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About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 15, 2017)
THE DAILY ASTORIAN • FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2017
JIM VAN NOSTRAND
Founded in 1873
JOHN D. BRUIJN
Oregon, Alabama suffer from one-party rule
regonians would not usually
look to Alabama for an exam-
ple. But during his post-elec-
tion press conference, Alabama’s
Senator-elect Doug Jones said
something that applies to our state’s
Noting his historic win Tuesday —
becoming the first Democratic U.S.
senator from Alabama in 25 years —
Jones said that a state benefits when its
two political parties are competitive.
Conversely, Jones said, it is not healthy
for a state to be dominated by one party.
That observation fits Oregon,
because we have become a one-party
state. Victor Atiyeh was Oregon’s last
Republican governor. He was one of
Oregon’s best governors of the postwar
era, serving from 1979 to 1987.
More significantly, the state
Legislature is dominated by the
Democratic party. That has led to a
very unhealthy outcome. Some eight
years ago in The Daily Astorian’s con-
ference room, the Republican candi-
date for governor, Dennis Richardson
said: “The public employees unions run
the statehouse.” Our Democratic state
senator, Betsy Johnson, has confirmed
There is more than one reason why
we are in this fix. While it is true that
metropolitan Portland’s phenom-
enal growth and its overwhelming
Democratic party registration is a fac-
tor, so is the Republican party’s lit-
mus test of abortion, which has scared
away good candidates. As a result, the
Oregon GOP has not much of a bench
from which to call up candidates for
It is worth remembering that until
1954, Republicans were Oregon’s
progressive party, in the Theodore
Roosevelt mode. In the words of one
historian, Oregon Democrats were
“inarticulate” until the 1950s. A state
legislator from Portland named Richard
Neuberger appeared and the Democrats
gained a voice, who happened to be
one of America’s most prolific writ-
ers. Neuberger became Oregon’s first
Democratic U.S. senator in 40 years.
Subsequent Democrats such as Vera
Katz, John Kitzhaber and Barbara
Roberts were Neuberger’s beneficiaries.
More importantly, Gov. Tom McCall
credited Neuberger with being his
inspiration. Neuberger was an environ-
mentalist before that word became part
of the lexicon.
Republicans today who excoriate
Oregon’s statewide land use planning
statute forget that it was Republicans
— McCall, Stafford Hansell and Hector
MacPherson — who moved Senate Bill
100, Oregon’s landmark legislation. In
other words, it was a time when Oregon
Republicans offered big ideas.
The Democrats who hold sway in
Salem are also not so inspirational, but
perhaps for a different reason. Gov.
Kate Brown is a disappointment mainly
because she fails to lead on the mat-
ter that is killing local governments
across Oregon — the growing finan-
cial obligation of the Public Employees
Retirement System. The public employ-
ees unions would disown Brown if she
went near a courageous PERS solution.
It may be that Brown lacks imagination
or it may be that she lacks the guts of a
governor such as McCall or Atiyeh.
As much as Democrats like to preach
the virtue of diversity, you seldom see
that coming out of the statehouse on
many urban-rural issues.
Alabama’s new senator wants to
reach across the aisle for bipartisan
compromise. He might discover that
too many Senate Republicans lack the
imagination or guts to let that happen.
In politics you never know where inspi-
ration will come from. Doug Jones’
improbable election may be one of
those moments. Oregon is waiting for
its improbable moment.
At 85, ‘heavenly bliss’ with toy trains
y children think I’m nuts. My
grandchildren think I’m eccen-
tric. But my great-grandchildren
giggle in wide-eyed wonder whenever
they see my new hobby.
When I was 10, I wanted an electric
train for Christmas so bad I could taste it.
But with World War II raging and money
short, I got clothes
instead. Now 75 years
later, I ended up with my
trains after he passed
away last spring. And
when I started playing
with his trains, I realized
HASKELL model trains were
something I’d always
A busy Chicago lawyer playing with
trains, however, was never in the cards.
Even now, a retired 85-year-old guy play-
ing with trains is thought to be strange by
folks not in the know about how fun such
things can be. And they also don’t know
how challenging operating electric model
trains can be to an aging brain.
