpkin spice crap again.'”

Daniel (NOT Dan – Daniel) nods patronizingly.

“Well that’s because they don’t know what they want,” Daniel says, thumbing the tablet again. “Here’s a study showing preferred hot beverages by region and demographic, relying on a survey of forty-six-hundred baristas. Your customers could optimize profits by focusing on drinks with a steamed-milk base.”

There’s a long pause.

“Steamed-milk base,” Joe repeats slowly, ignoring the glowing graphs on the tablet.

He imagines visiting Clark Vasallis at the Stop Here up on 191, where truckers can get chicken-fried steak, a shower, replacement taillights and black coffee twenty-four seven. He imagines discussing Daniel’s study over Clark’s cluttered desk, imagines Clark repeating “steamed-milk base,” then imagines ducking as Clark hurls a Peterbilt mug at Daniel (NOT Dan)’s forehead.

Joe smiles.

“Change of plans, Dan. There’s someone I want you to meet.”

(Preiser figures, Walther’s Pella Depot.)


ModelStory: Grade Separation

IMG_3040“You are shtopping? No no no, why are you shtopping?”

“I like ze view here, and I am carrying ze pack so I am a little tired.”

“But I said we are going to ze top! I want to get to ze top!”

“Why ze top? Here you see ze railway, ze river, it’s shady and cooler…”

“But ze top is ze best. From ze top we look down on ze railway, ze river, this, this shady schpott. Ze top. Ze top is always ze best.”

“Why look down on this shady shpott? I am comfortable in my shady schpott. No need to look down.”

“Well I always go to ze top. It is ze best.”

“Well I like it here and maybe I stay where I am.”

“Well maybe I go to ze top on my own.”





“So maybe we are not talking just about ze hiking.”

(Carved foam insulation and joint compound, hand-painted Model Power figures, Midwest Products Scale Lumber, natural sand from Horseshoe Bend, Page, AZ.)

N-Scale Statuary Helps Tell a Layout’s History

A few weeks ago I wrote about Lts. Benjamin and Henry who discovered Many Lost Ways and founded Salvation Point, the fictional National Park and town upon which the freelanced FCFL is based.

The story inspired a little urban revitalization project near the Salvation Point depot, including a monument to the explorers.

IMG_3124I started with a pair of figures from a set of Woodland Scenics HO scale people. I cut a small oval of thin styrene sheet, beveled the edges with a sanding block, and mounted the figures to it with plasic cement. I sprayed the statue with a bronze “hammered metal finish” spray paint and set it aside to dry.

I made the rest of the monument from a thicker square of styrene and again beveled the edges with a sanding block. I drilled a pair of 1/16 holes in two corners. For the plaque, I cut the top from one of the surplus old-timey gas pumps from the Walther’s “Al’s Victory Service” kit I recently completed and glued it centered between the holes. I painted this assembly with Pollyscale Aged Concrete, and filled in the plaque with Pollyscale Rail Brown.

When the pedestal was dry, I glued the statue to it with plastic cement. I gave the entire piece a wash of India ink diluted in rubbing alcohol. Finally, I “planted” Woodland Scenics field grass in the two holes and mounted the entire piece on the layout.

I’m not breaking new ground with statuary from figures of a different scale. Model railroaders have been doing that for years. But I think the little monument is a unique lineside structure and helps tell the story of the FCFL.

Plus, it’s the only way I can get those two to stand still.



The Flagstaff Sub Takes a Colorful Turn

IMG_3106I left the canvas of the Flagstaff Subdivision blank for too long. Or, maybe just long enough.

Trackwork and wiring were 90-percent complete this spring when warm weather called us outdoors. My plan for the fall was to finish up powering the turnout frogs, get the backdrop and fascia done, then focus the long, cold winter on scenery.

But, baseball’s fun until it’s not, and by the Dog Days of Summer, the Superintendent and the Conductor had rediscovered the wonders of model railroading.

IMG_3107“Dad,” they said on a drizzly Labor Day afternoon, bats and gloves stowed in the garage. “Can we do some scenery on the new subdivision?”

Two paths spread out before me.

Down the one, hours spent mostly alone festidiously crafting a convincing if not altogether faithful facsimile of Flagstaff.

Down the other, happy memories of my boys creating, expressing, falling in love with the hobby while turning the Flagstaff Sub into a candy-colored mush.

“Just don’t get any paint on the tracks,” I sighed.