Friday, December 29, 2017

The Brass Rail Restaurant – O'Fallon Missouri

Continuing with our family visits over the week of Thanksgiving…
Whenever we visit St. Louis, we always have some kind of gathering with various members of Laurie’s family.

In this instance, two of Laurie and her sister’s closest cousins were in town on business and we decided to meet up with them for dinner at the Brass Rail Restaurant in O’Fallon Missouri.

The Brass Rail is a very large restaurant.  However, I was so wrapped up in the family visit that I didn’t take any photos showing off the restaurant.  This photo of the bar area and the nighttime picture of the restaurant were both borrowed from the Internet…

One interesting difference from most restaurants is the fact that The Brass Rail also features The Prime Steak Market, which is located just to the left of the entrance to the restaurant.  With a butcher on site daily, this meat market specializes in hand cut aged beef…and the prices definitely reflect the quality of the beef!

I took this photo of our little family group… From the left, my better half, Laurie, then her sister Bonnie, Bonnie’s husband Bill, then Bob and his wife Karole, another of the sisters.  Karole is sitting next to cousins Carla and Royce, who are a brother and sister pair from Wisconsin and who were the reason for this special family gathering. 

Onto the food!  This is the Brass Rail’s Crab Dip, served with a fresh baked baguette and crackers. ($12.00) It was tasty…but we have had better.

This was my favorite appetizer...and I ate way too much of it!  This is the Blue Cheese Chips…sea salt chips drizzled in a warm house made bleu cheese sauce accompanied by bacon and blue cheese crumbles. ($11.00) Normally this appetizer also has a scattering of chives over the top but I had them leave it off because I’m not a chive fan.

I ordered the 14 oz. New York Strip topped with a blue cheese crust and accompanied by a side of steamed broccoli for my dinner. ($25.00 for the steak and $2.00 for the blue cheese crust)

The steak had decent flavor but it was tougher than I expected.  I don’t think that the blue cheese was actually a ‘crust’ although the portion of cheese scattered over my steak was generous.  Finally, my steamed broccoli was cold…

Laurie loves lobster so it was no surprise that she ordered the Lobster Tail Dinner…two grilled cold water lobster tails with butter for dipping. ($30.00) She did enjoy her lobster tails but in my mind, they needed to be plated with some kind of garnish to increase their eye appeal. 

For one of her sides, she had ordered a very satisfactory Caesar Salad… Unfortunately, she also ordered the Brass Rail’s sea salt potato chips, and the order was huge.  It was 'unfortunate' because I ‘helped’ her consume them!

Moving on around the table in no particular order… This was Bill’s BBQ Dinner, a half rack of baby back ribs and 4 smoked chicken wings served with a side of slaw. ($20.00) He definitely enjoyed his dinner.

Bonnie went for something a bit lighter, the Grilled Steak Toss… This included grilled prime sirloin, red peppers, red onions, mushrooms, asparagus, green onion, garlic and spinach all tossed as a ‘pasta’. ($17.00) It was a healthy meal and she liked it too.

I believe that this is the House Made Steakloaf… ($15.00) This house specialty contains “a little bit of everything”.  It’s served over mashed potatoes with house made mushroom gravy and then topped with crispy Tabasco onion straws.

This is the small cut of the Brass Rail’s USDA Prime Sirloin Steak. ($15.00) This cut is a good option for those with a smaller appetite who want a piece of steak.  It was accompanied by a side of loaded mashed potatoes with bacon, cheddar cheese and sour cream…

Carla ordered the Grilled Shrimp dinner…jumbo gulf shrimp skewered and grilled then served over rice with 2 sides. ($20.00) Both Carla and Royce had eaten at the Brass Rail previously so they ordered what they knew that they liked…

Royce really went for a healthy dinner.  This was his Grilled Salmon entrée…sushi grade salmon, flown in fresh, cut in house and then grilled. ($20.00) As you can see, it’s served over rice and it was accompanied by the steamed broccoli.

