Welcome to the Bona Vista Railroad
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About me
(Plus "Me and Luminaries of the Hobby")

Dude Portrait of the railroader as a  young dude.  It's me at age 5, complete with the Lionel train around the tree.  Note the Trainmaster  transformer -- it's still working, and  powering the LED lights that light both the decks on the BV IV.
Man, you really must have some time on your hands if you've opted to go this deep onto my website.  So I won't disappoint you if you're looking for sleep material.Me in a nutshell: For 13 years I was Creative Director, Vice President, Copywriter, and part-owner of M&H Advertising, in downtown Minneapolis. In April of 2003 the economy forced us to close our doors. I'm now Creative Director and Writer at an ad agency in Minneapolis named J.T. Mega.  Previous to M&H I worked as a writer and Creative Supervisor at Campbell-Mithun Advertising in Minneapolis.  I have a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri, and a Master's degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota.
GLOn January 16, 2005, I was awarded Master Model Railroader certificate #346 -- something I'm extremely proud of.  The certificates I earned to get it were:  Model Railroad Author, Master Builder - Scenery, Master Builder - Cars, Master Builder - Structures, Civil Engineer, Electrical Engineer, and Association Volunteer. I'm currently editing the Thousand Lakes Region's newsletter,  "The Fusee," and edited the Twin Cities Division's newsletter, "The Crossing Gate" for three years previous to that.  

I got interested in model trains like mostly everyone else: when I got an around-the-tree set at Christmas, way back in 1957.  It also got my Dad interested, and, for a while, he had a Lionel layout on a table in the basement of our two-flat in Chicago.  When we moved to suburban Melrose Park, he traded in a pile of O-scale stuff and walked out of the hobby store with a single Tyco HO starter set.   After buying a guy's layout, my Dad and I (then, about age 10) started setting up an HO empire in our basement.  Unfortunately, he never had much of a track plan (or any track plan, for that matter), and never got very far.  All the trains were packed away and forgotten.

Fast-forward the clock to 1977.  I'd just moved into my first house in South Minneapolis, having decided to stay in town after graduate school at the U of Minnesota.  During one of my trips back to my folks' house, I stumbled on a 1964 hardcover book my Dad had gotten along with the stranger's layout, "Scale Model Railroading" by Leslie T. White.  I looked through it.  The bug struck.   The first model I made was a scale reproduction of my house.

A year later I'd built a very crummy layout in the attic, the "BVD" (I called it "the shorts line"  Ha ha.  The joke got old in about a minute.)  Two years and a ton of Model Railroader reading later (current stuff and archival stuff found at the public library -- back to 1960!)  I had a brand new, more serious layout, the Bona Vista.

By 1980 the BVrr was well into construction, with several areas of scenery, two-train cab control, a fully working 3-aspect signal system, a bunch of craftsman and scratchbuilt buildings, electronics, and a mess o' freight cars.  Then life took the left turn: I got divorced.

That changed things, to say the least.  Just around that same time some old friends and I started talking about putting together a rock band.  And just about that same time I was getting back into something I loved: songwriting and recording.  My interest in the railroad totally waned in light of these new pursuits.   I rarely ventured up into the attic again.

I spent the next 9 years recording 5 solo albums (I play all the instruments and do all vocals) in my basement studio, as well as playing in regularly-gigging bands, 10W40 (1980-1986) and Bent Safari (1987-1989).  

Most important, I re-married in 1985, to Renay Wallace, whom I met in 10W40 (she played keyboards for 2 of the band's 7 years).  She's the best.

And somewhere in there the BVrr's buildings, motive power and rolling stock got packed into boxes, and the layout got dismantled.

In 1989 we moved from South Minneapolis way out to the Southwest corner of the Twin Cities metro area, to a little town of about 2500 named Victoria.   While the house was cute, the land was incomparable: 1.12 acres on a small lake, with 240' of lakeshore.  But the house had no attic and no basement.  And although I had my own "play room," it was totally filled with recording gear, drums and guitars, and computers.

