This is a place to hold remarks about content that is either too temporary to be considered for a "permanent" article, or that doesn't have quite so much to do with train-related hobbies as the rest of our articles. If it comes across as "Andy Rooneyish" some times, I'm sorry, but I try to keep the emotional content out of the rest of the sites. There is no timetable here: articles will be added only when ideas and the time and resources necessary to put them together converge.
Please contact me if you have anything to add or express an opinion about.
List of Blog-Like articles, in reverse chronological order:
What's In a Name - Again - Domain name squatters, content pirates, and other obstacles that we hit head-on, but hopefully our warnings can help you avoid when when you name a business or start a web pages. Includes real-world examples from the history of Family Garden Trains and affiliated sites.New July, 2013
It Makes a City - Another Great Buy from Colorado Model Structures! - From the company who used to win our "Bargain of the Year" award year after year comes an even better bargain - three separate kits for under $45 (as of May, 2013), each of which makes a 3-building city block. There are retail storefronts, townhouses, and warehouses. And almost all of the parts are available separately, so customization possibilities are endless. New May, 2013
Preparing for a Once-In-A-Decade Open Railroad - If you want a sneak peak at some of the many things we are doing to get ready for the June open railroads, check out this article.
New April, 2013
Note: If this article interests you, we also have a newer companion/sequel article to this article on our New Boston and Donnels Creek pages.
Economics of Garden Railroad Buildings
- Observations on the high cost of garden railroad buildings and what we're trying to do about it for you. January, 2013
'Nudder Scam: The Fake Schoolteacher Request - A commercial site is apparently working with professional scammers to get free advertising under false pretences. If you have a web page of any kind, you need to see this, lest you find yourself unknowingly promoting a criminal enterprise. Or if you just like to see the lengths people will go to to get something "free." New December, 2012!
New October, 2012: How to Make Everything in Your Life Happen On the Same Day - On November 10, 2012, we are planning to hold the Fifth Annual Open Garden Railroad on the New Boston and Donnels Creek at the Race's home near Springfield, Ohio. As always, we scheduled the date early, when there were no conflicts. We even asked friends whom we thought might be planning something, just to be on the "safe" side. But now there are plenty of conflicts, including several that would have taken priority if they'd been scheduled in time. You wouldn't think that scheduling a garden train event would distort the temporal fabric of the universe, but it always seems to.
Click on the little picture to learn more.
New September, 2012: How do I Sell My Train Collection?
- I often get contacted by people who've found, inherited, or grown tired of a train "collection" and need help figuring out what to do with it. Unfortunately the sad circumstances that may have caused you to become the unwilling "curator" of another person's collection don't mitigate the financial realities of selling used, possibly collectible trains, and accessories. This article is a collection of advice I've given and the best advice I've heard on the subject.
- New September, 2012: Yet Another Scam
- Just when I thought I'd seen it all. This new scam targets amateur webmasters - offering to sell you a useless service, but using language that suggests they are selling you something much more important and urgent. If you have a web page, take a look. Unless you like giving money to strangers, in which case . . . . Click on the photo to go to the article.
- New August, 2012: Put the Garden in "Garden Railroading" - Nancy Norris' - Miniature Garden Guidebook
- A unique and uniquely helpful resource for any miniature gardener, especially for any garden railroader who wants to get beyond Elfin Thyme and Dwarf Alberta Spruce. Nancy is a master gardener and professional garden railroad builder who has been writing plant articles for Garden Railways magazine. Kalmbach, GR's publisher has released her new book which contains some content from back GR issues, as well as much new material. Please click on the picture for a detailed review and links to the book on Amazon.
- New July, 2012: A Peek Behind the Scenes
- To answer the question, why is nothing happening on our web pages, the answer is, a lot has been happening - it's just mostly invisible, as we're repositioning our sites to last another fourteen years, at least. If nothing else, you might enjoy the opening illustration - a vinyl facade that is disguising rennovation work on a real storefront in Ireland, proof that there's even a prototype for the printed vinyl temporary storefronts on my own railroad.
