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On the lighter side of life... 

#1445: Tommy, Riposa in Pace

requiescat in pace


Trump & The Mob



"Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss'd to me

I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door."


Hundreds of Oregon Corporations Escape the Minimum Tax


Half of the US Is Broke


The myth of the Christian country


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR, 2nd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1937


A Just Peace


SIP contract online


Middle East friendship chart


Corporations enriching shareholders


- Intel tax abatements

- INTEL, come clean!

- Leashing INTEL  

- Free to Be Hungry


Facts not fiction on universal gun background checks



"Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere"

Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The GOP - Not One of US.

Wall Street, our new criminal class...       

   Business in the USA is sitting on $2 trillion dollars refusing to invest their own funds in expanding and hiring workers.  

   When one adds to this the reserves that banks, equity firms and hedge funds have - the picture is clear - "capitalism in the USA is on strike." 

   The engine of our economy - the spirit of entrepreneurship is not in evidence today.  So much for business being dynamic and risk taking. 

   They hire K- Street lobbyists and their ilk at the state level because they are averse to risk taking - pleading for tax breaks, tax credits and endless loopholes. 

   The "business of business" in America today is not about job creation, it's about wealth hoarding and redistribution from the middle class to the top 1%. 

   So for those who claim government doesn't create jobs, my response is that business doesn't either until given "corporate welfare" by government.  The fact is that the private and public sector are highly integrated, something the anti-tax, anti-government Tea Party types don't understand. 

   Job creation requires public/private partnerships but the benefits of such collaboration should go to the 99% not just the 1%.  





  • An Independent View

Oregon Outpost

  • A Middle East View      

Rami G. Khouri

  • RealClearPolitics:


  • Jim Hightower:

  • Robert Reich:

Robert Reich

  • Thomas Friedman: 

Friedman Column

  • Nicholas Kristof: 

Kristof Column

Oregon's Motto: 

She flies with her own wings! 

Hard Times in Oregon: 


The Oregon story - the rich get richer, the poor and middle class lose ground.  Check this front page Oregonian article out. 

Oregon wage gap widens

Homelessness in Oregon - a call to action

Chuck Currie The crisis of homelessness


      Oregon's coming 34th out of 41 states in the Obama "Race to the Top" illustrates the failure of leadership from Governor Kitzhaber and his predecessors as they have built an educational bridge to nowhere called high stakes testing.

   Instead of being in a race to the top we seem to be dumpster diving to the bottom despite doing education reform since 1991.  Insanity is termed doing the same thing over and over again.  When can we put a fork in this stupidity? 

   To confuse matters more the Oregonian's editorial board has pontificated that this was a lost opportunity to get federal funding for innovation.  How firing principals and teachers equals innovation is a mystery to me.   

   The way to reform schools is to reduce class sizes, to encourage teacher collaboration and to support their continued education.  High stakes testing and performance based assessment of teachers are NOT the answer!    

   If you want students to succeed you first have to resolve the issues they confront before they come to school.  Children who face poverty, hunger, homelessness, health care issues and family instability require wrap around services for them and their families, 24/7.   

   Every child needs a safe home of their own and parents who know how to be good parents.   

There is only one way to address this impending crisis.  Schools must have a stable source of funding. Until that happens - we will limp from crisis to crisis.   




    Why does the richest nation in the world have the moral blight of homeless people?

Invisible People


    Connecting the dots between homelessness & hunger in Oregon and Washington County: 


•    The faces of the homeless are families with children, single men and women, vets, and many who are impaired. It is estimated that in Washington County up to 56% of homelessness occurs to families.


•    Hunger is highest among single mother households (10%) and poor families (15%) as well as renters, unemployed workers and minority households. 

     In Washington County, Oregon's "economic engine," the divide between the affluent and the working poor continues.  We have a 19,000 unit gap in affordable low income rental housing.  County political and business leaders are indifferent to this crisis...   

A RAD rhetorical question - Were Madison & Marx "Marxists"?  


"History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments."   

- James Madison











































RAD Lines

See my FACEBOOK @ Russ


  • He lost by 2.9 million votes...

  • He's a con artist...

  • He's a pathological liar... 

  • He's a failed business man...

  • He's a fascist... 

Every Fascist Needs an Enabler. Donald Trump Will Have Mike Pence.

