Kicking The Bucket – Exercise #16

There are movies, there are books, there are websites, and there are all sorts of folks offering advice on the subject. But, when it comes to a bucket list each of ours is a personal thing. What we want to do and what we feel we need to accomplish before we shuffle off this mortal coil is different for each person. The exercise for today, from my great list of exercises to do, is “What is at the top of my bucket list.”

Swiss Cheese in a BucketI never thought so much about having a bucket list myself  I have things I’d like to do in life, places I’d like to go, and  people I want to meet, but I’ve never put them on a list of “things I have to do before I die or I am going to die.” I’m also very happy to say that a lot of the things I wanted to do in life I have already done. Not because I set out with some dogged determination that I had to accomplish something,  but because I just did. It’s kind of like the old Nike ad of “just do it”.

Two of the things that I had always wanted to do envolved traveling. The first was to go to Ireland, and the second was to visit England. Luckily my father got invited to speak at a conference at Trinity College in Dublin 1992 and amazingly he asked my sister and me if we wanted to go along. How could anyone turned down such an invitation? We spent a marvelous week in Dublin and some other southerly parts of Ireland enjoying the history, people, poking the Book of Kells (well not really, I poked the case) and generally exploring and having a good time.

Later, on our 15th anniversary, my wife and I got a chance to go to England. She had a relative living just outside of London who kindly offered us full use of their house. They were to be away in Rome that week! Again, too good a deal to pass up – and we didn’t. I don’t think anyone could hit all the high points of the London area to lifetime, but we did a good bit. And I also did something I really wanted to which was visit Abingdon, the home of the original MG factory. Also got to visit Warwick Castle, Bath, and catch Phantom of the Opera at the Queen’s Theatre.
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I Been Working on My Railroad

I have listened to a couple of podcasts recently that proclaimed the value of “Just Do It” in model railroading. Both Model Rail Radio and The Model Railway Show have had segments that have basically said to quit planning, collecting, drawing, waiting, and generally procrastinating, but to instead just go ahead and build something. Anything. No matter how small or imperfect. The theory is that we need to break the ice and loose the entropy. I for one am great for analysis-paralysis. I will analyze and plan till the cows come home but never get anything done. It is much easier to surf eBay and buy parts that to actually put knife and glue to wood and get something accomplished.

But anyway, I decide to shock myself out of my plans and build a small layout no matter what. It is intentionally very small, only 1′ by 3′, and N scale so that it can fit on the book shelf at my office. I have a new job and they keep asking about my trains there, so this should be a perfect ice breaker. And yes, they are fine with me bringing it in. It is in the pediatrics department of a hospital by the way!

I am calling this little layout EuroNook, since it is going to be in continental European outline and in the basic configuration of an Inglenook. Probably going to be kind of Swiss/German. The Inglenook is billed as a “classic British shunting puzzle”. Much to my wife’s dismay, this is not a roundy-round American type of layout but one that stresses brain work and steady switching to keep the railroader’s attention. Basic theory involves having various cars on the track and using a sigle engine to switch them around to put them in a desired order on the main track. think of it as a railroad version of one of those slide-the-block kind of puzzles.

Picture 1 is of the bottom of the baseboard with small feed attached to raise the board a bit, aid in it balancing, prevent it from scratching a table or shelf, and let there be space underneath for an odd wire or two.

Layout 01 - The Baseboard
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My Grandfather's Presence

I loved my mother’s father. My grandfather was born and raised in Switzerland and had been a missionary to the Philippines during the Second World War. But to a young boy, what was most important was that he took time with me. He told me stories and made me feel important. I didn’t get to see him more than a few times a year because he and my grandmother lived in Maryville, Tennessee. When I did see him though there was always a warm hug, great interest in what I was doing, and stories.

Some of the stories he told me were of events from his childhood – like watching the first auto race come through Switzerland. Because he was Swiss-German my sister and I called him “Grossvater” which translates to “Grandfather.” He was born before 1900, so he had seen a lot. But often his stories were about his family and how I might be so much like the family he grew up with back home. Sometimes he would have old photographs, but most of the time the images just came from his words.

He knew I loved trains and one time he told me about his brother, or cousin, or uncle. Unfortunately I can’t remember. But I remember him telling me about how this person loved trains also and built lots of models and had them both inside and outside of his house. This was one of the times he showed me a picture, but even better than that he had two of the models! I don’t recall if this was right after one of his trips back to visit Switzerland or something. All I remember is that he gave me, a young boy, the two small buildings. One a house and one a mill with water wheel on the side.

I loved him, I loved those buildings, and I loved my trains. Sadly over the years I lost all of them. My grandfather passed away while I was in college. I still miss him. I don’t know what happened to the buildings. All the rest of my model trains got sold or given away over the years.

Let’s fast forward now! Oh, nearly 30 years. Today I am, as my wife would say, trying to reclaim some of my youth. I have started playing with model trains again. One of the things that makes this fun is that my son loves it too. He is fifteen and we have a great time going to train shows, model exhibits, and shops.

This past weekend I went to train show here in town and amongst all the other treasures was a collection of “stuff” brought in from an out-of-town dealer. It was in a scale (size) that most of the people there didn’t care about and most of the items were a bit rough around the edges. My son loved the collection instantly. I looked at the odd collection and was interested, but it was all more modern American trains (I model earlier British steam or turn-of-the-century American trolleys) and I was hesitant. But my son was insistent, my wife was not present, and the dealer finally practically gave me the items. Most probably because his wife was present!

After everything was back home my son and I pulled things out and were looking through them. Oddly enough, and much to my surprise, amongst all the modern American buildings I found a small farmhouse – a European farmhouse. Very, very much like the one my grandfather had given me. I thought it was cool, unusual but cool, showed my wife and daughter and son, and told them my story. Wow.

Today I was going more thoroughly through the buildings. I was alone in my office just looking through them all when I pulled out another European buildings. I turned around and realized it was a mill with water wheel on the side. I spun the wheel. Instantly my mind flashed back because it made a rubbing sound as the wheel turned that I had not heard for over 30 years. No, couldn’t be my old one, but it must have been the same model. I held it for a long time, thought about my grandfather and thought about the years. I set the two Swiss-German looking buildings side-by-side and reminisced. And told my wife, and she thought it was a cute story.

Finally I was pulling the last few buildings out tonight. I arranged a few, looked at the neat old American railroad station, set up the little mill, and then pulled out the freight station. No, it was not European, but the city name on it stopped me cold. It said “Maryville“.

My wife just smiled, “tell your grandfather ‘hello’.” I am glad you are still with me Grosvatter, I love you too.