Down. On its knees.


Built in 1958, fmnut filmed TVA number F3060 at work in 1996 and introduces this film with this description:

The last 6-axle FM built in the US was also the last to operate. Purchased new in 1958, this H16-66 “Junior Trainmaster” spent its entire career working for the Tennessee Valley Authority at its Gallatin coal fired power plant. It received a heavy shopping in the early 1990’s which included a completely rebuilt prime mover from Fairbanks-Morse. I was lucky to catch it in operation in April, 1996 as a new natural gas fired power plant was being constructed nearby.


It’s cold. It’s wet. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to work.

We’ve yet to find a way to make it feel that lousy in the layout room but to immerse ourselves in this moment we’d really need to feel like we just don’t want to go outside. There’s no way it’s not going to feel humid and, well, yucky. Every movement for the rest of this shift is going to be like we’re practising an interpretive dance based on a kind of profanity you can’t take back or apologize for. “F! Why does EVERY-SINGLE-THING need to be covered in mud and be slippery today!”


Favourite old pickup truck? Late 1970’s GM half ton. Aware that I had already made a commitment to that declaration it wouldn’t be until the early 1990’s when Ford released their ninth generation F150 and I would declare it to be my favourite new truck. Since then, I still think of those ninth generation F150’s as my favourite “new” trucks even though, in a few more years, they will qualify as classic vehicles. I guess we all get older eventually. I still want one. Two wheel drive. Regular cab. V8. Five speed gearbox. One colour: dark blue. Only custom feature might be a set of 90’s appropriate chrome rims, maybe. No reason for this tangent but I’m writing this post and at this point in the video a member of this generation of truck rolls through the scene and I thought this.


In real time this takes a lot longer than two minutes but the crew and F3060 have made their way from the plant down to the interchange. CSX have dropped a string of coal hoppers and this is where game play begins.


“We’ve been here before”. Those sanders on the engine aren’t any use if we can’t move at all so we’re on the ground helping with a bucket and a handful of sand spread on the rails. If we were believers we’d rely on the knowledge that our movements were always supported by a greater presence but we’ll need a shove not an embrace. On this shear cliff face we need a hand hold or we fall.


In our youth we’d just dump the clutch and tear out of the parking lot. We never thought about it. Speed and power could overcome anything. Bigger problem? More speed, more power. Overcome bigger with more.

Today all we’d have is wheel slip. We’re too far in and we’re older now. We’ve learned the cost of pride. We’re not artists, not in the traditional sense, but we act with a kind of learned grace that only results from dedicated practice. We’re not here right now to or not to start this train. We’re moving this train. Starting this train is my job. It is what I do. It is what I came here to do. We’ll bit into those rails and we’ll just keep digging in.








We’re not going back. No one is going to walk this train and cut into two sections.


Not going to happen.


Ever had a fight with someone you cared about that was your fault? Ever wondered which nuance of your actions it was? Sure, it got bigger, but at first it was something subtle you did or didn’t do. Just a moment of regret that blossomed into a tear. A decision so tiny yet full matured you’d relive it over and again until the healing protected you from it and you could move on. The video keeps rolling and if you’ve let the volume drift upward you will hear F3060 starting to surge. The train is moving. Is it tense in that cab? Did the sand really help? More throttle? Less?


As the video rolls on into the second minute since we started starting this train and the camera pans to the left. We see the two engines CSX needed to get these cars here. The crew are still working F3060 and the train is moving. What’s that line about old age and experience?


The train is underway. We’re only moving those hoppers from the yard, where CSX dropped them, into the plant where we’ll unload them. “Underway” isn’t like road speed on the mainline but it’s clear the work of our job is done. From here onward the day continues as these first minutes have passed.

As I progress with work on the layout I am looking for ways of expressing my attraction to its inspiration. Models are models. The methods we use to create them change but outcomes remain easy to describe. Our motivations? Not so easy.

Why we do what we do is harder to describe.

What we are hoping to achieve is harder still.

How can I express to you, by the medium of modelmaking, a thing that I connect with so powerfully?

(When is easy since it’s every time I touch my work and Who is easier still since it’s by me)

I’m trying to create something mundane. I have this vision of a completed work that removes grand attractions and instead invites a closer relationship. As an operating model it should be so simplistic that it creates a void that invites one to lean in an listen to the sight and sound of the model. As a static installation it should be equally so, so that it provides a place to practice refinement of my skills and in the outcomes of my work opportunities for nuanced distinction.

This is the sort of video I’d share on Facebook. Prince Street on Facebook provides an easy way to “share” the video from my phone which works since it allows me to place a video somewhere that I can easily return to it. I find it difficult to compose a thought on Facebook so I try to include basic notes there so that if I return to it I have a record of what turned me on, then. I’m hoping this post illustrates how I always hoped the two sites would play together. This site, right here, is always home.

I swore in this post and I’m sorry. I can’t not address that. I never swear in type and I try not to in spoken language either. I’m not afraid of these words or their application but respect that for some they are offensive and my respect for our friendship is greater than a word and as an expression of my respect for that friendship I challenge myself to not give in. Sometimes, I still think the word even if it goes unspoken.

Categories: How I think, My Favourite Prince Street

2 replies

  1. I’ve been thinking about my attraction to this video.

    It seems that a model railway can be developed as one of two things: as a real railway, though tiny, or as something that evokes a real railway. Or a bit of both.

    If it’s treated as a real, though tiny, railway then it follows its own logic. There is a certain amount of space for it and the builder lays out the features they want within the space in a logical manner: station, goods shed, engine shed, water tank, houses, track. Just as a real railway is laid out. A siding will be in a certain place and have a certain length because it has to fit there. And you can see where you sit on the spectrum of scenery (how it looks) or operation (moving loads from one place to another). Even though the model might be based on a prototype, it acts as a real railway.

    What you seem to be suggesting in this and your previous post is the other aspect of a model railway, the power to evoke in us the experience of a real railway. In this scenario, a model siding is in a certain place, has a certain length and a model train moves on the siding in ways to better evoke this.

    I suspect that these two ways of making a representation might be the difference between classical and romantic realistic paintings.

    • I think it’s probably always a bit of both (but then that’s how I chose to view the world, warped to always appear the way I want to see it).

      In both cases our choices are guided by the emotional value of each and we prioritize the layout based on that. Perhaps though this is where “treated as a real” deviates from the emotion it evokes. If we treat it as real then our emotional connection is managed at a higher level since our connection is to the railway as a vehicle and the place our layout is is the stage over which it crosses to perform its act. In what I’m trying to describe, it’s a relationship managed on a close level where both the siding and the train are a double act: comic and “straight man”.

      In traditional American operating, the siding is a repository. It marks an endpoint in the operating process and only exists as an originator of traffic or terminal point ending that process. I’m not really deviating that far but adding to that, the consideration that we could know more about the siding itself to know why the train operates as it does through here.

      Perhaps, it’s the view from trackside by the fan of the scene who returns to this familiar piece of railway to watch, acted out, a play he enjoys following and his presence here is a slightly more spiritual moment where he visits both “his” railway and in that time and place, his center too.


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