With all of these activities and the task of keeping my web sites updated, I am left with little time to answer the bazillions of email messages from people who think I am some sort of LARGE COMPANY with a department full of customer support staff, to whom I must often reply: "I'm sorry, I don't have a brochure to send to you and no I don't have visiting hours because I do not have a museum you can visit, I'm just a guy with a web site about steam locomotives!"
I grew up in the Minneapolis area. In June of 2001 I relocated to Brisbane, Australia. While in "Oz" (as they call it), I did much the same things as I did in the USA. In 2011 another opportunity presented itself and we relocated back to the USA to Northwest Arkansas.
Ever since that first HO train set I've been interested in trains. I grew up near the American Crystal Sugar Company (where my dad worked) in Chaska, MN. There was a lot of train activity at the factory. Every fall, during the campaign, the Milwaukee Road would bring sugar beet trains from the dakotas. Steam cranes were used to create huge mountains of sugar beets in fields near the factory. The sugar factory had a couple of these steam powered cranes which they used to shuffle the sugar beet cars around. The steam cranes are long gone, but I will never forget the sweet smell of coal smoke.
In 1990 I bought tickets for an excursion train to be pulled by SLSF 1522 from Minneapolis to Winona and back. 1522 never made it (friction bearing problems en route from St. Louis) so the train was pulled by diesels (a disappointment). While on that train I spoke with someone (a car attendant) from the Minnesota Transportation Museum. Weeks later I showed up at the Jackson Street Roundhouse (part of the Minnesota Transportation Museum), talked to some people, and joined the museum.
As a member of the Minnesota Transportation Museum and an active crew member on the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway, I worked my up from student brakeman to brakeman to conductor to student engineer to diesel engineer to student fireman to fireman to student steam locomotive engineer to steam locomotive engineer. My ultimate goal of being a qualified steam locomotive engineer was achieved on Saturday, August 28th, 1999.
Since the MTM operates on Wisconsin Central trackage, all of the crew must be code-qualified (FRA rules). We have to go through training and take the same tests (every two years) that the paid WC crew members did. Over the years, the WC has come to trust us enough so that they even let us haul their freight! The WC will leave a train somewhere for us and FAX the train orders to our trainmaster. We (the MTM) will send a crew out to the train, perform the necessary tests, and proceed to haul their freight (drop off loads, pick up empties, etc.). What an experience it is to be the engineer on a real freight train! It is also a big responsibility.
Doing this type of work gave me an opportunity to see what real railroading is like. It provided me with experiences that were otherwise difficult to achieve.
I don't consider myself a "railfan". I don't even care for that term. However, I do have an interest in railroads -- especially steam locomotives (diesels are ok too, I suppose). I have traveled quite a bit, and have seen and photographed hundreds of steam locomotives throughout the United States and Australia. Some of these photographs are shown on these web pages.
The end of the 70s coincided with the end of many of the super groups. The 80s brought groups that were super but the genre became just as, or more important than the group itself. The music scene was defined by a plethora of "New Wave" style genres. Although there were "super groups" in the 80s (Depeche Mode, ABC, Pet Shop Boys), music began being associated more with these genres instead of the with the bands themselves. Genres included the keyboard driven Synth Pop, the big hair New Romantic bands, the darker Dark Wave and Gothic music, and one of my favorites -- Industrial.
The progressive music scene in Minneapolis in the 80s was strong. There was First Avenue, an old Grayhound bus depot converted into a danceteria. There was also a dance club called Graffitti's. Graffitti's was my favorite dance place. They played an impressive mix of 80s music. Between 1984 and 1986 a Sunday night program called Radio One aired on KBEM radio station (85.5) in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The DJ for Radio One was Mike McClellan. Some of the most interesting, innovative, and progressive dance and new wave music ever heard on a Twin Cities radio station was aired on Radio One. The only other radio program that came close was Beat Radio in 1998.
Over the years I have amassed an impressive collection of rare and otherwise hard-to-find collection of progressive 80s "New Wave" music. I just wish I had more time to listen to it all.
The 90s is where music began to drift into the "throw away", "fast food" style of the 2000s.