We had a great time exchanging stories, reliving family experiences and just enjoying each other’s company.  It was really nice visiting with Carla and Royce.  Laurie, Bonnie and Karole promised them a visit to Wisconsin this coming summer so they can catch up with all of their northern cousins…

As for the Brass Rail, it served our purpose well.  The service and food was adequate but not really special.  If we were in the area, we would probably do a little on-line exploration looking for other dining options but we wouldn’t rule out the Brass Rail.  This restaurant is open 7 days a week and it’s located at 4601 Highway K in O’Fallon Missouri.  Phone: 636-329-1329.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Highway A82 – Tyndrum to Ballachulish Scotland

Once we got to Tyndrum on A85, it was time to swing back toward our hotel in North Ballachulish near the west coast of Scotland.  We sure covered a lot more ground today than we’d planned to…

As was the norm throughout our Scottish explorations, the scenery did not disappoint any of us!  I noted on my map…yes, some of old folks actually still use some paper maps…that this route leads through the historic area of Glencoe (Glen Coe) and that another well-known feature along the way is called the “West Highland Way”. 

But first, I did find just one more Scottish railroad station!  This is the depot at the village of Bridge of Orchy.  This village in the central highlands is located at the head of Glen Orchy and, in addition to the railroad station, it’s on the West Highland Way.   The village dates back to 1751.  This depot was completed in 1894.

So how did the village get its unusual name?  In the years after the Jacobite uprising, the government put a lot of effort into building roads and bridges throughout the highlands.  This significant road building effort was intended as a means of moving troops around the interior quickly to suppress further rebellion.  Between 1725 and 1767, over 1,200 miles of road and 700 bridges were built. 

A82 was built in the first half of the 1900s.  But, if you turn onto the cross road next to the well regarded Bridge of Orchy Hotel, you would be on A82’s predecessor road and you’d come to the 1751 bridge across the River Orchy.  That bridge gave the village its name… Motorized traffic can only follow the old road past the 1708 Inveroran Hotel, then around the end of Loch Tulla to another hotel…Forest Lodge.

The old depot is still in use…but not as an active railway depot.  Trains do stop here, but the building itself is being used as a rest point/bunk house for hikers along the West Highland Way.  Apparently, it is just one of many bunk house or similar operations that are under the umbrella of  In this view, you can see what appears to be a communal kitchen.

Here’s a peek inside another door at the bunk beds.  It is nice to see that the old depot is well maintained and is serving a useful purpose.
The old Bridge of Orchy depot/bunk house is right along the track of ‘The West Highland Way’.  This is a long distance trail or footpath that is 96 miles long, stretching from just north of Glasgow to the town of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.  An estimated 80,000 people use this trail each year with about 15,000 trekking along the entire route.  

To learn more about this trek through the Scottish Highlands, go to

The West Highland Railway Line (Scottish Gaelic: Rathad Iarainn nan Eilean” or “Iron Road to the Isles”, links Mallaig and Fort William to Glasgow.  This route was voted the top rail journey in the world by readers of the independent travel magazine “Wanderlust” in 2009, beating out the iconic Tran-Siberian Line in Russia and the Cuzco to Machu Picchu line in Peru! 

While the former railway station at Bridge of Orchy has found a new use, trains still do serve the location on a daily basis.   Monday through Saturday, 8 trains stop here, with 4 in either direction.  One southbound train goes all the way to London…with the Highland Caledonian Sleeper providing much of this service.  There is also limited train service at this station on Sundays. 

In the 2016 – 2017 fiscal year, a total of 5,680 passengers passed through the Bridge of Orchy station… That’s not bad when you consider that the town is tiny, mostly a small cluster of homes around the well regarded Bridge of Orchy Hotel.  Website:

As we drove northwest along Highway A82, the scenery was spectacular with few homes or man-made structures along the road.