In late 1998 we started thinking about moving, and after spending innumerable weekends looking at houses, realized that we'd never find another piece of property like the one we already owned ("there's no place like home!") so we decided to demolish the old house and build a new one. That, coupled with the fact that I was totally burned out after nearly 20 solid years of rock bands ("Fade to Blue," 1991 - 1995, and "House of Saints," 1996-1998), made the time ripe for model railroading.

Again.  And that brings you up to... this website.

Hey. HEY!  HEY!  Wake up!  C'mon, wake up.  Go back to the BVRR page before I tell you the story of how I...
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Yours truly with model railroad scenery expert (and one of my modeling heroes) Dave Frary.  (National NMRA Convention, Ft. Lauderdale, 2002) Me and Model Railroader  columnist Tony Koester.  (National NMRA Convention, Ft. Lauderdale, 2002)
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Friends and Clinicians Extraordinaire Fran and Miles Hale. (National NMRA Convention, Ft. Lauderdale, 2002)

Me with Model Railroader Executive Editor Andy Sperandeo.  (National NMRA Convention, Seattle, 2004)

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Yours truly with David Popp and Terry Thompson, Assistant Editor and Editor, respectively, of Model Railroader. (National NMRA Convention, Seattle, 2004)

Finally, Bill Schaumburg from Railroad Model Craftsman.  (Ironically, I had an article in their August 2005 issue... the issue we're standing in front of...) (National NMRA Convention, Cincinnati, 2005)

A shot of me and one of my all-time favorite modelers, Dr. Wayne Wesolowski. (National NMRA Convention, Philadelphia, 2006)

And a guy who's a helluva modeler and a great clinician, Art Fahie of Bar Mills Models. (National NMRA Convention, Philadelphia, 2006)

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Me with Model Railroader Associate Editor Cody Grivno.  Cody's holding open my "Great Model Railroads 2008" article, which he edited.  I'm looking weird because I'm holding the camera to take the picture.  (Trainfest, 2007) (NOTE: I've been taking these so-called "selfies" since the late '70s. To you it's a fad; to me it's a way of life.)

Me and Model Railroader Managing Editor, David Popp.  (Ya, I already have a shot of him, but he's a good guy, so what the hell...)   (Trainfest, 2007)

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Here's me and Model Railroader Editor Neil Besouglaff, taken at the Hartford NMRA convention in July, 2009.

It's Lou Sassi and yours truly, shot at the 2009 Hartford Convention.  (He's sitting and I'm crouching... he's not really that short!)

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Me and one of my all-time model railroading heroes, Earl Smallshaw, taken in his layout room during the Hartford Convention in 2009.

Me and another model railroading hero, George Sellios.  George actually knew me by name!!  Can you believe it??  (Hartford Convention, 2009)

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Here's yours truly and Bruce Chubb at the 2010 Milwaukee NMRA75 convention.  I worked on a brochure for Bruce for the 2012 convention in Grand Rapids.  (Milwaukee Convention, 2010)

Model Railroader magazine legend Jim Hediger, shot in Jim's Ohio Southern layout room outside of Milwaukee.  I, of course, took the picture at arm's length, which is why Jim is laughing so hard.  (Milwaukee Convention, 2010)

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That's NMRA Magazine columnist and good friend Jim Zinser on the left, and none other than Phil Walthers on the right.  We'd just arrived at Walthers for the big sale only to find that the power to the whole building had gone down, and Phil had driven out to oversee the repairs.  (Milwaukee Convention, 2010)

Former NMRA President and good friend Mike Brestel and I pose (with an NMRA Magazine) at the White River Productions booth.  (Grand Rapids Convention, 2012)

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Me and Joe Fugate, noted modeler and editor/founder of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine. (Grand Rapids Convention, 2012)

Danish modeler extraordinaire Pelle Soeborg and me, at the Kalmbach Publishing booth.  (Grand Rapids Convention, 2012)

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Yours truly and model railroading legend Allen McClelland. (Cleveland Convention, 2014)

Me and the nicest guy in model railroading and one of the best modelers, Dick Elwell (Northeastern Region Convention, 2014)

G & Burgess G & McGuirk
From the Portland 2015 convention, me and legendary modeler Jack Burgess. Me and one of the great guys in model railroading, Marty McGuirk. (Plus a mass murderer behind us who obviously doesn't like selfies.) (Portland Convention, 2015)


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