- New July, 2012: Building Buildings - Jack Verducci's Building Structures for Your Garden Railway
- Kalmbach has published another collection of Jack Verducci's most popular articles, this time focusing on Jacks tips for building, installing, and maintaining garden railroad structures. Though it's not a step-by-step "how-to" instruction manual, it's guaranteed to give you some great ideas. Not to mention that it's easier to take around with you than a web page, and makes a great gift, hint, hint.
- New October, 2011: Thinking Outside the House
- A highly opinionated piece about naysayers who pronounce Garden Railroading "dead" every time the economy takes a hit, along with at least one idea for reducing barriers for new people trying out the hobby. P.S. I've made this suggestion to industry leaders and gotten blank stares. Tell me what you think. Click on the picture to jump to the article.
- New October, 2011: Holding the Line Against Screen Spam
- Why aren't our web pages cluttered with obnoxious ads for unrelated products? Or hidden "boobytraps" that take you to unrelated sites when you click on what looks like an internal link? It's not because those companies are ignoring us.
Click on the photo to jump to that article.
- New December, 2010: Third Christmas-Themed Open House
- From our New Boston and Donnels Creek railroad, a report on our third Christmas-Themed open railroad. We were too busy this year to make many additions to our open railroad, but we did make every effort to help folks have a very good time. And over a hundred did, including many well-behaved children, some of whose families are starting to make this an annual event. Click on the photo to read more.
- New August, 2010: August, 2010 - Landscaping Rehab Continued - From our New Boston and Donnels Creek railroad, a followup to the April article, listing the things I got done, a little bit at a time, on the busiest and hottest summer I can remember. Tasks included backfilling new retaining walls, finishing installation of a new "waterfall" fixture, planting conifers and sedums. On the other hand, weeds are what happen when you're making other plans. :-)
- New July, 2010 Should I Get Hit By a Truck . . . Orphan Web Pages - This year any number of web pages that Paul referred readers to for detailed, accurate information on hobby subjects shut down without warning. After going to great lengths to restore one site that a certain non-railroading hobby depended on, Paul is appealing for folks who've put real value into their personal hobby web pages to have a plan for keeping them going in case they lose interest, forget to renew their domain name, or become incapacitated in some way.
- New June, 2010 Back in "The Life," or "Self-Unemployed" - Learn what consulting technical writers have in common with mercenaries and undercover intelligence operators, and what would drive a self-respecting former corporate employee to a high-risk, potentially high-payoff career just when he's hoping his life will settle down.
Also, learn about a new word that Paul coined that LAST time this happened to him - "Self-Unemployed." :-)
New April, 2010: Landscaping Rehab and Idiot Tools
- From our New Boston and Donnels Creek railroad, here's a grocery list of garden infrastructure problems and upgrades that I had to do this spring before I could even think about working on the tracks and trains. Once again, if it helps you avoid or fix a problem, it's worth the time it took us to write this up. At least it should be good for a chuckle or two at my expense.
- New April, 2010 Unidentified Flying Object? - Okay, I put my foot in my mouth by asking a young lady what her tattoo represented. But she was quite offended that I couldn't tell. Please enlighten me. Or at least hazard a guess. Your guess is as good as mine. And based on the young lady's reaction to my guess, it's probably better.
- New March, 2010 The Holmes Identity, or How Not to Unsubscribe - Our newsletters get more popular every month - some months we spend more time adding subscribers than almost anything else. And the few folks who've had to unsubscribe for one reason or another have had no trouble figuring out our "unsubscribe" link. Except for a handful of folks who think they need to exercise some "nuclear option" for getting off the list, when all they had to do was ask (nicely or not).
- New December, 2009! Scams That Target Small Business - Okay, these aren't as threatening to the average person as the phone bill scams reported earlier, but they have some amusement value. Absent-mindedness or succeptibility to flattery can lull unwary small business owners into paying for services they don't need, paying the wrong people for services they do need, or even paying for phony "awards" that you "win" by sending in the check.
- New December, 2009! Christmas-Themed Open House on the NB&DC RailRoad
- The Race family's second Christmas-themed open house included more lights, more trains, more music, and better snacks. Even if you didn't get there, we think you'll enjoy the report, the many ideas, and the many photographs.