Numerous small lakes/lochs dotted the landscape along the road.  I believe that this is Loch Ba on Rannoch Moor.

As we progressed along the highway, even the fences disappeared.  It was a beautiful day!

Rannoch Moor’s peat bogs were a major challenge for both highway builders and the West Highland Railroad Line.  When the railroad was built across the moor, the builders had to float the tracks on a mattress of tree roots, brushwood and thousands of tons of earth and ashes. 

The landscape grew a bit more rugged as we move northwest toward our hotel…

The Corrour railway station on the West Highland Line, (completed in 1894), is the highest station in the United Kingdom as well as the most remote and one of the busiest stations on this route!  No public roads connect the station with the outside world although a private road leading to it was built in 1972.  

To learn more about this rather unusual railway station, go to  For a video complete with really remote scenery and a departing train, you can check it out at

This shows the desolate beauty of Rannoch Moor in the West Highlands.  Note the scattering of stones across the moor…

Rannoch Moor covers an area of around 50 square miles of boggy moorland.  It has been designated as a site of Special Scientific Interest and as a Special Area of Conservation.  The moor is particularly famous as being the sole British location for the Rannoch-rush…a plant that was named after the moor…as well as the ‘narrow-headed ant’. 

Another view of Rannoch Moor just before we entered the more rugged Glen Coe area… 

I believe that those buildings in the distance (using my zoom lens), are part of the Black Corrie Lodge and estate.  This traditional sporting estate covers 30,000 acres and the self-catering lodge is rented on a weekly basis.  It accommodates 12 guests and a cook if one is desired.   Rates start at about $3,800 and go up to around $4,900 US depending on the time of year.   
If you like to hike, hunt and fish and you recently won the lottery, check out the Lodge at

As we moved from the Rannoch Moor into the Glen Coe area of the Western Highlands, the scenery began to change dramatically. 

Glen Coe (Scottish Gaelic: Gleann Comharin) is a narrow glen or valley of volcanic origins located in the Western Highlands.  The last eruption took place about 420 million years ago… 

The Glen is named after the River Coe, which runs through it.  The name of the river possibly predates the Gaelic language as its meaning isn’t known. 

This is one place where we saw a lot of tourists stopped…either with their private or rented vehicles, or on tour buses.   Laurie and I took these photos from the edge of a very busy gravel parking lot along A82.

The glen is U-shaped.  It was formed by a glacier that was about 8 miles long.  The floor of Glen Coe is less than .4 of a mile wide and it narrows sharply at the Pass of Glen Coe.  The River Coe empties into the upper end of Loch Leven and our hotel was located at the other end of the loch.

A key historical figure connected with the area was Fingal, one of the greatest Celtic heroes and the leader of the Feinn, warriors of Gaelic mythology.  The glen was his legendary home and his memory is commemorated in a number of name places…such as the Rock of Feinn.  

The legendary Fingal is credited with the defeat of Viking King Erragon of Sora.  Nevertheless, the Viking influence was to continue with the ownership of the glen passing into the hands of his descendants, the powerful MacDougal clan in the 1100s…

Later in history, Glen Coe was once part of the lands of Clan Donald.  However, since the ending of the clan structure, they progressively sold off their estates.  The land was subsequently purchased by the National Trust for Scotland in the 1930’s using money donated by the Scottish Mountaineering Club.  The protected area has been greatly expanded in the years that followed…


·         The demise of the clan structure can be primarily traced to the time immediately following the Jacobite rising of 1745.  Following the defeat of the Jacobites, the Duke of Cumberland, the son of King George II of  Great Britain carried out polices that would now be regarded as ethnic cleansing.  He authorized the slaughter of and whole-sale ‘removal’ of clans who had supported the uprising.

·         To view some fabulous photos of Glen Coe, you can go to

That’s about all for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for coming by for a visit!  I hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas…

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, December 25, 2017

Thanksgiving and a Family Photo Shoot!

