When Natural Disasters Strike…

Sometimes, a proper Risk Management plan will call for the eradication of a species

I hereby interrupt my extensive hiatus from blog posting with this digression.  Last time I was talking about backdrops and how to convincingly create them.  This time I am discussing the proposition that sometimes, a proper Risk Management plan will call for the eradication of a species.

In this case: the common house cat.

By way of background, we are actually “dog people”.  We had dogs, exclusively, from 1985 through 2011.  That’s a reasonable track record.  Not that I necessarily had anything against other species, but allergies to cat hair on the part of wife and daughter prevented us from ever getting any of the species felinus terriblus.  Plus, the dogs found cats to be a tasty pre-supper treat.  They even come with their own floss for post-prandial hygiene.  This is important to the well-groomed dog.

But, things change.  As time went by, all the members of the canine tribe died off one by one, the last in 2011. Contemporaneously, the spouse found that she had lost the cat allergy, and the daughter was no longer living at home and so granted her permission for us to acquire cats.  So we got one.  A small, beautiful, cuddly black short-hair kitty who sleeps on my neck at night.  No problem.

BIG problem.  What hasn’t been mentioned is the other daughter and her enormous ball of fuzz that joined her household while away at college.  This would be Mister Darcy, a 19-pound Maine Coon cat with a vast halo of fur.  Why does this cat matter?  Because he’s now living with us, that’s why.  Now, with a name like Mister Darcy, one might expect him to be a perfect gentleman, if initially  skeptical of Elizabeth Bennett.  But what Jane Austin didn’t bother to tell us is that Mister Darcy has a penchant for sneaking into the garage and wandering around, jumping up on work benches and model railroads.

Yes, dear readers: my model railroad inhabits the garage.  It’s rather large, and extensively scenicked, and rather beautiful.  But, oddly, when I built the landforms around tunnel 30, I I didn’t think to build them to withstand direct asteroid impact nor to survive the pressure of a 19-pound cat.  Silly me.

What’s the one proverbial truth that everyone knows about cats?  Answer: that they should never be let out of a bag.  Which, if one does, is a blunder only slightly less well-known as not getting involved in land wars in Asia, because there’s a second proverbial truth about cats having to do with curiosity.  The funny thing is, I had always thought that it went as follows: “Curiosity killed the cat.”  However, I have recently learned that it’s more accurately rendered as “Curiosity destroyed the model railroad,” followed by “… and then its owner killed the cat.”

You can see where this is headed, can’t you.  I have a terrible habit of foreshadowing.  Well, one fine day after an interval of inactivity I was starting to run some trains.  The first train downhill from Winter Park encountered some kind of obstacle in the hidden helix.  When I investigated, I discovered that the entire hillside above Tunnel 30 was collapsed into the helix!  Plaster chips and model trees littered the landscape.  Disaster!  Mayhem!  How did this happen?  Could I fix it?  And most importantly, who could I accuse of the crime?

And that’s when I saw it.  A tuft of fur, gray fluffy fur, snagged on the top edge of the masonite backdrop.  J’accuse!  The CAT did it!  All 19 pounds of him, that innocent-looking Mister Darcy with the deceptive moniker had destroyed my 1/87 kingdom!  A towering rage seized me and I went in search of the culprit, murder in my eye, bent on exacting retribution.  Well, a cat this size can’t hide very long in a house like ours, and within moments I located the villainous creature!  I reared back to deliver judgment, and– and– aw, look, he’s so cute and fuzzy!  Hi, buddy!  Here, let me pet you under your chin.  Can I get you a treat?  Feed you, perhaps?  Let you back out in the garage to play?  Sign over the deed to the house to you?

Yeah, that’s right.  I’m a chump.  Besides, the evidence of this specific crime was merely circumstantial; the hair could have been left on a previous visit and not been related to the earthquake.  Plus, I had taken a bit of a nasty fall right in that area while taking down boxes of Christmas decorations, and Mister Darcy’s Chief of Staff (my daughter) maintains that I was the culprit and not her dear cat.  The jury was unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared.

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Don’t let the innocent expression fool you.  This cat is his own class of natural disaster.

How did it all turn out?  Well, happily I was able to re-install the broken mountainside with much greater success than I initially assumed.  One can barely even see the damage now.

But I’m still installing security cameras.  And electrified fencing. actionroadlogobang

So He Must Have Used Up His Website’s Free Disk Allocation?

Well, kinda.

So, I was updating my website the other day. It’s a basic, self-maintained, technologically-obsolete place that I use to display my train photos. You know, railfan stuff? (For the Brits: trainspotting pictures…)  There’s a section there all about my model railroad. And in that section there’s an index page.  And on the index page is… well, a collection of short ramblings.

Kinda like a blog section, but… shorter.  Like I said.

Well, as Gru would say:  “Light bulb.”  If it’s a-gonna act like a blog, then by gums it oughta BE a blog.

Which brings us to this.  This, being the screen you’re reading at the moment, dear readers.  (See how I pluralized that?  I have great faith that at least two people will eventually read this!)  This is the inaugural entry for my blog.  A blog about model trains and possibly the big ones too.  I guess it depends on how I’m feeling on whatever future day I sit down to write about this stuff.

As with any good project, it’s good to have a think at the get-go about scope.  After all, if the Hubble guys had had a better approach up front, maybe their scope would not have required corrective lenses. I want to see everything 20:20 before I launch this sucker! Focus, end-user!  So, here’s a shot at describing scope.

Railroads.

See?  That was easy!

Now, on to the Mission Statement.

“A model railroad in every basement or garage”

(Dang, I’m knocking ’em out of the park like the Cubbies today.)

Well, if it worked for Bill Gates with computers, why not for miniature railroad enthusiasts?

… but then, speaking of Brits and trainspotting, I have a thought about that movie, The Railway Man.  You know, the one with Colin Firth?  Excellent show, but there’s a cautionary tale if I ever saw one.  If you haven’t seen it, the basic idea is this: You have this nice young feller / bloke in His Majesty’s Army, who is a self-described railway enthusiast.  (It’s a true story, more or less).  He has the bad luck to be captured at Singapore by the Imperial Japanese. He’s herded off to captivity, but he ends up with a relatively-unbrutalized job as a POW.  All until his railway enthusiasm gets the best of him.  Here’s a suggestion: if you’re ever a POW, don’t ask too many questions about the local rail lines and then draw a MAP about it!  They might misunderstand your intent.  When they do, and the Japanese did, that whole unbrutalized situation can turn around fast.  Yep, the Railway Man became brutalized, extensively.  Bad luck, indeed.

And why am I bringing that up?  Because it’s like this.  We model railroaders / train enthusiasts / railfans / foamers are not a well-understood species by the populace at large. You may have noticed this yourself. A few people might be mildly interested in your obsession, but most will stand at a distance and roll their eyes and mock.  Your mission is to recognize the glazed look in their eyes and move on.  Trying too hard to infect them with your flanged-wheel zeal could get you waterboarded.  Just saying.  It happened to Colin Firth, and you’re no better than he is. ActionRoad.net