Trump's role models are Vladmir Putin and Benito Mussolini.  He has contempt for our checks and balances system.  He wants to "rule" not govern like a strong man, a despot.  He will shredd the Constitution anytime he feels the urge to do so and like all despots he only listens to his inner circle.  And he is paranoid and narcissistic. 


SB 1533 passes!


Housing Needs in Oregon 




"There are men who believe that democracy... is limited or measured by a kind of mystical and artificial fate [and that] tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future..." 

FDR, 3rd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1941


Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel


Taking on the Pro-Israel Lobby 


Sign the petition ►

Walgreens - pay your fair share of taxes!

  • "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws." - Mayer Amschel Rothschild

  • Miguel de Cervantes, from The Duke - "I accuse you of being an idealist, a bad poet and an honest man."  Cervantes' response - "Guilty as charged, I have never had the courage to believe in nothing."   from Man of La Mancha  

Intel failed to report fluoride emissions for almost 30 years   

Professor Kingfield, from the Paper Chase

   "I'm not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you." 

- George Bernard Shaw



From the Left Wing:

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman - The New York Times

Democracy Now

The Daily Kos

Blue Oregon


"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." 

- Emilie Buchwald 


    "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." 

- Justice John Paul Stevens, Bush v. Gore, 2001

    The state of our union - check out the map, it's a reality check for those who can't figure out why people are so ticked off... 


    Here's Garrison Keillor's rap on the rightwingnuts:   



     Garrison Keillor - "...The Founding Fathers intended the Senate to be a fount of wisdom... but when you consider...  moon-faced Mitch McConnell, your faith in democracy is challenged severely. Any legislative body in which 41 senators from rural states that together represent 10 percent of the population can filibuster you to death is going to be flat-footed, on the verge of paralysis, no matter what. Any time 10 percent of the people can stop 90 percent, it's like driving a bus with a brake pedal for each passenger. That's why Congress has a public approval rating of [11] percent...." 

"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war"

- John Adams

"Loyalty to country always.  Loyalty to government when it deserves it."  

- Mark Twain  

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  

- George Santayana 

"The love of one's country is a natural thing.  But why should love stop at the border?" 

- Pablo Casals

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." 

- William Butler Yeats  


"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' 

But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?"  

- George Bernard Shaw, "Back to Methuselah" (1921) 

"...the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society...  The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government..."  

- James Madison, Federalist Papers #11 

"Why … should we have government? Why not each individual take to himself the whole fruit of his labor, without having any of it taxed away?”   

The legitimate object of government, is to do for the people whatever they need to have done, but which they can not do, at all, or can not do, so well, for themselves – in their separate and individual capacities … There are many such things … roads, bridges and the like; providing for the helpless young and afflicted; common schools … the criminal and civil [justice] departments."    

- Abraham Lincoln 

Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society  

- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 

"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates, but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole..." 

- Edmund Burke  

“It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever hath been done before may legally be done again, and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice and the general reason of mankind.  These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities, to justify the most iniquitous opinions.”  

- Jonathan Swift 

" Every satirist who drew breath has flung pots of ink at this parade of tooting lummoxes and here it is come round again, marching down Main Street, rallying to the cause of William McKinley, hail, hail, the gang’s all here, ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay."  

- Garrison Keillor 

















































EDITOR'S NOTE:  I met and hosted David Gergen in the 2003 McCall Forum debate which featured Bill Bradley & David Gergen.  I have considerable respect for Gergen.  His comments on CNN are very telling. 

The key to a scandal is that it has a life of its own - as Nixon, Clinton found out and now Trump is experiencing.  No amount of tweeting can tweet this away!  In an ironic way Trump is a victim of the genie that created him - reality TV, soical media and the 24/7 news cycle all thanks to Roger Ailes who is off to Dante's Inferno no doubt.
If President Trump truly did ask James Comey to end the investigation into national security adviser Michael Flynn -- as the former FBI director is said to have claimed in a memo -- then the United States has reached a rare tipping point, David Gergen said Tuesday night.