To begin with…

We’re wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas!

We won’t have any family around for Christmas this year, so I decided to revisit our 2017 Thanksgiving Holiday with our family in Omaha Nebraska… Following first, some quality time spent with Laurie’s family and old some friends in St. Louis. 
On Wednesday we drove on up to Nebraska for the big day!

Shortly after our arrival in Omaha, we took this photo of our oldest grandson and my namesake, David III.  He’s grown up a bit, standing about 6’ 3” and he’s a junior in high school this year!  Time does fly…

Whereas David III’s younger brother, Emmett Lee, is into basketball and especially football, David III is more like yours truly in the sense that sports aren’t a big deal to him.  Instead, he’s a debate pro, recently winning a regional completion against his peers as well as seniors in high school.

Laurie and I decided that we should take a photo with David III while we had the chance.  Between his buddies and his girlfriend named Ryanna, his prime time for adults (parents and grandparents included) is a bit ‘limited’!  He did better than we expected though…given his age and expanding interests…

Whenever we are with David II, Amy and our grandsons for Thanksgiving, I have the turkey carving duty.  After dinner, I am also responsible for stripping all of the remaining meat from the carcass…  No one, especially Amy, will watch me as I perform my messy, some say gross, après feast task!  

Laurie took this photo of our group seated at the table.  David II is in the kitchen in the upper center of the picture.  From the left, Grandma/RuRu Dianne, yours truly, Amy, Emmett Lee, Amy’s sister Shelby, Shelby’s son Dalton next to David III.

Here’s another view of our Thanksgiving gathering… David II is seated at the head of the table.  In addition to the turkey, our feast consisted of bakery bread, beet salad, mashed potatoes, terrific gravy, sweet potato casserole, sage stuffing, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese plus a cheesy zucchini casserole.   

Amy and David made one big change in this year’s celebration.  In the past, we’d always noshed on a plethora of appetizers and snacks, followed by the Thanksgiving feast later in the day.  This time they skipped the pre-dinner food…and we all agreed that the dinner itself was much more enjoyed and appreciated!

Amy loves to take photos and she’s always looking for a promising site as a backdrop.  This year she chose this old grain elevator a block or two from historic downtown Elkhorn Nebraska.  It was built ca. 1915. 

At one point in time, Elkhorn area farmers shipped significant amounts of wheat and corn, much of it to army posts to the west.  Other items shipped during the early days included barley, furs and buffalo hides…

With the grain elevator as our backdrop, David II took this photo of me, Emmett Lee, Laurie and David III.  It looks like Emmett (14) will be taller than I am by the time he’s 15!

The town of Elkhorn Nebraska was founded in 1865 and it was an independent municipality until it was annexed by the city of Omaha in 2005… In an attempt to prevent the annexation, Elkhorn almost simultaneously annexed several surrounding subdivisions in an attempt to prevent Omaha’s annexation efforts.  Under state law, if the city had had a population above 10,000 citizens, annexation by Omaha would have been avoided.

Ahhh…the sweethearts posing for a photo!  We’re coming up on our 39th wedding anniversary in April of 2018 and we still like each other…

Amy took lots of photos and I took photos of her taking photos!  Here she’s posed her nephew Dalton and she’s doing her thing… FYI, her photos are almost always better than mine but I know that she couldn’t compete with me on this one!

This is Dalton with his mother and Amy’s sister, Shelby… Dalton is a senior in high school this year.  Shelby and Dalton drove over to Omaha from Indianapolis for our Thanksgiving family gathering.

FYI…Apparently this grain elevator is a very popular place to take photos.  I found a bunch of different family photos on Facebook that were taken at this location!  

