In the layout room, nobody can hear you scream


Great photos of 1980 railfanning in KC

I model 1984, and this recently posted video of photos showing train activity in Kansas City in 1980 is a real treasure!

A railfan's dream!

Over 7 hours of scenic rail travel from Bergen to Oslo, Norway!

Awesome Rainfan Mapping App

Here is a screen shot of Franklin, Missouri. You can see the existing Katy Trail, and the old track (long gone) of the MKT Hannibal Branch and wye.

I spent a fun afternoon with Joe and Steve, my two smart train buddies, rail fanning along the St. Joe Sub of the BNSF. Both Joe and Steve know this stretch of track like the backs of their hands, and Steve knows a ton about the history of the other railroad that used to be present in this area. We caught several trains running in both directions and generally had a great time (except where Joe almost got us all killed passing a slow-moving farm vehicle, but that is a story for another time).

During the trip, Steve showed me a great app for the smart phone. Pocket Earth Pro is a mapping app, similar to Apple Maps or Google maps. There are two benefits of Pocket Earth Pro over the traditional map tracker programs that are of particular interest to the foamer:
  • You can download the map data and still use the program when you don't have a strong data signal (important for those "way out in the county" rail fan trips, and
  • It shows the old, and abandoned rail lines
The inclusion of the abandoned rail lines is YUGE, as you can see where the lines met the existing track and crossed the road you are traveling.

As a test, I looked at Paola, to see if the old MKT Osage Division tracks were included. They were! And those tracks have been abandoned since 1958! I'm planning a "walk in the woods session" for the Osage Division and this app will be crucial to planning that trip.

So if you are a rail fan, You need to give Pocket Earth Pro a look. The intro version is free, and the "PRO" version is $4.99. Worth every penny!

Sacred Talisman of Good Train Hunting, carried along on all rail fan trips! It has never let us down!

Shake what yer mama gave ya


I grew up in the country west of Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Our house was located off old Highway 6, and very near the old Rock Island line that ran from C.B. north to Avoca and on west to Des Moines and Chicago.  The line was fairly active in the late-‘60s, but traffic petered out in the ‘70s.  The Rock was shut down in 1980. 

In 1984 the old Rock Island line out of Council Bluffs became part of the Iowa Interstate (IAIS) Railroad.  For years, it ran a couple freight trains a day on the old Rock Track, but these days traffic is increasing with the addition of intermodal (!) traffic on this old and historic track. 

A distinctive landmark on the old Rock Island track was the single track bridge crossing Old Highway 6 (McPherson Ave) and Little Mosquito Creek, just west out of Council Bluffs.  This deck plate girder bridge was built in 1901, and has a total length of 320 ft.  The longest span is 70 ft. 

I passed under that bridge a thousand times when I was growing up.  When I was in junior high, a friend challenged me to climb up and walk across the bridge, but I was too afraid to do it.  Somebody had been up there, though, because the most distinctive feature of the bridge was the graffiti on the west side of the bridge, saying “SHAKE WHAT YER MAMA GAVE YA” in shaky letters.  Every time I walked, or jogged, or biked, or drove under that bridge I tried to imagine that tag artist leaning over the tracks, writing those letters upside down!  Yikes!

Several years ago, my parents moved to a new house, up the hill with a great view of the Mosquito Creek valley, the Iowa Interstate tracks and the bridge.  Whenever I visit, I listen for the sound of the trains crossing the bridge.  It sees a lot of action these days as the IAIS traffic continues to grow. 

Alas, the graffiti has been painted over as part of a bridge approach upgrade project in 2014.  But I still adhere to the advice that tag artist gave me those many years ago, and “shake what my mama gave me” as often as I can!.

Here is a link to more information at

Council Bluffs Bridge
Bridge IAIS
Bridge Snow
bridge steam