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Sometimes what is NOT said is more instructive that WHAT is said.  Here an excellent analysis of our acting AG's comments on Trump's firing Comey.  I've also appended in the "Comments" section a satirical piece from MPV  on what happens when Trump's in "home alone" in the Oval office minus his "minders"...    

by Marc Volavka -

     I’ve been intrigued in the past 48 or so hours or so over the almost universal media conclusion, and reporting,  that Rob Rosenstein, in his memo to Attorney General Sessions; recommended that FBI Director Comey be “fired”, or otherwise removed.
     Let me humbly suggest, as someone with at least a little political acumen, that you ALL READ his memo to Attorney General Sessions.  First, I was surprised to discover how difficult it was, given our instantaneous “Google” world, to actually FIND the full, complete, memo...absent media/new ‘commentary’ or edits.
     I did, however, succeed.  And I read his memo.  And then I read his memo again.  And then I read it AGAIN.  Because, every time I came to the end of page 3, I kept feeling that I was missing page 4.
     Virtually every commentary; analysis; opinion offered by news media; political pundits and the local dog catcher accepted, as FACT, that he had made the recommendation to relieve Director Comey of his duties.  In fact; in Trump's letter to Comey; it implies as much.
     But, I dare any of you to read, in it’s entirety, Rosenstein’s memo to Sessions; and point to this conclusion.  You won’t be able to.  And you won’t be able to because I believe Rosenstein knew and understood that when Trump and Sessions asked him to give “his honest opinion” of Comey’s behavior, he was being set up.
     This is the last paragraph of Rosenstein’s memo:
     "Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly.  I agree with the nearly unanimous opinions of former Department officials.  The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong.  As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.  Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions."
     Do I believe Rosenstein actually penned this memo?  Yes.  Do I believe he was being totally honest about what he “felt” about the actions of the FBI Director over the preceding 9-10 months?  Yes.  And, why do I believe this?  Because, having now read carefully each and every word of this VERY carefully crafted memo; it lacks one thing—a concluding paragraph.
     In fact, the memo CRY’S OUT for a concluding paragraph.  It SHOUTS OUT for one.  And it is the very absence of it that suggests to me that the Deputy Attorney General understood exactly what position he was being asked to put himself in; and in the absence of the concluding paragraph; his personal resistance, likely because of his deep belief in his constitutional responsibilities; not to play the pawn that Sessions and Trump wanted him to play.
     So, I’ve taken the liberty to write one, and in doing so, suggest that, by it’s very absence, we should hold final judgment on Rob Rosenstein.  He may yet get the last laugh!!
     Here is what’s missing:
     “It is, therefore, with great sadness, that I come to the conclusion that Director Comey cannot continue to lead the FBI, and I must, reluctantly recommend he be removed as Director.”
     Nowhere are these, or anything close to these words, found.
     He’s actually set himself up to go from “goat”; to hero; because he’s still the Deputy Attorney General...and he still retains the sole right to appoint an independent council in this matter. 









      Everyone is trying to read the tea leaves of Trump’s “victory” in 2016. It’s more complex that first appears.  But as the first article indicates Trump's initial base was among pissed off white working class voters who also exhibited a good deal of racism and zenophobia.  But as the campaign moved on Trump clearly tapped into traditional Rs too.  GOP voters showed they cared more about stopping Hillary than saving the nation from a dude "gone bananas."  

     Trump only won the election by a TKO due to the archaic racist rules of the Electoral College system, the GOP’s use of voter suppression, Hillary’s bone headed failure to show up in Wisconsin or Michigan in the last month of the campaign in addition to Putin's meddling along with James Comey's and Wikileak's duplicity with the feeding frenzied media foaming at the mouth about H's e-mail.   

      Trumpism was rejected by a majority of the American voters. And now that we’ve seen the rejection of Trumpism in France, the Netherlands and Austria the “momentum” of authoritarian right wing populism is now problematic. Add to this Trump’s high negatives since the election and stumbles his appeal is less impressive.

      Some commentators want to assign Trump’s victory to 'working class authoritarianism', others to the American 'petite bourgeoisie', to others the suburban white vote and to others fundamentalist Christians. The facts show that the Trump coalition is made up all of these parts. But the enduring lesson is the GOP coalition stayed home! Shame on them!

      So while some are ringing their hands over the rise of American fascism, the evidence is that Trump was elected by a fairly typical Republican base. But more importantly Trump appears to be the exception to the rule in recent national elections which also saw a new Trudeau win Canada. Again, Trump “lost” the election if the popular votes were counted. 2018 will tell the tale.

      If one looks at Oregon as a template - the voting map is very simple to digest. Hillary won decisively in the Metro area including the 'burbs' and in Lane and Benton counties - the home of UO and OSU. She also won in Lincoln, a spill over county from Lane county, and Clatsop counties, the latter a traditional Democratic stronghold and in Hood River County now a destination resort community.

     Predictably Hillary lost in the "other Oregon" where Oregon's lumpen proletariat reside...  

