Category Archives: Caboose Project and Other Trains

Coolest Office in San Jose

WP668 Railroad Caboose in San Jose California

Thanks to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (and Ahmad Chapman, his Communications Specialist) who created the Great 408  community celebration program for San Jose which says about “77. Backyard Railroad Caboose” –

You can have your glass-walled high rises and ergonomic standing desks; Katy Dickinson has the coolest office in San Jose. That’s because it’s a 1916 Western Pacific steel framed wooden caboose in the backyard of the Willow Glen home she shares with her husband, John Plocher. The couple purchased the caboose in 2006 from the Golden Gate Railroad Museum in San Francisco after it lost its lease. It was in storage in San Jose for more than a year until it was moved to their backyard in May 2007. The couple has been restoring the caboose bit by bit for more than a decade. Be sure to check out Katy and John’s website for more photos and the history of the caboose.

The web page features the 2007 video by Sam Fineberg of WP668 moving into our backyard. WP668 is the office for my company, Mentoring Standard.

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Photos Copyright 2008-2017 by Katy Dickinson.

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Filed under Caboose Project and Other Trains, Mentoring & Other Business, Mentoring Standard, News & Reviews

Story of WP668 – Western Pacific Railroad Historical Convention

Katy Dickinson and John Plocher with UP1983 engine, Western Pacific Railroad Historical Convention, Reno Nevada, May 2017 IMG_1038

John and I took a road trip from the Silicon Valley to Reno and Carson City Nevada a week ago. I presented the “Story of Western Pacific Caboose 668” to the annual Western Pacific Railroad Historical Conference in Reno, Nevada.  The convention is put on by the Feather River Rail Society.  I was the only woman speaker! While in Reno, we toured Jim Petro’s remarkable model train layout – Jim is a master railroad modeler and scenery builder.  His layout runs on the JMRI software that John helped to create – and uses John’s DCC Brakeman as well.  We also were able to visit Union Pacific’s UP1983 locomotive in the old Western Pacific colors that was brought to Reno for the convention.

On the drive home, we looped through Carson City, Nevada, to visit the WP657 caboose (sister to our own WP668).  WP657 was moved to the Nevada State Railroad Museum from the Ponderosa Ranch.  The inside of WP657 is intact.  We enjoyed our special tour, seeing all of the original furniture, cabinets, and fittings that are missing from WP668.  We came back to California over Carson Pass in the snow and fog, and saw the very-full Carson River dumping its snow melt.

Katy Dickinson telling Story of WP668 - Western Pacific Railroad Historical Convention, May 2017 IMG_0995

Western Pacific Railroad Historical Convention, May 2017 IMG_0842

John Plocher with Jim Petro's model train layout control, 5 May 2017 IMG_0915

John Plocher and Jim Petro, 5 May 2017 IMG_0930

Reno, Nevada, May 2017 IMG_1079

Caboose WP657, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Carson City Nevada, IMG_1135

Inside Caboose WP657, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Carson City Nevada IMG_1176

Sierras waterfall, Carson River West Fork, IMG_1334

Near Carson Pass, Nevada, May 2017 IMG_1366

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Happy 100th Birthday WP668 Caboose!

WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Cake 25 June 2016

On Saturday, we celebrated the 100th Birthday for WP668, the railway caboose where Mentoring Standard has its office in Willow Glen (San Jose, California).  Many friends and family and train enthusiasts joined John and me in cheering on our old train car.  You can read the history of WP668 on her website.

There were balloons and a cake and we distributed WP668 Caboose Con-Duck-tors (a rubber duck toy dressed as a train conductor) as party favors.  John gave tours of his N-scale model train layout in our former garage.  WP668’s birthday present was new night lighting along her roof line.

WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Cake 25 June 2016

Eleanor and Jessica, WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

Paul and Natalie, WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

Eleanor and John, WP668 Caboose 100th Birthday Party 25 June 2016

WP668 Caboose at night 26 June 2016

WP668 Caboose at night 26 June 2016

WP668 Caboose Con-Duck-tors 27 June 2016

Images Copyright Katy Dickinson 2016

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Lovely 15th Anniversary Train Ride: Amtrak (Salt Lake City – Emeryville)


John Plocher and I were married 15 years ago on 4 July 2000, so on our way back from two weeks at the Episcopal General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, we took the train. Amtrak’s California Zephyr goes across vast lovely spaces on its way west. John booked a Superliner Bedroom for our 15 hour trip. Of course, the train was running hours late (don’t get me started on why America’s basic infrastructure is so poorly supported) but we had planned for that. We boarded in Salt Lake City just as the day dawned and got into Emeryville, California, long after sunset. We saw plains and mountains, farms and ranches, towns and cities. Other trains passed us and we even went slowly through the vast Union Pacific Roseville Yard, so John got his fill of trains for once. It was a glorious day.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

“America the Beautiful” 1910 by Katharine Lee Bates































Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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Filed under Caboose Project and Other Trains, Church, Home & Family, News & Reviews

New WP668 Caboose Photo from 1974


Thanks to Don Marenzi for identifying this photo of WP668 (the caboose in our San Jose backyard). The picture is by Eric Bracher, published in the January 1974 NMRA Bulletin (p.12). This is the first picture of WP668 we have found in her Western Pacific orange and silver colors!  Here is a more current photo:


Images Copyright 1974 by Eric Bracher, and 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Happy Birthday John! Congratulations Paul!


Our family is celebrating John’s birthday and Paul’s progress towards graduation from Foothill College (and anticipated transfer to San Jose State University). Paul just received news of high grades on his second-to-last Foothill report card, and today started his final quarter there.

In honor of John’s birthday, Rev. David and Naomi Plocher (his parents) sent a card featuring what may be the first picture showing John with a model train.  At four years old, he was already fascinated by railroads. Below is a recent photo of John with his current N-scale layout in what used to be our garage.

P1180544 copy


Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson, and 1966 by Rev. David Plocher


Filed under Caboose Project and Other Trains, Home & Family, News & Reviews

Triple Time: CalTrain, BART, VTA to SFO


Because I travel a great deal, in December 2013 I applied to GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) for a card that will allow me to get through US airports faster.

What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.

GOES is popular, so I had to wait until this week for my in-person interview at SFO (San Francisco International Airport). I decided to accompany my husband John on his morning commute to SFO for my interview. Driving from San Jose to SFO would have taken about two hours round trip and cost $22 in gas (40 miles x $0.55/mile) plus about $4 to park. By public transit, it cost $30 and took six hours round trip (not counting the time in SFO). My route was complex because there is no single public transit system and no direct route San Jose – SFO – San Jose:

  • San Jose Tamien to Millbrae by CalTrain ($8 day pass)
  • Millbrae to San Bruno by BART ($20 – minimum ticket available)
  • San Bruno to SFO by BART (same BART ticket)
  • SFO to San Bruno by BART (same BART ticket)
  • San Bruno to Millbrae by BART (same BART ticket)
  • Millbrae to San Jose Diridon by CalTrain (same CalTrain ticket)
  • San Jose Diridon to Convention Center ($2 VTA ticket)
  • Convention Center to San Jose Tamien (same VTA ticket)

I still can use the balance on my BART ticket and it does not expire – but I only ride BART about once every five years so I will have to carry it until then.

CalTrain does not seem to have a Mission statement but is developing a strategic plan this year that may include one.

Here is the BART Mission statement:

Provide safe, clean, reliable and customer-friendly regional public transit service that increases mobility and accessibility, strengthens community and economic prosperity and helps preserve the Bay Area’s environment.

Here it the VTA Mission Statement:

The mission of VTA is to provide the public with a safe and efficient countywide transportation system. The system should increase access and mobility, reduce congestion, improve the environment and support economic development, thereby enhancing quality of life.

I note that neither of these say anything about Convenience, Value, or Speedy Travel. So, my triple time traveling experience may be what they expect for their customers. I like riding trains and I enjoyed the lovely exhibit “Lace: A Sumptuous History 1600s-1900s” while at SFO so the day was not a total waste (but next time I will drive).  I hope that using GOES will save me the time I just spent…




3/24/2014: My GOES card just arrived in the mail – impressive turnaround time!

Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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