How Papa gets everything done !

One of the most asked questions when I tell and show people my garden railroad train layout in my back yard is how do I get everything done ?  I was able to make the layout initially while running Mr. Handyman and Behnke Inc.  I was flying back and forth between Michigan and Georgia.  In simple terms my process to get things done is:

  1. Plan, plan, plan
  2. Set goals and objectives that have specific dates to accomplish
  3. Focus when working
  4. Delegate and try to get as much help as you can.

For my planning I use a process originally taught to me by Franklin Covey.  They developed a life / yearly / monthly  and daily process.  I create a daily to do list, prioritize and then work on each of the items.  

I found by planning out my day ahead of time keeps me focused and helps me gets tasks done. The added bonus of checking off a task done is also very nice.

This also helps me set timelines and goals on when and how to get things done.

My family helped out immensely.  They traveled to visit on weekends only to work every day on the train layout.  I set up specific task to accomplish while they were her.  In other cases I mailed out packages of work to my children and they worked on them in their spare time and got the work back to me.  I could not have gotten the layout done without the help from my children and their spouses along with my grandchildren.  

Below is my train list from February 2021.  I broke out train tasks based on location and type of weather.  As I complete a task I take if off the list.  As I improve my layout or make changes I add or change the list.  

This is how I stay focused, built the train layout and keep improving it.

PTC Current Projects


General Start


1) Make sure track clear and clean

2) Startup Power, make connections, get computer hooked up

3) Verify Turnouts with remote control on long wire

4) Connect JMRI, verify zones reporting with test car

4) Start Track Cleaning Engine, clean track as needed

run on track cleaning program

5) Run UP Switcher

run on track cleaning program

6) Set up Trains to Run



Outdoor Work


*1) Install PSR-AX in West Mountain & Circus City

*2) Install Ampmeters

3) Run Thomas and Percy with new Modifified cars

veirfy program

4) Modify Pool Yard for correct sensors and zones

Install split jaws on pool yard and draw bridge line

5) Run 21 and 31 engines only on main test

Fix track as needed

6) Verify Main (2) program

Engines Only

7) work on cars for 21 & 31

Run each locomotive w/ cars on main test

8) Run Main v5 programs to test

Circus, Percy, Thomas, Trolleys, GE, UP21,

9) Build Retaining Wall

10) Test Voltage Drops on Tracks

11) Test Gravel on Track

Work on glue solution to hold gravel down

12) Gravel on Track

13) Build Door for West Mountain

       Paint brown, mount hinges

14) Install End Sections to Spurs and Wire Up

15) Split Jaw on  Spurs and West Mountain

16) Test ND Locomotive running on main line

17) Crosssing Gates Working 

18) Test Signal on West City

19) Finalize Signals on Layout

20) Test Big Boy on main layout



Indoor work


1) Phoenix Sound Cards working for Coca Cola Train

*2) Find 3rd Thomas Train

*3) Fix Test Track Switch

4) Check Amps for Each Locomotive

-5) check on Thomas Train Programming

Speed up Problem, lost signal program

*6) Wire up Cars for pickup for Thomas Trains

*7) wire Circus Sound Car

*8) couplers on circus cars

*9) Test 21, for Sound and Lights

 10) Fix 21, 22, 23, and 31 lights

            reprogram around sound card

            check front and rear

            fix motor reverse

11) Finish 25, 41, 42

Replace engine blocks as needed

Determine correct couplers

12) work on consisting for 41 and 42

13) Install Decoders in Halloween and Christmas Train

*14) Program Sounds for New Trolley

+15) Test and fix old Trolleys

+16) Get Southern Pacific to work on DCC

*17) Install Ammeters on Yard Track

West Mountain Track circuit

West City circuit Track circuit

*18) Raspberry Pi running JMRI in shop

*19) Front  lights on 22 not working, rear works

*20) Sound card in 23 not getting F commands

Check front lights on 23, looks like one side at front is not working

21)  Install RailPro in 3 additional Locos – Dad

Purchase an additional remote control

?) Add Warrant Configuration to PTC Train

?) Research running Warrants from Python 

?) Develop Dispatch configurations

?) Create Train Control Program

Stop Locos before they enter restricted track

?) Test out Tf4s for lighting control <>

             Order (5) Tf4s ?? <>

             Test Sign, street lamp, and clock lighting already purchased <>

18volt, ? amp <>

how to control ? Try on TF4 <>

?) programs to run trains

           Run button runs move programs and exits when run button turns off

  Setup for 9 trains

  Verify Run Programs for all 9 trains

  Return for 9 trains

?) Explore Warrants and dispatching



Battle Creek


*1) Inventory of Items

*2) upgrade JMRI

3) Install DCC in Coca Cola Loco

4) Fix Broken Turnout Motors

5) Make Up Resistor Wheel sets

6) Test SE8C signals using SB Signals and TMSK boards

Test board as ID #1 to PTC Configuration

Test board as ID #4 to PTC Configuration

Bring boards back to insert into PTC circuits

7) DCC in Back to the Future Train and Car – Steam 131 4-6-0

8) Test Bad Boards

            Send bad ones back to Digitrax



Behnke Office / Vacation / Cruise Projects


*1) Tweak Main Test Pogram

turnouts not all correct at the end

2) Finalize Main (2) Program

3) Programs to move trains into Finish Position

a) Trolleys

b) Circus Train

c) Thomas and Percy

       e) Main 2

4) Convert main program to YAAT

5) Create Pause buttons for groups of trains in YAAT

6) Create Main (4) program in YAAT

7) Create 3rd Tolley that moves from Shed Spur onto Trolley track and back in YAAT

8) Create Switcher program that switches UP Switcher and ? from Main Spurs

9) Create 3rd Locomotive that follows from Spur 3 in West City in YAAT

10) Create program to move handcart between Circus spur and Circus entrance

11) Program Master West City to monitor Percy and Thomas

12) Program Master Main to monitor for problems

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