     In the meantime:  







Editor’s NOTE:  With the daily drumbeat of the Trump administration's assault on everything I believe in - I wonder if this my native land any more?  To make matters worse here in Oregon a dysfunctional legislature led by Democrats seems hell bent on ducking all the important issues when it comes to dealing with our 1.6 billion dollar deficit.  The mood music out of the Puzzle Palace is budget cuts. And the final indignity was here in Washington County this past week when the "good guys" at Thrives decided to punt.


     Is the glass half full or half empty? 

     I've been a member of Washington County Thrives since 2009. Thrives members are committed to reverse poverty in Washington County by promoting access to affordable housing, workforce training, and early learning.

     It's a network (a "collaborative") of non-profit, business, education, health care, government, faith based and citizen activists trying to move the county, the "economic engine" of Oregon, to lend a helping hand to its most vulnerable residents.

     It's a network of organizations co-convened by Community Action and the Vision Action Network.

     For years human service advocates have been dreaming of a day when Washington County stepped up to craft a county levy similar to our public safety, road and library levies - focused on housing, workforce training and early education.

     The levy would have raised $22 million per year for 4 years, at a modest rate of 34 cents/thousand of assessed valuation. For a home valued at $350 K that would be $119/year. That would have been a game changer in Washington County.

     This was to be the year!

     After our April 26th Thrives meeting our dream of a county levy has been put on hold until at least 2020 because a Portland polling firm, CDRI, hired by the county concluded that a 53% base of support for such a levy was not sufficient!

     I was the lone voice in the room Wednesday morning who questioned the methodology used by CDRI and with the recommendation of Thrives board to not move ahead with a May 2018 or November 2018 levy campaign.

     I feel like we're engaged in a process of counting angels on pinheads.

     The argument was that we need more time to talk with our various stakeholders and to develop a message that resonates with the voters. We've been doing that since before Thrives existed. So now we are told to "wait" again.

     Not this dude! Why because the devil is in the details:

     When one includes "likely" voters who are "very confident" (22%); "somewhat confident" (29%); "leaning to yes" 6%; and "not confident but yes voters (2%) the potential support base for such a levy is 59%.

     What's interesting is that the "naysayers" remain at 37% while the polling firm's "projection" is that such a levy is not likely to pass based on the assumption that 28% of so-called "fence sitters" now in support will slide to NO.

     This is an astounding conclusion!

     A campaign that could not build on a 59% base would be considered incompetent.

     Keep in mind there is no public discussion of such a campaign unlike high profile campaigns which come with baggage aka high positive and high negatives.  

     Yes conventional wisdom is that without support in the high 60s or low 70s after a long heated campaign - support will wither and defeat may stare one in the eye. But if the levy was a candidate any campaign guru would take those odds.

     If 2016 has taught us anything beware of conventional thinking!  

     Unlike a candidate with a well-known record or a controversial issue that polarizes the citizenry, our levy doesn't have such a profile - there is plenty of evidence that citizens of Washington County are concerned about housing affordability.

     Why couldn't a properly run levy campaign build on existing "favorables" and create a winning coalition?

     To underscore this rhetorical question the CDRI poll shows that such a campaign gains support when focused on the idea that families succeed when they have a stable home, a living wage job and a stable education for children.

     This mirror the long held talking points of both Thrives and Oregon's Housing Alliance. Support increases even more when messaging focuses on affordable housing for low-income seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

     This has been confirmed by national studies done on messaging around this issue.

     The key of course is putting together a campaign and also assessing your opposition - in this case likely to come from the housing development and realtors lobby with it's deep pockets. So this would have to be a grassroots campaign a la the Bern.

     Echoing President Obama’s phrase – I feel the “fierce urgency of now” to get on with the task of presenting a levy NOW not years from now when we think the power brokers in this county may be ready to hear the message.

     For the record we have been trying to engage the political and business community on this issue going back well before Thrives was created starting in 1993-94 when County Chair Bonnie Hays asked me to chair an Affordable Housing Study.

     So the issue of affordable housing and homelessness has been on the radar screen in Washington County for over 24 years!

     What has not been evident is the political will to take the next step! And now when the mood music from the board seemed right - Thrives is calling a time out. Why?

     We've e created a 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness and have had countless community forums to discuss this issue. We also had two national figures on this issue talk to the Westside Economic Alliance and our County Board.

