Creating Castles and Reliving Railroads

Dayna’s Castle

A while ago Dayna requested a Castle Bed. Kevin has been working on it in his spare time (spare time? What’s that?) and we were lucky enough to witness the final stages. Below you see it loosely assembled in the garage, after the first coat of paint.

Here you see Becky sponging stones onto the castle walls.

After the keystones and trim are painted in, it’s nearing completion.

Dayna seems delighted when she sees it put together!

This shield will go over the castle door when all is finished.

It’s in place!

A Magnificent Meal @ McClellands

We had the privilege of having lunch with long time friends the McClellands. We had a wonderful time – perfect weather, great food, and even better company!

Driving Across Nebraska

Then it was time to head back across our country… we headed west on I80, planning on making it half-way to Denver the first day. Mid afternoon we got a “Check Engine” warning light on the dash. The gauges all looked fine, but I pulled over. Nothing seemed awry, so we continued on. The light didn’t reset when we restarted the engine, so I continued to worry. Stopped again, and read the manual to see what all that light could mean. Everything still looked fine, but this time when I got back on the freeway it stumbled a bit. The book said the light could mean fuel filter, and I was now convinced that’s what was causing the trouble. We found a shop 10 miles back that could replace the dirty filters right away, so we doubled back and spent a bit less than 2 hours getting it taken care of. Then she ran like a top! Awesome!

We generally like to get set up in our campsite mid afternoon, long before sunset, but for some reason we were a bit later this time! We actually pulled into Ogallala a bit before dark, so all was good. I wish you could hear the GPS pronounce “Ogallala!”

Snow in Denver!

The next day was Denver; a quick stop for some appointments. We found some unexpected snow! We were hoping to get into the mountains and see dear friends Dick and Eleanor, and maybe drive past some property we used to own. We were not going to let a little snow stop our plans, but when we got to North Turkey Creek, several emergency vehicles were a the base of the road. They had closed it due to ten cars stuck, wrecked or off the road. We went a different route…

Meal in the Mountains with Great Friends

At the end of our drive we met up with Dick and Eleanor… dear friends who gave us lunch and a wonderful afternoon! Such fun to see them! During lunch, we notice three beautiful foxes playing in the snow just outside the windows. A great day!

Douglas Wyoming – Wildlife and Trains

Leaving Denver, we headed north on I25, stopping in Douglas, Wyoming. In case you were not aware of it, Douglas is the site where the Jackalope was first discovered. The town is full of them! There are guidelines on how to spot them, their habits and favorite haunts. It is also said that if you fail to find them, perhaps it’s a season when they have shed their antlers. It also mentions that the antler shedding season varies considerably, and probably corresponds to whenever you happen to be looking.

Douglas Railroad Interpretive Center

This museum is anchored by the original Passenger Depot of the FE&MV RR. That’s the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad. Built in 1886, it was very utilitarian; made from plans identical to hundreds of others which sprang up as America moved west. I loved this sentence in the brochure: “All expense was spared during construction of the Depot, since the future viability of the stop – meaning, in this case, the town of Douglas itself – was by no means a sure thing; and as the town went, so would the depot.” The interior walls were made with box car siding – cheap and readily available to the railroad. The depot rests on a foundation of wooden railroad ties. The only feature possibly called ornamentation would be the roof brackets under the eaves. The bay window in the front allowed sight down the track in both directions.

Locomotive – Chicago, Burlington & Quincy #5633

“It was an Englishman, Matthew Murray, who designed what was probably the first working steam locomotive, in 1804; 136 years later, the manufacturing division of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy made one of the last – which is #5633.” So the book describes this magnificent machine… capable of cruising at 100 miles per hour, pulling thousands of tons. The tender behind the engine carried 27 tons of coal and 18,000 gallons of water. It would be refueled at intervals ranging from 10 to 100 miles – and in enormous quantities. “At the height of the steam locomotive era, the railroads were consuming almost one-quarter of the total annual domestic coal supply.”

To demonstrate how huge the locomotive is, I posed in front of a massive wheel.

Dining Car – CB&Q #196

This dining car was named “Silver Salver.” Manufactured in 1947, it ran until 1972. Half of the car was kitchen, the other half was the dining area. Diners like this were never very profitable for railroads… expensive to build, maintain and staff. Some of the expense was recouped at the retirement of the cars – sold to be stationary roadside diners. That sparked many look-alike diners in the 30’s and 40’s, and even to today.

Sleeping Car – Great Northern #1182

On long voyages across the continent, the attraction of having an actual bed was not insignificant. Sleeper cars, like diners, were far more expensive to build than regular passenger cars. Where you see the staggered windows, there are very small compartments with seats for day use, and beds that roll out like a drawer. One compartment had the bed up high, the other lower. At the far end of the coach were compartments more like bedrooms, with room for two. There were partitions between these rooms that could be removed to let a family of four share a “suite.” Each of these rooms, big or small, had sinks with toilets hidden under them. The hallways were very narrow. The whole effect today is one of claustrophobia… I’m intrigued by how cleverly and well everything was made… but now, in its state of decay, it looks a bit creepy.

Day Coach – Chicago & North Western #1886

This coach was built in 1884 with wooden siding outside, gas lighting inside, and tile over cement for the floor. It could hold 72 people on straight backed seats. It is called a “Day Coach” because it was only designed for single day routes… but a certain number of long nights were inevitable. When a train pulled numerous coaches like this, the population of the train sometimes exceeded that of the little towns it passed.

This car was remodeled in 1915, converting the lighting to electric and installing steel sheeting over the exterior wood siding. It carried passengers until 1961.

Caboose – Chicago, Burlington & Quincy #14140

The only picture of the exterior of this caboose was photobombed by a huge Jackalope. A hazard of being in Douglas.

The caboose houses the brakeman, flagman, and conductor. They monitor the train as well as the track behind. I’m told modern trains usually have an E.O.T. device (End Of Train) that provides the engineer with this info.

This caboose has storage lockers that double as seats or beds. Eating and office spaces are provided. In the cupola are reversible seats, with views up and down the train. Before the 1830’s, this function was provided by building a little shanty on a flatbed car. This “elegant” caboose was built in 1885, and renovated and retired in 1912.


  1. Although I have seen many Jackalope I who don’t live far from Douglas Wyoming have never visited their fanfare. BTW I used to travel from Worland Wyoming to Campion Academy via steam powered locomotives. It was a all nighter and I was dumped out in front of the boys dorm sometimes in a snow drift. Travel well and safe my friends!!

  2. Very interesting…beginning with the Castle Bed! What talent to design and construct such a dream for a girl! The trains were a work of including everything the rider needed with the space of the unimaginable. We have ridden across America a few times, but the trip that always sticks in my mind was taking Bruce’s parents from Reno to Roseville in the winter. What fun we had! They stayed over with us and went home the next day. Great memories!

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