- New December, 2009! Family Garden Trains? 2009 Bargain of the Year
- Our friends at Colorado Model Structures keep coming up with new ways to tempt us to make room for more buildings. This year's new offerings include a barn that actually looks like a lot of barns in the Midwest (picture it white with a green or silver roof), as well as other great new products worth considering. These models don't snap together like the expensive ones, and they need to be painted, but once they're properly painted and assembled, they will give you a tremendous return on your investment.
- New December, 2009! Check Your Phone Bill Yesterday!
- Once again I stray from my sites' hobby focus to get on my hobby-horse, this time about phone scams that your phone company knows all about and has done next to nothing to protect you from. This blog-like-article probably contains a lot more information than you ever wanted to know, but it also has some practical tips for preventing and dealing with the problem.
- New November, 2009! Fall Has Fell
- and my Christmas Trains are Grateful. - Once again, the New Boston and Donnels Creek garden railroad is going to be open for visitors on a special Christmas-themed night, complete with holiday lighting, Christmas music, popcorn, and other entertainments. This page is mostly a note about how much easier it is to prepare for this sort of thing is if you have an early leaf fall, followed by pretty weather. God is good. The article includes links to pages about past and future (for now) open houses.
- New July, 2009! More About "3-D" Painting Tricks - A follow up to our discussion of set design painting techniques that carry over to other fields (such as dioramas). This also tells a few of the "secrets" we used designing our Vintage Tin-Style Cottage project. DO try this at home!
New June, 2009! When Graphic Artists Go Bad - A fellow who dabbles in graphics arts can't help appreciating the humor and ideosyncrasies of this subculture.
- New May, 2009! As Seen on TV - Family Garden Trains Resource has "Cameo" on American Idol? - My life gets even weirder than usual, as the graphics I created for fellow hobbyists go farther in life than I do. :-)
- New April, 2009! Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain - Reflections on creativity and sharing ideas as a result of spending five months painting sets for high school musicals, especially the Wizard of Oz.
- Thanks Bachmann Customer Service! - A thank you for a repair department that treats its customers like customers. - December 4, 08
- "It Makes a Village" - Family Garden Trains(tm) 2008 Bargain of the year - See what we think is the best buy this Christmas season, as a previous winner offers even better values for cash-strapped, but creative hobbyists. - November 13, 08
- Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 5 - The open house itself and some lessons learned. - November 9, 08
- Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 4
- The last thirty-six hours before the open house - the family pulls together to pull it off. - November 8, 08
- Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 3
- A follow-up of Parts One and Two below. Testing track and trains, rehabilitating and lighting eight more buildings, and getting Thomas' temporary railroad started. If you "need a little Christmas, right this very minute," check out these articles, and come see us if you can. - November 2, 08
- New November, 2008! Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 2
- A follow-up of Part One below. Adding lights and rehabilitating and lighting four buildings that have seen better days. It IS starting to look a lot more like Christmas.- November 1, 08
- Growing Your Hobby with Shrinking Resources
- How to keep your hobby fun and growing, even if you need to keep your charge card in your pocket for a while. - October 23, 08
- Planning a Christmas Open House, Part 1
- A chronical of what it takes to get a railroad from virtually non-functional to "ready to show" when you're planning a Christmas-themed open house. - October 22, 08
- The Hazards of Leadership, Part 1 - Observations on the risks of thought leadership and how they apply to providing information about our hobbies. - May, 2008
- Why Garden Train Clubs Need Web Sites - Improve communications inside and outside the club; grow the club and grow the hobby. - April, 2008
- How Can I Help? - Here are some ways you can give back to the hobby in your community, as ways you can help us help the hobby worldwide. - January, 2008
- 2007 Garden Railroading Bargain of the year - See what we think is the best buy this December! Actually, two sets of products are represented, one Large Scale train set, and one series of low-cost, but effective structures. - December 1, 07
- The Thomas Chronicles
Book 3: A Pretty Useful Railroad - The third in a series of articles on setting up a temporary Thomas the Tank Engine railroad at the Holden Arboretum, 3.5 hours away. Learn how things worked out and our lessons learned. - July 30, 07
