Inside the OC&E – September Newsletter

The Al Frank Memorial Plaza

On Tuesday, September 19, 2023, at 11:00 AM, the Colorado Model Railroad Museum will celebrate the dedication of the Al Frank Memorial Plaza with a ribbon cutting by the Greeley Chamber of Commerce. With the energy and drive from Mr. Alfred “Al” Frank, the plaza work began in early 2022 with the removal of the existing trees and ground cover to make way for a new look and we are ready to celebrate our beautiful new plaza with the public.

This dear friend, supporter, and champion of the museum had an entrepreneurial spirit and was self-employed for most of his life. Soon after moving to Colorado, he began working at Electro-Media, an electronics company specializing in sound system installation. After decades with the company, Al retired in 1996 as Electro-Media’s sole owner.

Al was a man of many talents, passions, and hobbies. He was a gifted oil painter, jewelry maker, and musician. He collected art and antiques, restored antique cars, was a ham radio enthusiast, and loved to fish. Al loved everything to do with railroads – their construction, history, and preservation – and enjoyed educating the public about them as a long-time volunteer at both the Colorado Railroad Museum and the Forney Museum of Transportation.

In his later years, he devoted a great deal of time to several large projects at the Forney, chief among them the restoration of multiple luxury rail cars. Al became an enthusiastic supporter of the Colorado Model Railroad Museum beginning in 2012 when he sent us information about our Colorado and Southern Caboose. He wanted to include us in his love of the railroading world. He and Michelle Kempema, our Executive Director, had many conversations over the year, about how he could help with future exhibits and start a railroad library at CMRM.

He donated almost 500 books, pamphlets, and magazines in September of 2021, creating the Al Frank Library. Al wanted to provide a lasting gift to the CMRM and decided we needed beautiful bronze statues to grace the front of our museum. He commissioned 3 statues, titled “All Aboard” The Al Frank Memorial Plaza and “Goin’ to Grandma’s House” from Randolph Rose, in Yonkers New York, and had them shipped to Greeley in April 2022. Al added the planters and had wonderful ideas on the size and shape as well as what type of flowers should be planted each season. He wanted the landscaping and brick plaza to be included in his gift.

Always a man of humor, one of his favorite tales was the Bathtub Test: During a visit to my doctor, I asked, ”How do you determine whether or not an older person should be put into an old age home?”

“Well”, he said, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup, and a bucket to the person and ask them to empty the bathtub.”

“Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the other two.”

“No”, he said, “A normal person would pull the drain plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

Sadly, Al passed away on December 3, 2022, before the plaza could be completed but we know he is smiling down at us every day. We are happy that some of his family will be joining us for the dedication and ribbon cutting. Al was one of a kind and he is dearly missed. – Story and photos by Amy Dugan

These plans, prepared by volunteer Bob Pilk, show the high level of detail that went into this project. Bob worked closely with Al Frank, and notes that they went thru several iterations, before reaching consensus. Initially, the plaza was going to cover only half of the area ultimately developed, but the decision was made to provide an area for groups to safely observe trains passing the museum. Al was quite eager to get the work underway, however, with the post-pandemic surge in contractor’s workloads, it took a while to finally get pricing and commitment from a contractor to do the work. While it took a lot longer than ever imagined, it was nice to finally see the work completed.

Report from the Executive Director Michelle Kempema

Women in Model Railroading at the 2023 Texas Express NMRA National Convention

In 2022, a few women in the hobby of model railroading got together to figure out how to create connection among women in the realm of model railroading. It was suggested to the Colorado Model Railroad Museum that the CMRM is the perfect entity to create and house this program. The CMRM Board of Directors agreed and Women in Model Railroading was created.

The next step was to approach the National Model Railroad Association for support as a Special Interest Group. The NMRA Special Interest Group, Women In Model Railroading (WIMRR), was introduced right before the 2022 NMRA National Convention in Saint Louis. WIMRR began as a program of the Colorado Model Railroad Museum, now amplified by the NMRA as a Special Interest Group.