The wiring of all the switches for
turnouts and sidings, and lights for sid-
ings and freight yards, seems to me more
complicated than simple house-wiring.
Frustratingly complicated at times. And
you have to keep on your toes not to mix
up DC power with AC power. Otherwise,
you’ll fry your locomotives.
On the other hand, wiring switches
and lights is a breeze when trying to
figure out how to wire tracks and turnout
switches to run two or three trains
automatically at the same time — while
avoiding train wrecks. And avoiding train
wrecks isn’t easy for an aged novice with
When I master how to do all the
wiring, I’m considering advancing into
wireless operation. That’ll make old-fash-
ioned model train operation a lot easier.
Also much more up to date with this
century’s technology. My long-suffering
wife, Carol, however, both smiles and
cringes whenever I mention I might do
One trouble with having a hobby like
model electric trains is eBay’s auctions.
They’re far too tempting. It’s surprising
so much electric model train stuff is
available worldwide. There must be
many millions of model train aficionados
around the world.
I started out with my late brother-in-
law’s two locomotives, or “locos” as the
model train aficionados call them. Now
thanks to eBay’s allure, I have four differ-
ent ones. All of the locos are the largest
G scale, and of the early steam-driven,
coal-fired variety. The locos are anywhere
Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian
Don Haskell makes an adjustment to the engine of one of his model trains in the den of his Astoria home.
from 24 inches to 36 inches long with
their tender (coal car) attached. And their
tender cars are loaded with “coal” to
generate “steam.” They even have realis-
tic-looking “fire” in the loco’s fireboxes.
All are built to scale — 1/24th in size
to the original locomotive. They can be
run outside in the garden or inside where
it’s dry. I have them inside in my office at
home where it’s warm and dry. To put all
the track together to run them, I moved
most of my office furniture to one side,
which I admit does look a bit odd to some
The locos all have lights and realistic
sounds of hissing of steam, smoke,
choo-choo, bells and of course, the
moody wails of train whistles. One even
has screeching brakes and water pump
sounds. And I’m not the least bit embar-
rassed to say all those unfamiliar noises
in today’s modern world bring smiles to
onlookers on a rainy day in Astoria.
My favorite model loco is the LGB
Mikado, probably the most successful
steam locomotive ever built. With its
tender (coal car) attached, its model is 3
feet long and 6 inches high. The authentic
replica comes with an onboard decoder
for both analog and digital operation.
Although the Mikado is ready for modern
operation with up-to-date technology, I’m
still enjoying the old-fashioned way of
running the trains with electric wires and
The Mikado operated all over the
world from the late 1890s until the early
1960s, when diesel engines came into
vogue. The wailing whistle of the Mikado
reminds me of my daily commute in the
late 1950s to downtown Chicago from
the suburbs on the Northwestern com-
muter train. In those days I had to wear
black coats so the soot from the coal-fired
locomotive wouldn’t soil my suit.
The large G-scale model trains were
first made in Germany in the early 1900s
by Marklin & Co., and refined after
World War II by another German manu-
facturer popularly known as LGB. By the
mid 1980s, the large G-scale model train
was firmly established and several more
manufacturers began offering a wide
range of locomotives, cars and accesso-
ries. Now there are hundreds of websites
devoted to nothing but selling model
trains and their parts and accessories. In
fact, if you Google “model trains,” you
get 33,500,000 results! And there’s even a
model railroading club in Hammond.
But if you’re interested in the real
thing, you can visit our local, and
fascinating, total restoration of the 1925
Baldwin steam locomotive #21. Believe
it or not, those devoted guys have been
at the restoration down at the Port of
Astoria, a block from Marine Drive, for
over 15 years!
It’s clear to me that younger genera-
tions have moved on to high-tech stuff
that offers much more action, with all
the bloody gore and violence that model
railroading doesn’t offer. The decline in
popularity of model railroading coincides
with the development of the internet,
laptops and iPhones, which undoubtedly
have different kinds of fascination. But
to me, fulfilling a disappointed Christmas
wish of a 10-year-old at 85 is heavenly
Astoria resident Don Haskell served
on the Clatsop County Board of Com-
missioners following a successful career
practicing law in Chicago.