- The Thomas Chronicles
Book 2 - The second in a series of articles on preparing to set up a temporary Thomas the Tank Engine railroad at the Holden Arboretum, 3.5 hours away. - July 20, 07
- Don't Donate Your Car - Or at least take precautions - A non-train-related description of a Kafkaesque event that resulted from donating a car to a "registered charity." - July 25, 07
- How to Lose a Perfect Feedback Rating on Ebay Without Doing Anything Wrong - Yet another cautionary tale in which I got my wrist slapped for not wanting to send money to a fellow who has no valid contact information. Oh the humanity of it all. :-) - June 1, 07
- The Thomas Chronicles, Book 1 - We have been asked to set up a Thomas display railroad in conjunction with two garden railroading clinics to be held near Cleveland this summer. This is the first chapter in the "story" of how we went about trying to get some Thomas the Tank trains and deciding what kinds of buildings to use. - March 26, 07
- An LGB-Centered DVD That Very Small Children Will Love - Product Review: The miniature photography is better than the content on Bill Spicer videos that mostly show LGB trains running through living rooms, back yards, and other non-garden-railway scenes. Still, word has it that very small children love watching the trains run. - March 22, 07
- Avoid Imitations: There is Only One Garden Train Store?. - A hobby store chain is violating our trademark "Garden Train Store" by registering the domain name equivalent and earning money off of it. After I placed one phone call to the same "web guru" who filed the registration and stonewalled me for nearly 2 years, the general manager accused me of harassing his people and told me to talk to his lawyer. A stirring story of intercompany cooperation to build the hobby together - or not. - March, 07
- What Do Trains Have to do with Christmas? - Have you ever wondered why trains around the tree seem as natural as a star or angel on top? This "musing" attempts to answer that question and explains why the answer may be important to us as well. - Note: This started out as a blog and became an article on our BigIndoorTrains(tm) site, so the link now takes you there.
- 2006 Family Garden Trains Bargain of the Year Award - An exceptionally good bargain you might appreciate for your Christmas shopping or winter projects this year. - November, 06
- Update On LGB - October 11, 2006 - An update on the business issues affecting the company that basically started modern garden railroading, and how LGB hopes this will affect your Christmas shopping. - October, 06
- Why Start a Newsletter Now? - An explanation of why we are offering yet one more free way to enjoy your garden trains. September, 06
- Beyond the Copycat Wars - A brief update on my battle with people copying and copying from our site, and an expressed wish to get back to the business of helping garden railroaders and building the hobby. - August, 06
- Family Garden Trains has a Fan, or a Stalker - We're Not Sure Which! - Somebody is pulling our leg, though we haven't the foggiest idea why. Maybe You can help solve the mystery, or help us to appreciate the joke, whichever response is valid. - August, 06
- What It Means to be Reader-Driven - Why user questions are so important to our growth. This includes a discussion of the Big Trains mailing list maintained by Eric Schnoebelen, and why it is important to me, to Family Garden Trains, and to the hobby as a whole. - July, 06
- What's In A Name, Part 2: familygardentrains.com Comes Home - We finally have control over our own domain name. - June, 06
- More About Digicams - A follow-up of my article about digital cameras, with some example photographs and new discussion to consider, - June 26, 06
- A Good Collection of Great Articles - Jack Verducci's New Book - Kalmbach mines its back issues one more time and comes up with a pretty good product - June 23, 06
- What's In a Name? - Why phrases like "garden trains" and name "Family Garden Trains"(tm) are important, and why we try to differentiate Family Garden Trains(tm) from copycat sites that want to sell you information that we give you for free - June 20, 2006
- Dueling Superlatives - When one-upmanship is carried to extremes, June 16, 2006 -
- When is a Body of Work Complete? - June 9, 2006
- A Gorgeous Garden Railways Book - My long, informal review of Marc Horovitz and Pat Hayward's latest book - May 5, 2006
- Family Garden Trains Graphics go Far Afield - How some of my tastful graphic textures were converted into other people's kitsch - May 3, 2006
- How Much Content is Too Much? - May 2, 2006
- Why We Finally Started a Mailing List - April 14, 2006
- Open Letter to a Theme Park, or
"Why we stopped buying season passes" - March 29, 2006
- Free Access versus Free Reuse,
or "Why You Saw It Here First" - March 27, 2006, updated June 2, 2006