Why start Women in Model Railroading? The answer is easy, we want to support the women in the hobby. That is not just women who model, although there are many who do! There are women in every aspect of the hobby of model railroading; from the manufacturing of product to the wives that attend events. WIMRR hopes to create connections for all the women in the realm of model railroading.

At the 2023 Texas Express National Convention in Grapevine, Texas, Women in Model Railroading hosted two main events. The Operations Road Show Freemo-N layout graciously allowed time one evening for a Women in Model Railroading Operating Session. There were women there who ranged from experienced operators to women who were joining their very first ops session. There was also a social gathering event sponsored by Walthers, Inc. and Soundtraxx.

These events helped create new connections and friendships for those who participated. Women in Model Railroading at the 2023 Texas Express NMRA National Convention Michelle Kempema and Cinthia Priest are conductor and engineer for WIMRR ops session. Over the past year the WIMRR has created a few more activities including a monthly Zoom “Hang Out” on the 2nd Friday of each month. This is a casual setting where most of the participants are working on modeling projects while they talk.

At the Amherst Railroad Hobby Show in January we planned a cookie social at 3 PM on Saturday in the NMRA booth to introduce attendees to the new SIG. We also packaged cookies and delivered them to the women who were in retail booths around the show.

Currently there are 135 members of WIMRR. If you are interested in joining WIMRR, which is open to everyone, not just women, please go to and find the link to join under the Special Interest Group tab at the bottom of the page where WIMRR is listed.

Michelle Kempema and Cinthia Priest are conductor and engineer for WIMRR ops session.

New Museum Docent Program

By John R. Cochran, III Vice President Board of Directors

As the Colorado Model Railroad Museum continues to grow in attendance and expand operating hours, it has become clear that there is a strong need to add a new type of volunteer to our museum mix. While we have many volunteers who love to operate trains, help maintain the layouts, work in the Dispatch Office, or Manage the Days, what is desperately needed is a trained group of museum tour guides.

These volunteer Docents will need to have the knowledge to tell stories about the various artifacts, help with locating items in the ‘Eye Spy’ game, explain the history of the OC&E Railroad, and all sorts of other entertaining stories of our fine museum. Our Executive Director, Michelle Kempema, and the Volunteer Support Committee are excited to help bring all this together in the form of new CMRM Docents.

While many existing volunteers know portions of the history, the story of the layout, or other fascinating tidbits, we shall be training a new core group of people to fulfill this vital need as people enter the facility. Here is a great area for the museum to elevate the visitor experience and enhance their time wandering about the main floor or mezzanine. For many who don’t have model trains or have a desire to work on the railroad, this is an opportunity to truly contribute to the museum in a new manner.

If this is an area that you might want to explore and, perhaps, participate, in keep your eyes open for notices regarding training and recruitment for the new CMRM Docent classes. Otherwise, please look forward to coming into the museum sometime soon and having your experience raised to a whole new level.

Introducing the Museum Staff

By Brion Oakley

Introducing: Madison Castle

Madison started at the museum part-time working at the front desk before being hired full-time.

What did you do before working at the museum?

Madison has an extensive and varied teaching background having taught at District 6, Trinity Lutheran, St. Mary’s Elementary, and Children’s Workshop Pre-school. She also was a White House Intern. (When you see her, ask her about the grenade.) She also embarked on a semester at sea, teaching children aboard the ship.

What attracted you to the museum as a place to work?

While a full-time student, Madison was looking for a different work experience beyond her jobs as a preschool teacher and college admission counselor. Wanting a job that was different, where people paid for an experience, she Googled “Top Tourist Destination in Greeley”. The Colorado Model Railroad Museum topped the search. She came by the museum with her resume and was told that the museum was not hiring. Undeterred, after coming back three successive weeks, she was hired part-time to work at the front desk.

What are your responsibilities at the museum?

Madison is the Youth Program Director and Marketing Director. As youth director she oversees the operation of youth programming, creating and conducting fun, ageappropriate activities that inspire and encourage future model railroaders. As marketing director, Madison engages in community outreach and support, facilitating meaningful relationships between the museum, the community, and Greeley downtown businesses.

What are you most excited about for the future of the museum?

