Another terrible boat project!

July 1, 2019

In my ongoing quest to own and/or sink as many boats as possible, I’ve done something silly with an abandoned canoe. Someone dumped this in the parking lot where I work, and naturally I had to give it a better home.

The entire stern and various other areas were pretty smashed and rotten, so this was a great candidate for a quick and dirty modification. I had an old weedwhacker sitting around, and was able to find a trolling motor prop that fit the weedwhacker with minimal effort. After that it was just a matter of bracing the weak areas, fiberglassing the holes, and painting some awful flames on the side!

You can see a video of the build process on Youtube here!

I might start putting more of my projects like this on Youtube, hopefully including some with a higher level of craftsmanship! This one was just a quick low-effort way to start. I’ll post an update once this gets out on (and hopefully stays above) the water!

 

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The media has discovered my monorail!

June 26, 2019

My monorail cabin project is apparently trending online! It all started when the Pioneer Press’ summer intern found this site, and published an article in the local paper:

Whatever happened to the Minnesota Zoo monorail cars? A St. Paul guy turned some into cabins.

From there, it got picked up by car website Jalopnik:

https://jalopnik.com/meet-the-guy-who-bought-a-monorail-for-1-000-1835842056

And then the Weather Channel. Really? The Weather Channel? I even had to ask the reporter who called me, what? really? Apparently, yes, really.

https://weather.com/news/news/2019-06-26-minnesota-zoo-monorail-cabins

And so it goes!

I’ve put up a quick Youtube video with a few more details and some video of moving the monorail! If you’d like to support this site and my silly projects, please subscribe to my channel! This is my first *ahem* “real” youtube vid aside from some old junk from college and un-narrated randomness, so I apologize for all the “ums” and “uhs”. If I keep doing this, it might get better…


Garden Pond Part 1

August 20, 2018

This summer we decided to build a garden pond. I figured we could do it “simple” and “quick” using plastic livestock water tanks… but it has become a bit more complicated over the course of construction! Below is the final-ish plan for how our pond is set up. It includes a main, deep pool for fish, and a second pool mostly filled with various materials to act as a natural bog or swamp filter.

This design is based on a combination of sources, from pond books to internet forums to various other info. While it may not be the best/cheapest/simplest method, I’m hoping that it will manage to combine natural filtration, low-ish maintenance, and an interesting look! The main fish pond should be deep enough to over-winter fish in Minnesota, perhaps with the addition of a bubbler and/or heater.

Transporting stock tanks is always entertaining…

After extensive planning, we started digging the holes.

Thanks to some research, I had already determined that our garden used to have a duplex in the 1800s, which was at various times home to a saloon, an election polling place, and a local con artist. While digging the smaller hole, we ran into the limestone foundation.

I dug up an entertaining array of artifacts from the old rubble, including bottles, pottery, coal, a narrow-gauge railroad spike, a knife blade, and an empty .38 revolver casing!

After getting the holes finished it was time to install some plumbing for the pump and filter system. I added heat tape to the pipes since there’s no easy way to drain them. The pump will probably stay turned off in the winter and I have a thermostat-controlled switch to turn on the heat tape if the ground temperature drops too low.

The pump is also located underground in a waterproof box. This will eventually have a bench on top of it.

Next came the stock tanks. The pond holes ended up quite a bit larger, as we decided to just use the tanks as the bottom of the pond and extend everything with flexible liner. This might be a bit redundant, but it does make the bottom few feet of pond extremely leak-resistant!

Getting a square liner to fit an oblong hole is a hassle, and results in a lot of unsightly creases. I did my best to reduce or hide these, but still ended up with some ugly folds (pic below is not the final liner arrangement).

The bog filter received a plastic shelf raised off the bottom with brick (which is safer for fish than cinderblocks or limestone, which can leach lime into the water). Below the shelf is a PVC diffuser for incoming “dirty” water. Above the shelf goes gravel and dirt for the swamp in various layers. The two pipes at right are cleanouts to help deal with the inevitable mud that will make its way into the bottom void area.

Coming soon, some more details and photos with actual water in the pond!

 

 

 

 

 


Further Monorail Remodeling

February 3, 2017

Here are a few more updates and photos of the monorail!

The station platform and new steps:

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And some winter views:

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And a few more concept renderings:

deck table1

On a sadder note, I recently learned that Kim Pedersen has passed away. Kim founded the Monorail Society and authored a great book on the history and technology of monorail trains. He will be truly missed.

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Monorail Remodeling

September 18, 2016

Below are some aerial photos of the monorail showing our “station” (deck) platform started, and the very scenic rural setting between farms and forest:

Drone 12

Drone 11

Aerial photos are courtesy of Tim Walgrave.

Below is a newer floorplan render, showing potential layouts for two cars. This version includes a “sleeping”/”living room”/”office” car and a “kitchen”/”dining”/”guest” car. My improvements will mostly be drop-in modules that don’t permanently alter the car interiors. I have a few friends using the other cars and designing their own interesting interiors!

render4

A close-up of the main control panel, featuring some more museum displays and a Baron von Raschke action figure (after his professional wrestling career, the Baron drove the monorail at the zoo). If any of my readers have photos or artifacts they’d like to share in this small and very unofficial museum, please let me know!

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We also have a projector screen that can be set up for monorail movie nights!

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More to come as I continue working on this!


More Monorail Extras

April 8, 2016

Recently I happened across the estate sale of a former MN Zoo employee. I was able to pick up a number of old zoo shirts ranging from the 1980s to more recently. A few of these have a neat little “Conservation” montage of zoo animals and the monorail:

shirt

There were also quite a few issues of Minnesota Zoo Magazine from the 1980s. A few of them had monorail-related pieces, including a neat shot of the snowplow in action.

magazine1a magazine2a magazine3a

And we even found a monorail ticket from 2008! (Two-sided scan below)

ticket

Some of these will probably end up in my mini-museum in the monorail cab.


Monorail Phenology

January 13, 2016

While cleaning out my monorail cars I came across a few interesting documents. Several notebooks marked “Phenology” describe local wildlife seen along the monorail track. Phenology is defined as “the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life”. An article from 1979 explains these notebooks:

“The operator/tour guides keep their eyes open and when a phenlolgical event is spotted, they record this observation, its date and location in a phenology logbook kept by the stationmaster. This data is summarized each day on a report board in the station for all the MZG’s public to see.” (from MZG Newsletter, Minnesota State Zoological Board, 1979)

example

For those interested in reading these notebooks, I’ve scanned and uploaded PDFs here. There are a few torn and missing pages, so these are not 100% complete. There is also some water damage and fading from sitting in the train for a few years, some pages are hard to make out.

Phenology – Train 2 (Covers the period of 8/15/2001 to 8/30/2013)

Phenology – Train 3 (Covers approximately 7/4/2008 to 6/19/2012)

Also found in the monorail were several info sheets on various zoo animals seen along the route. These are probably cheat-sheets for the operator / guide staff to describe what passengers would see along the way.

info

I’ve also made a PDF of those sheets for archival purposes, available below.

Animal Info Sheets from Driver’s Cab