• Phillip Mangano, Bush II’s ending homeless czar and
• Utah’s Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah's work on this issue.

     The Interfaith Committee on Homeless (IFCH) sponsored many forums on this issue over the years. 

     It’s last town hall several years ago at the Cedar Hills UCC featured Providence Health Care CEO Greg Van Pelt as our keynote speaker - so how much talk do we need before we "walk our talk?"

     Consider this - Intel and Nike encourages its employees do "community service" in the county. There is a base ready to be tapped in a different kind of campaign, not one based on the assumption that only older voters will vote.

     The claim was made that the average as opposed to median age of a "likely" voter in Washington County is 57. That is a disingenuous data point implying only an older demographic will vote in such an election.

     This spurious data point doesn't reflect millennials, soccer moms nor that aging baby boomers were radicalized in the '60s and are very liberal in a county that trends Democratic not Republican and with independents the fastest growing voters.

      At one point the cliché was trotted out "after all Washington County is not Portland!"

     Oh please!

     As Washington County has become more urbanized and the home of hi-tech, such a stereotype obscures a more complex reality in our county. We are no longer a county where one size fits all - we are a very diverse county.

     But this reminded me of a comment made when we moved to Oregon by a college student attending a highly regarded liberal arts college in SW Portland to whit finding out that I taught at Pacific in Forest Grove - "how did I like living in the Bible belt."

     Some stereotypes never die. I've witnessed this Portlandia condescension toward Washington County many times coming from Portlanders who live within their own bubble. I've had enough of this nonsense.

Keeping Hope Alive:  

     I saw an interview of US soccer icon "striker" Abby Wambauh by Joe Buck on ESPN. Abby again and again said that it was not her victories but crushing losses that taught her the lessons she needed to learn to propel her to success.

     We are failing to heed this lesson – to strive for victory at the risk of failure. The Thrives poll indicates without a campaign yet begun we are at a 53-57% support position. The challenge is to protect and build on that base.

     This is boilerplate campaign 101.

     The unelected leaders of Thrives are calling for a “time out” projecting defeat if we go to a levy at this time. It’s like a team waiting for the big game and deciding because the odds makers predict failure – let’s not suit up!

     In 2006 the faith community stepped up in support our shelter system in light of the failure of the 2005 Public Safety levy and impending budget cuts that would have closed our county shelters.

     We created the Interfaith Committee on Homelessness (IFCH) in 2005.

     Defying the odds we raised $20,000 for our county shelters to sustain them until the next levy came for a vote in 2006 and passed.

     We didn’t wait for the skies to open up, we did it because it was the right thing to do.

     If a levy was put up for a vote in 2018 despite it's being an "off" year election with a gubernatorial election and a likely referendum on the Trump administration voters across all demographics would be highly energized!

     But let’s say we lose in May 2018 – as the 2005 Public Safety levy went down in 2005 – you don’t cut and run – you look at where we are strong and where we lose support and then we move ahead!

     I was a member of the County Housing Authority's Housing Advisory Committee for 9 years and a founding member our 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. We’ve been talking about such a housing levy for decades.

     There is no right time. What is required is summing up what Theologian Paul Tillich calls the “courage to be”.

     If Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver and Portland can step up then why can’t Washington County – Oregon’s economic engine?

     Justice delayed is justice denied. How many years must we wait to act on behalf of the most vulnerable of Washington County’s residents?

     I feel like we're in Samuel Beckett's existential tragic-comedy play "Waiting for Godot" or more simply a rat running in a circling cage.

     I'm not willing to wait - there are rumors of a possible metro area campaign in 2018 calling for a $500 million bond levy. If such happens I will be a strong supporter of such a measure.

     The members of Thrives, an overwhelming majority of them women, are tireless providers of services to our county's most vulnerable residents - children, the elderly, working poor and our growing Latino population.

     They have been let down NOT by the Board but by their own leaders! How tragic. 



EDITOR'S NOTE:  Two of my fun things to do which get me away from politics and the 24/7 news cycle are model trains and golf.  Since it's been so wet and cold this spring so far, I've had no golf but an expanded model train season. 

The Tualitin Valley & Pacific RR

“Sentimental journey” from 6 to 75

In the beginning…  

       I live in the Portland, Oregon metro area. My layout is a fictional spur line, the TV&P RR, which in the 50s would have connected via Portland to mainline UP, GN, NP and SP&S railroads.     