“Oh my gosh, what am I not excited about!” Madison has a number of new programs in the works designed to identify and meet children’s needs. Such as programming for home school students, brick building days, and more exposure to railroad education.

Do you want to share anything about your personal life?

Madison lives in Johnstown with her two cats. If she could eat one thing for the rest of her life it would be tacos, and she loves to sing.

Roadway Team Update

By Tim Frade, Roadway Team Lead

The team continues to modernize roadway operations while enhancing visitor experience. Sustainable operations have been a primary goal of the team from the beginning including a strong focus on ease of use/maintenance, and reliability. Adopting new technology has greatly simplified operations by making it easy to turn on and off the roadway vehicles related special effects.

Volunteers and museum staff have kept the roadways running continuously for the enjoyment of our visitors. The team’s newest roadway enhancement includes an updated interactive school bus stop. It operates via a new big red button or autonomously via a new local control module using Arduino technology like that found in the museum’s Lococab attraction. It is now fully functional including flashing lights, new sounds, and cars that (should) stop on the roadway. Soon, the roadway team plans to resurface the Highway route to improve vehicle performance.

Additionally, the team plans on updating the City route traffic lights control with a local controller similar to the new school bus stop. We welcome your feedback on current roadway operations and any ideas for future enhancements.

Stan Woodcock installed the big red button and the local control module for the school bus including variable sounds like the bus stopping, kids, door closing, bus horn, and the bus leaving. Below: the Roadway automation is now controlled by a simple and cost-effective Arduino controller, that replaces the previous PC/CMRI system
Mike Morris and Jon Myers greatly expanded the vehicle fleet with the donation of several new period correct box trucks which allow both the City and Highway routes to run continuously during visiting hours at the museum.
Bye Bye Bench: Sometimes the museum comes to the realization that a donated artifact no longer fits with the museum’s Collections Policy. When that occurs the artifact will be deaccessed and a we’ll look for a new and appropriate home for it. Here, a Union Pacific Railroad depot bench is being loaded for it’s trip to its new home, the Hugo Roundhouse, in Hugo, Colorado, about 100 miles east of Denver. Photo by Andy Lewis

Outdoor Projects Update

By Robert Nastan, PE

Front Entry Plaza – The installation of the plaque recognizing Al Frank’s donation has been completed. Once the latest batch of donation bricks have been received Stone Creek will be asked to install those. The City of Greeley has inspected the plaza work and found it to be satisfactory so the permits are closed. The plaza is a significant improvement to the museum entrance and is much more inviting to visitors. The museum will contract with Sculpture Services, the company that installed the bronzes, to repair scratches and to provide annual maintenance.

XCEL Power Pole Relocation – On July 24th, XCEL installed the new transformer pole. This will allow the two poles infringing on the courtyard area to be removed once new electric services are installed between the new pole and the museum building, and between the museum and the Lyster warehouse. A scope of electrical work and a contract has been drafted and Caberra Systems is reviewing it for effort, schedule, and cost. (Trenching started on Saturday, September 9, see the article on page 12.) Once the contract is executed, material can be ordered and the work scheduled once material delivery is known. Along with the new electric services, there is electrical work inside both the museum and the warehouse, to prepare for the Garden Railroad and to meet other electrical needs. This work is to be scheduled after the services are installed and transferred from XCEL.

Fencing Along the East and South Property Lines – along the east side of the plaza and the SE property line. The City installed matching fence further south and to the SW corner of 11th Street. This has stopped vehicle traffic crossing over museum property and has reduced the number of pedestrians crossing the Union Pacific right of way mid-block.

Lyster Warehouse – The City of Greeley performed a complimentary inspection of the warehouse with respect to possible personnel safety. The issues raised include the need for two personnel egress doors separated by at least 55 feet. These doors are to have panic-bar latching hardware that cannot be locked from the inside. The doors must have illuminated exit signs. The warehouse is to have sufficient emergency lighting to allow a person in the warehouse to find an exit in the event of a power outage. Clear pathways are to be established, marked, and kept clear at all times. The museum sought bids for the door installation and other repairs. A contract has been signed with Western Skies Construction. They have received a deposit so the doors can be ordered and manufactured. As referenced in the Power Pole paragraph, electrical work is also necessary to provide emergency lighting, exit signs, power for the Garden RR, courtyard lighting and receptacles. It should be noted the inspection was done for a warehouse used by museum staff. The requirements to use the warehouse as a building open to the public would be significantly different.

