Goals for 2021.

This was probably a more appropriate post for last month but I really wanted to get the F7 project off the bench and out of my mind before I started thinking too much about what lies ahead. This year I hope to start on a number of things that I’ve been planning to tackle for a very long time. Most will not be completed by December 31st but as long as I’ve made some progress and have momentum I’ll be pleased. Without further ado, in 2021 I want to:

The layout as it looked in January 2021.

1 – Get West Tacoma Junction to the point of laying track.
While it may seem like I’m pretty close to being able to lay track, that’s a bit of an illusion. I’m currently assembling the baseboards and should have them mostly done in February but then I need to hang and prep the backdrop, paint the backdrop, install layout lighting, install the valance, run bus wires, install the DCC system, build the foam up to track level and do some initial contouring. Only after all that is done will I start putting down sub-roadbed and laying track.

I already have most of the material I need to complete these tasks but I haven’t entirely figured out how I’m going to do everything so some time spent planning is certainly called for. I also want to paint a smaller backdrop (for a module or something) first as a test before I commit to the huge scene on the layout. It’s going to be a major focal point since there won’t be any scenery hiding it and I want to get it right.

I already have most of the supplies I need to complete all these tasks though a trip or two to the hardware store will be required for conduit and a couple of other things once I start the lighting. If anything is going to throw a wrench in the works it’ll be the pandemic. I’m somewhat counting on things improving enough by this spring so that I can have some friends over to help. With this latest variant of Covid-19 out in the wild and the vaccine rollout mostly stalled due to the gross mismanagement of the last administration I may be on my own longer than I hope.

2 – Learn how to use my milling machine.
I bought this MicroLux R8 Milling Machine over a year ago when Micro Mark had it on sale. I finally got it mounted to a base and installed in the workshop and I’d like to start using it. I’ve collected an assortment of cutters and other necessary accessories and should be all ready to give it a go. I’ll write up a full post on it at some point.

3 – Finish my GP35 Group Build Project.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this project here before. I’ve been documenting it on the GP35/ GP28 Group Build page over on Facebook. Brian Banna started this group a couple of years ago. Anyone can participate and the only real rule as that each project has to be a GP35, a GP28 or a unit built on a -35 chassis. It’s a pretty cool idea and has been a lot of fun, though it would be nice if there were a few more builds in progress. I elected to do BN (BNSF by my era) 2885, a GP39M which was built off of the chassis of SP GP35 #6652.

4 – Begin work on the paper mill switch engines.
The primary motive power for the Rainy River West Tacoma Newsprint Plant which will be prominently featured on my layout is a pair of GE 50 Tonner’s. These were essentially up-ballasted 45 Tonner’s with a chain drive as opposed to side rods. Since they’ll be integral to operations on half the layout I want to have them done fairly soon. The mechanism for a Bachmann 45 Tonner will work for these but I’ll need to scratch build everything else. Fortunately I’m pretty confident with my Fusion 360 skills and can probably design and print most of what I need.

These definitely won’t be done but hopefully I’ll at least have them under construction. Even if I only have a plan for construction I’ll be relatively happy.

5 – Begin work on Bridge 14.
I’m not really sure about this one. Bridge 14 will be the centerpiece of the layout and needs to be spot on. It’s also going to be incredibly complicated to build and motorize (such a unique structure can’t possibly be a static model) and I really don’t know how to begin. At the moment I have quite a bit of reference material so perhaps I should make some scale drawings. I’m also thinking that a non-detailed working version as a proof of concept might be a good idea. It’s going to be a multi-year build though so I need to get something done this year If I’m going to have it ready when it’s time for scenery.

6 – Submit an article for publication.
I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I have a couple of projects that I’m considering for this first article and which one I end up choosing will likely depend on how quickly I can finish it. Obviously I won’t post about it here but I’ll let you know if and when something gets published.

A shot from my one day trackside in 2020.

7 – Go railfanning more than I did in 2020
I only managed to go railfanning once in 2020 so this one should be pretty easy despite Covid and the fact that I have a kid now. With CSX’s planned acquisition of Pan Am a lot of the interesting equipment that we’ve been lucky to have in New England could vanish over the next few years and I’d like to catch a few more Dash 8’s before they’re gone for good. NECR’s rebuilt but still classic 2nd generation EMD’s are another target that I want to be sure and hit. Then of course there are always interesting freight cars to photograph.

When I consider how much more boring railroading has become over the last 20 years it can be hard to force myself outside to spend the, often frustrating, hours tracking down subjects to photograph. But things are probably only going to get more monotonous as the years go by and I’d like to have a body of work that I can share with others. Besides back in the 1980’s I’m sure everyone was complaining about the proliferation of SD40-2’s and now those are gone. Might be worth capturing a few GEVO’s for someone in the future to enjoy.

There you have it. I’ve probably put too much on my plate but since most of these projects don’t actually need to be finished I’ve given myself a bit of breathing room. I’ll revisit this list at the end of the year and we’ll see how well I did 🙂


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