Here is Amy taking another photo of Dalton, this time on the front porch of one of Elkhorn’s historic buildings across from the grain elevator.  I’m sure that this structure dates back to the late 1800s…

Here’s another photo of the previous building.  I was unable to determine when it was built.  I’d assumed that it was an old mercantile store of some type…with large sliding barn doors along the rear portion of the structure.  However, I did find a photo of this building on an historic Elkhorn NE Facebook site.  At one time this was the Farmer Home Hotel and a beer sign was affixed to the nearest post supporting the porch roof.

I couldn’t find any information dating this building either.  I did learn that one of the brothers who founded the Housley Brothers Rental Properties Company back in 1983 died at a young age this past July.  He was a 5th generation Elkhorn resident…

I was also able to determine this building had, at various times, been occupied by the Hansen Meat Market, Bruhn Slaughter House and Jeanette’s Beauty Shop.

I did a little better with this building.  The State Bank of Elkhorn was built in MCMXVI (1916).  An attempted robbery in 1927 resulted in the shooting death of the bank’s president.  The bank closed forever following the 1934 “Bank Holiday” during the Great Depression.

Two days after taking office in 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared a ‘Bank Holiday” and for 5 days, all banking transactions across the USA were suspended except for making change.  During this banking hiatus, Congress enacted the Emergency Banking Act which allowed the President, through the Treasury Department, to reopen banks that were solvent and assist those that were not.  As a result, only 61 banks failed that year…but apparently this was one of them.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit and once again...

Merry Christmas!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave and Laurie

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Road to Tyndrum Scotland

The revised plan for the day called for less driving than we’d originally laid out… As it turned out, we drove as far as if we’d followed our original route from Ballaculish to the Isle of Mull and back!  The good news is that we saw some fabulous scenery and sights along the way. 

What a terrific view and setting for that castle!  It’s too bad that those electrical transmission lines show up in the photo but it’s still a heck of a scene…  

Kilchurn Castle is a ruined structure that’s built on a peninsula at the northeastern end of Loch Awe in Argyll and Bute Scotland.

This is a view of Kilchurn Castle from a different angle.  This castle was first constructed in the mid-1400s as the base of the Campbells of Glenorchy.  The Campbells extended both the castle and their territory in the area over the next 150 years.  When the Campbells became the Earls of Breadalbane, they moved to Taymouth Castle.  Kilchurn was in ruins by 1770 and its now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

Kilchurn Castle is open to the public for much of the year but it is closed during the winter months.  Access is either by boat from Lochawe pier or on foot from Hwy A85 near Dalmally.

As we cruised along A85 east toward Tyndrum I spotted another railway depot sign for the Loch Awe station, so I had to stop and take photos.  Actually, that old rail car was the only real structure at this rail stop…

The old Mark 1 carriage painted in the green and cream “West Highland Line” livery sits on an isolated section of track across from the station.  It was installed in place back in 1988 and served as a tea room until 2008.

Even though this is a small and relatively isolated railroad station…really just a passenger platform…it was well maintained even including some decorative greenery and flowers.

The Loch Awe station was first opened on July 1, 1880.  There used to be a loop and sidings on both sides of the line.  However, in August of 1897, the depot was destroyed by fire.   You can still see the old platform on the right.  The ‘new’ platform was brought into use in May of 1902. 

This station was closed for 20 years from 1965 until 1895 and as you can see, only the new platform is in use.  On a sunny day, this wouldn’t be a bad place to relax while waiting for your train…what a view!

As Bill and I walked along the railroad platform, we looked up and were startled to see this huge and impressive old structure on the bluff above us!  This is the highly rated Loch Awe Hotel.  This Scottish Baronial style hotel was built in 1881 at a cost of 7,000 pounds sterling in order to accommodate a tourist boom in the Highlands.

Kirk Douglas was one famous visitor at Loch Awe Hotel.  He starred in the 1971 movie “To Catch A Spy”, part of which was filmed at the hotel.
For more information about the Loch Awe Hotel, you can visit their website at

…I just liked these little floral touches at the Loch Awe railway platform. 