Courtyard Development and Garden Railroad – These projects are on hold until the electrical services work and the repairs to the north side of Lyster have been completed. As there is not yet a schedule for this work, it is likely it will not be possible to proceed with the development of the courtyard area until next year. The Garden Railroad would follow thereafter.

Rail Cameras – Discussions continue with Virtual Rail Fan and Steel Highways about installing cameras that would provide online viewing of the model train layout and the UP rail traffic. Now that ALLO provides the internet service, there is sufficient capacity to support multiple cameras. There remain issues with providing power to cameras and the associated routers, and providing either cabling or conduits to the camera locations.

NW Corner – As a part of the plaza landscaping, the junipers in the street ROW and west of the museum driveway were removed and rock ground cover was placed. This improved the appearance of the corner and complimented the plaza. A sketch plan for the corner utilizing one of the RR crossing signals has been created. However, further work is needed to coordinate with an overall site development plan. The schedule for this effort has not been set.

West Exterior Side of the Museum – Smith Sign Studio graciously offered to replace the railroad signs and the museum sign on the west side of the building at a significantly reduced cost. The new signs were installed on August 21st. The existing signs had faded after the past 13 years. The museum sign was replaced with one about 60% larger and is similar to the museum sign on the north gable end. The larger museum sign is definitely more readable from the intersection of 10th Street and 7th Avenue.

The old signs on the west side of the building were starting to look a little worn. While prototypical railroad signage is often less than perfect, museum visitors expect our building to look clean and maintained.

Stop The Presses!

The contractor working on the building’s electrical service came by on Saturday, September 9 and started the trenching work necessary for removing the power poles. It took all day to lay the conduit and now the state electrical inspector needs to check it before the project can proceed. Photos by Tim Huitema

Apparently the driver of the EMD Electromotive Truck is a railfan and was chasing a train along the Crater Lake Parkway in Klamath Falls. He crossed over the center line into oncoming traffic, colliding head-on with Mr. Peanut. The driver was cited for Distracted Driving and Railfanning Without a License.

Electrical Team Update

Bill Kepner

The big news is that Darrel Ellis is handing over the reins for the OC&E electrical work. Darrel had been the primary architect and designer of the OC&E electrical, DCC, and related layout features from the very beginning and no one person can fill those shoes. So, we are building up a team of several volunteers who can learn from his work and get up to speed over the next several months.

And since the museum is now open to visitors six days a week during the summer, and four days during the winter it is even more critical that multiple volunteers be able to provide support during both AutoOp and Dispatchercontrol operations.

Editor’s note: We’re now calling the automated operations program, “AutoOps” to avoid confusion with the new Museum Docent Program as described earlier.

We’re starting to see more failures with some of the electrical components on the layout; after all, the layout has been powered up a significant time over the last 15 years. The Team’s plan is to develop troubleshooting scripts and tools to be able to quickly isolate any problems. We also need to be able to maintain some of the critical layout electrical components; we may need to develop a board refurbishment program or find suppliers of compatible products.

If you are interested in joining the team, please send a message to Bill Kepner at The team will be picking up support of the LocoCab and ProtoThrottle and will continue to actively promote the use of those advanced throttles LocoCab Status We recently found that the LocoCab video has several dead spots at the far corner of the layout, mostly on either end of Bly Siding. This is a rather new issue; perhaps the camera’s wireless HDMI transmitter is getting interference from the higher-strength WiFi router that was recently installed near the LocoCab in the southeast corner of the building. Or maybe it is just worn out.