      I got hooked on American Flyer trains at age 6 in 1948 when I got my first train at Christmas, a PRR K-5 engine plus four freight cars. Over the years I’ve added to my railroad collection.

     Like Joe Sullivan wrote in his “American Flyer Memories” column in the South Jersey S Scalers Club newsletter years ago – “Catalogue dreaming” was a major past time.

     As is typical my interest in model trains ebbed and flowed with the years. When I went off to college and then graduate school my model train habit took a hiatus but not my love affair with trains.  

     UP City of Portland excusion train at Union StationOver the years I’ve ridden the rails on the UP “City of Portland”, SP “Daylight”, GN “Empire Builder”, the Canadian Pacific and Amtrak’s DC/NYNY Metro Liner.

     I’ve visited the B&O train museum in Baltimore, the California RR museum in Sacramento and The Chicago Science & Industry museum and the Smithsonian in DC which have the real things and also fabulous model train layouts.  Balboa Park in San Diego and Tacoma’s Washington State RR museum also have huge model railroad layouts. 

St. Paul to early Oregon training…

     When my wife started teaching the first grade in St. Paul, Minnesota while I was a grad student at the U of Minnesota, I put up my model trains as part of a transportation unit in her classroom. This gave me the excuse to “double” my original set buying an AF Hudson freight set for $25!     

     Moving east in 1969 for my first college teaching job the trains went into storage. But moving to Oregon in 1975 and buying a home the next year I had space for my trains.

    I put them up on our garage floor but Oregon’s wet weather was not a good fit for electric trains.  For a year they ended in our older son’s bedroom. It was amazing how a 7 year old could navigate Daddy’s trains.

     In 1982 they came out of the boxes again. What are the holidays without model trains running around the tree? Asthma ended the tree motif but my railroad empire grew to occupy half of our living room!  But my back and knees were taking a beating. 

The Tualitin Valley & Pacific RR is born

     After remodeling our garage in 2004 into a “family” room – I had space for a permanent model railroad platform on top of newly built storage units and my wife got space for her Teddy Bear collection – a win/win!

     My goal as an S-Gauger is to run and display my trains. They are “toy trains” so while my layout has a lot of scenery – the centerpiece has always been the trains whether operated or as a RR diorama.  

Build it dudes

     Based on a simple drawing of what I wanted our remodeler built the base of the layout in his workshop with Douglas fir 2/4s supports and plywood.  Upon completion they drove it over to our house in two sections    

      The upper interior base of the layout is cabinet quality construction with one 2 x 4 cross beam on each section and 3 vertical layered inner edging supports of 1/2, 1, 1/1/2 inch around both halves of the layout to support the plywood platform on which the trains are run. 

      The storage space has a 3 1/2 recessed by 3 1/2 inch depth inner floor frame with a plywood floor. The layout is accessed by 2 sets of recessed tracked sliding doors on each side of the layout, 67" x 35" x 28" - length, width and height. 

     Entrance to Grandpa's Train RoomOur remodeler and his son had to bring each white painted unit into the back door of our new family room and through the inner door to the new “family” room. Somehow they did it.

    They built a connector 38” x 26” section to connect the 2 units abutting the back wall and a 7” x 38” wood bridge platform connecting the front section opening which enables me to run trains on separate loops at the same time or a single train onto either loop.   

     The roadbed platform is a ¾ inch plywood base wit ¾ inch raised edging.  It’s covered by black indoor rug material purchased at a local building supply store. With the AF rubber roadbed this muffles the sound when trains are running.  

The dimensions of layout…

     GN diesel mainline freight/GN steam locla freightWall to wall on the back is 11.5 ft in length. This includes the inner connecting section 3.2 ft length x 2.2 ft depth.   

     From the back wall to front of the layout on both sides is 7.8 ft. This leaves me with an open space between each section of my layout of 5.6ft length x 3.2ft depth.         

     The front section is 5.1 x 3.2 x 3.2 ft in length. Height from floor to top of the layout is 3.1 ft.   

     My main transformer bank is on the left side of the left section loop.

     With the help of a child’s chair, I duck under the plywood bridge base and Scenery Unlimited trestle bridge that connects the two front-end sections of my layout.  It can also be lifted but that is a chore so far I have avoided.   


     My layout features a rural scenes in Oregon’s Willamette Valley or the Columbia Gorge. I add to the illusion with wall scenes of mountain, desert country and a city industrial district. But it’s not a replica of a particular place or town. I leave that to one’s imagination.  

Bershire passenger train pulls into Fir Grove with UP Northern waiting      I have two fictional towns – Fir Grove a small county seat town in the inner loop and a rural farming village Gales Crossing on the outer loop with an adjacent train yard along with a commuter wayside and a short trolley line.  

     My villages feature Plasticville buildings – city hall, church, pastor cottage, fire station, gas station, post office, two barns, a fruit stand, a suburban house, a covered bridge, 2 switch houses and 2 AF repo news stands.  

     I have two tunnels made in Holland, a scratch belt train station, a Marx station all purchased at train shows. I also have a lighted molded pizza parlor and grocery store near the “Fir Grove” station.  

     I have a lighted molded cathedral and a Scenery Unlimited farmhouse which I use as a B&B. The B&B and cathedral are connected via Bachmann trolley car tracks running the length on the back of the layout in front of the engine house.

Operating equipment: 

     My model railroad empire is an eclectic collection of rolling stock - American Flyer, AF by Lionel, American Models, SHelper Service, Scenery Unlimited and MTA S Gauge.

     Window train display     Trackside features include a Lionel semaphore, 3 AF semaphores, AF oil derrick, MTH floodlight tower, AF water tower, AF revolving aircraft beacon, AF stockyard, AF barrel loader, two AF billboard whistles, AF water tank, AF crossing gate, Sam the Semaphore Man, AF Wayside Station, 3 sets of AF lamps and an MTH UP arrival/departure billboard adjacent to the north end of my layout.  

     Operating cars included Bachmann Christmas & Hershey Chocolate Trolleys, AFL GE Search Light car, AF Gilbert Milk car, AF Hand car, AFL Walking Brakeman car, AFL Joe & Moe flatcar, AFL Operating coal car, AFL operating lumber car, AF Railway Express mail car and 4 operating cabooses.  I have 2 AFL, 2 AM rail sound box cars plus “B” unit AF SF, AFL UP, SP, and AM NP rail sound cars.  

     Other features - AFL Polar Express truss bridge, 2 UP MTH truss bridges, a Scenery Unlimited steel and a lighted AF trestle bridge, Lionel engine house, an AF diner and a Parr Hobby Shop grain elevator.

     I also have many scale cars, trucks and figures. 

SP Alco pulling passenger consist over the tressle bridge     I have 15 steam engines, 28 diesel engines @ 200 freight cars and @ 100 passenger cars.  I have 11 compete passenger consists of heavyweight or streamliner trains, SP, UP, BN, NP, WP, MP, Pullman & the Polar Express.

     The most unique feature of my layout is the 18 inch long snow shed tunnel made out of corrugated iron by a professional sculptor friend, a one of a kind production based on pictures of such tunnels in eastern Washington state.   

     I also have three book cases in the train room which give me extra display space for my steam & diesel engines plus room for my many train books, videos and DVDs. I’ve run out of space so my empire has maxed out – until I visit the next train show...

Power system…

     My layout is powered by two American Models transformers boosted by an American Flyer 19B, two 8 Bs, one 1.5B, two Marx transformers and a Tech II transformer.  My Bachmann trolleys are powered by a Track DC Accessories AC transformer.  

     UP Big Boy heads to repair houseI also have 3 S Helper Service LocoMatic control boxes, a Lionel Trainmaster Cab I remote and Lionel Berkshire remote. A Train Power Pack 5400 runs a DC AM Burlington switcher freight on the inner loop.      

     Since my AF tracks are embedded in AF rubber roadbed and with 14 AF switches I need a lot of extra power caused by power gaps in the AF tracks, how clean the tracks are and variable engine power need and consist load.   

Train viewing…

     Over the years of thanks to E-Bay, attending train shows, swap meets and hobby stores in the Midwest, East and West my railroad empire has expanded from that modest start in 1948 in San Francisco.

     My wish is that AFL, AM or MTH would add a GN Empire Builder streamliner passenger consist to their product line.   

     Next up?  I bought my grand daughter the O Gauge Thomas the Tank engine and loop plus some old Lionel gondola cars. It’s in our living room where the Christmas tree used to be – oh dear here we go again! 

     Who knows what’s around the bend – toot toot Thomas!

     Grandpa's train girl on the Oregon Heritage Holiday train, with Rudolph in the SP Baggage car;  the other is Miss L wringing a former steam engine train bell at the OHT museum on a warm fall day in Portland. 

Happy 7th Birthday Lavanya!