We can still run the LocoCab with its snowplow train but may limit its use to the west side of the railroad. After all, the heaviest snow usually falls on the windward side of the mountains, and it would only make sense that the snow plow would work mostly from Klamath Falls to the top of the pass at Quartz Mountain. There is would be turned on the wye and return to Klamath Falls. Darrel Ellis began volunteering at the museum when the OC&E layout was first being designed and he has been involved with the electrical systems ever since. And he is also at the museum most Saturdays interacting with visitors and answering their questions.

His 10,000+ hours of service has been invaluable and frankly, the museum wouldn’t be successful without him. Photo by Rosario Aguiar Inside the OC&E September 2023 R The engineering staff will look for a technical solution; perhaps a stronger transmitter can be acquired and a new camera car constructed. The other LocoCab project is to upgrade one of the LocoCab’s Arduinos to the just-released Gigs model which now comes with on-board WiFi. The current LocoCab implementation depends on 4 Arduino Mega boards; using a Giga board might eliminate two of those Megas and greatly simplify the overall design.

We would like to extend the invitation for any museum volunteer with 200 hours of seniority to sign up for LocoCab training. Newer volunteers are encouraged to “ride along” with an experienced engineer as this is the best way to learn the railroad and see where the signals are.

Darrel Ellis began volunteering at the museum when the OC&E layout was first being designed and he has been involved with the electrical systems ever since. And he is also at the museum most Saturdays interacting with visitors and answering their questions. His 10,000+ hours of service has been invaluable and frankly, the museum wouldn’t be successful without him. Photo by Rosario Aguiar

Why Do I Need Resistors on My Cars?

Bill Kepner

When a museum volunteer reaches the number of hours needed to run a “Personal Train” on the museum’s Oregon, California and Eastern Railroad, he or she is able to operate trains with their own locomotives and cars. There are a number of requirements for this equipment, but perhaps the most important is adding resistors on one axle on each car and using metal wheelsets.

This resistor creates a very minimal current draw and allows the CMRI (ComputerModel Railroad Interface) to determine whether there is a locomotive or car in a section of track (or block) on the layout. This is how the Dispatcher can watch your train travel across the layout. On the OC&E, there are many detection blocks, in fact in order to support AutoOperations, the layout probably has more than any other layout, anywhere!

Typically block boundaries are located at each signal on the layout. At each OC&E station or siding, you will have separate blocks for the main line, the siding, and the control point where the switch is located. Between sidings, there are usually multiple blocks; the number depends on the distance, As a train travels across the layout, the Dispatcher can “see” your train, and knows when you enter the next block. When you enter a block you are not authorized to be in, i.e. YOU RAN A RED SIGNAL, he can see that immediately. There is no sense in denying your mistake, you have been caught!

Wired in series with the power to each block is a Digital Command Control Optimized Detector. These detectors are a small circuit board, about 2 1/2” by 1 3/4”. Most of these were built by museum volunteers and contain a number of resisters, diodes, and an integrated circuit (LM324). There is a connector on one end and an LED (usually red) and potentiometer on the other. The LED will light when a car or locomotive is in the block. The potentiometer allows adjustment of the sensitivity, but please don’t try to adjust this unless you absolutely know what you are doing!

So why do you need a resistor on each car and not on the locomotive? Even when stopped, the DC motor in your locomotive draws enough current that the DCCOD detector can see it. It pulls the logic signal low which the CMRI’s SMINI node can tell the CMRI programs that “something is there”. It doesn’t really know “What” is there, but just like a real railroad’s main line, the signal logic is tripped to change the signals to the appropriate indication, hopefully preventing another train from running into yours. The resistor on your cars also draws the current needed to be detected.

Why can’t you just put the resistor on a few cars in your train and maybe the caboose? Won’t that allow detection of your train? Yes, most of the time. But if there was a situation where your train came apart, or you left a car on the main line, the only way you can be sure that it’s detected is that every car needs to be equipped. In the old days, you might have to drill a hole in each wheel and solder a through-the-hole resistor between the two metal wheels. But now with surface-mount resistors and conductive paint, you can glue the resistor to the axle and use the paint to create a path for the track power to enter the resistor from one wheel and exit to the other wheel, completing the circuit. We can describe how to do this in detail in a later article if desired.

What sort of resisters do I need? Where do I get them? You would typically use a 20K ohm, 1/10 watt Surface Mount Technology Resistor. These are available from many sources, Jameco, Mouser, DigiKey, and probably Mountain States Electronics in Fort Collins. Note that the 20K value is arbitrary; the original recommendation for DCCODs was 12K, but we figure with the large number of cars on the layout, that 20K will reduce the overall current draw a slight amount. If you aren’t up to the task of making these wheelsets, sometimes other volunteers are willing to do this work for you.

Klamath Fall Enginehouse – With so much going at the museum, we didn’t want to forget about the OC&E! It’s late on Friday afternoon, and the FRA Inspector has paid a visit to the Klamath Falls Shop, and the shop foreman is telling him to go down the the neighborhood bar and they can discuss his concerns later.

N Scale Layout Update

Bill Kepner, N Scale Team Lead

Is anyone wanting to learn some new model railroading skills? While formal museum expansion planning is underway, it could be a while until there is a spot for our N scale layout where visitors can see it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use the layout for training and experimental purposes until then.

For instance, if the Electrical Team wants to learn how CMRI and JMRI works, we can build up a test environment using the layout. If someone would like to work on their scenery skills, we can set up some projects using the layout. The is also track to lay and bridges to be installed. The layout also could be used for real operations sessions using car routing and timetables operation.

We’ve had situations when volunteers are looking for a new challenge and maybe we can use this layout to explore new facets of model railroading. By the time you read this, we are working on the layout again after the summer vacation. Over the next few weeks, we expect to build out the staging yard and setup the main classification yard for operations. We are going to try to work at least two days every week in September and October. If you are interested in helping, we can be flexible.

Wanted: Signal Engineers

Is there anyone out there who would be interested in designing the Signal System for the museum’s River City and Santa Fe Railway? While we’ve had some ideas how we might do this, if someone would like to create an actual plan there would be a lot of flexibility on how it could be implemented. If you are interested, contact Bill Kepner at

Now that the cooler weather has arrived, the cover has come off the River City and Santa Fe layout and we can run trains on it again. If you are interested in helping, contact Bill Kepner at Yes, it looks a bit messy, but there is a lot to do, and that’s why we can use your help.

Guest Report

In August, we had 1964 visitors compared to 1457 last August. Several groups came, including Envision, The Milliken Summer Kids Program, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Colorado Women of Influence, Walther’s Tour, and the National Narrow Gauge Convention attendees.

From our Guest Book, we have learned that the number of Colorado cities represented in August was 43. We have a total of 98 Colorado cities represented so far in 2023. The top five in August were Greeley (27), Fort Collins (147), Loveland (11), Windsor (6) and Lakewood (5).

The number of states represented was 38. So far in 2023, we have had visitors from 48 states. The top five states outside Colorado were Arizona, California, Kansas, Michigan, and Minnesota.

In August, the number of foreign countries represented was 11. During 2023, we have had visitors from 24 different countries. This month, new countries were China, Norway, and Peru.

How did people find us? Word of Mouth 44% Google 9% Social-Media 18% Brochure 7% Youtube; 18% Other 4% These statistics were calculated from 295 entries in our guest book.

Museum Calendar

September 15-16 Super-Hero Weekend with special activities

September 30 Rail Safety Day

October 13-15 Pink Weekend for Breast Cancer Awareness

October 20-22 Rio Grande Days

October 27-29 Harvest Days – Costume Fun

November 10-12 Military Trains Weekend for Veterans Day

November 16 Tinsel & Trains Fund-Raising Event at the LINC

November 22 Open for the day before Thanksgiving

November 23 Closed for Thanksgiving

November 25 Santa at the Museum 10 AM-1 PM

December 2 Lionel Train Day

December 9 Santa at the Museum 10am-1pm (w/ downtown events)

December 15 Night Trains with Santa for Members only

December 16-17 Grandparents Weekend

December 22 Night Trains with Santa, 5 -7 PM

December 23 Grinch & Santa! Santa 10 AM-1 PM plus Santa & Night Trains 5-7 PM

December 25 Closed for Christmas