There are 6 departures from Loch Awe in each direction Mondays through Saturdays…serving Oban to the west and Glasgow Queen Street to the east.  On Sundays, there are 3 departures each way… Passenger traffic at this little station has steadily increased from 2013 – 2016 with 4,804 passengers handled in 2016.  

The village of Lochawe exists due to the railway line.  During the last few years of the 19th century, a number of homes were built and the village was created.  The village became a Victorian hot-spot for the gentry as well and they built a number of mansions as well as hunting and fishing lodges.

The Lochawe Community has a website that includes places to stay, where to eat, what to do, etc.  Check it out at

Laurie took this photo from her window in our car.  This is just some of the amazing scenery along A85 between the villages of Lochawe and Dalmally…

What can I say!  I like railroads, railroad depots and railroad equipment.  It reminds me of a slower more evenly paced time in history…

This is a view from the Dalmally Railway Station on the Oban Branch of the West Highland Line.  You’re looking down the tracks toward the east to Tyndrum and eventually to Glasgow.

The Dalmally Railway Station opened on April 1, 1877.  For a while it was the western end of the Callander and Oban Railroad…until the line finally reached its ultimate destination, Oban, in July of 1880.  The station is laid out with 2 platforms, one on either side of a passing loop.  Dalmally once boasted a small engine shed and a turntable as well.  

In addition to great scenery in the area around Dalmally, there are ruins of at least 4 castles.  All of them are positioned on Loch Awe.  First there is Castle Kilchurn that I previously discussed.  Also there is Fraoch Eilean, a 13th century hall house with a defensive wall that was granted to the MacNachdan’s by King Alexander III in 1267.  Then there is Castle Innisconnel.  It was built by the Campbells of Argyll, taken by the MacDougalls and then finally granted again to the Campbells by Robert the Bruce, whom they’d assisted in his battles.  The last ruin is of 13th century Fincharn.  It was apparently burned down soon after it was built in a quarrel between rival families and it’s been deserted ever since.

Laurie and Bonnie explored the station platform while I took photos… This is looking west toward Lochawe and the end of the line at Oban.  This station served 6,802 passengers in 2016. 

For railroad buffs, if you’d like to see a video that talks about this station and includes the arrival of a couple of trains, you can go to

Yes indeed…one more railway station!  This one was a challenge just to get to it.  We drove up a significant hill on a narrow single lane road…not much wider than a cattle trail.  We would have had a problem if we’d encountered a vehicle on the way downhill!

To access the station platform, you have to enter the underpass and climb some stairs on the other side of the tracks…

This well maintained but lonely railway facility is called the Upper Tyndrum Station.  Why ‘upper’ Tyndrum?  That’s to differentiate it from the Lower Tyndrum Station!  The village of Tyndrum is served by 2 separate rail lines with the ‘Upper’ station handling passengers on the Fort William route on the highly scenic West Highland Line.  The “Lower” station serves passengers on the Oban branch of the West Highland Line… 

In this view, we are looking down the line toward Glasgow.

This view along the tracks is in the direction of Fort William and Mallaig.  This station was and may still be one of the least used station on the West Highland Line.  This may be due to its awkward position up the hill above the village.  In 2016, Upper Tyndrum handled 4,512 passengers… 

The two Tyndrum stations are only a few hundred yards apart by road but they are 10 miles apart by rail.


·         The village of Tyndrum is built on the battlefield where Chan MacDougall defeated Robert the Bruce in 1306, taking the Brooch of Lorn from him.  For information about the Brooch of Lorn, go to

The station is well maintained…far better than most depots in the USA that are still in use.  That’s remarkable because although trains come by here 8 times a day, the buildings aren’t in use! 

Originally named “Tyndrum, this station opened at the same time the West Highland Railroad began operation in 1894.  It was the second station on the village.  In 1956, British Rail added “Upper” to the stations name to distinguish it from the station down the hill on the Callander and Oban Line…which then became known as Tyndrum Lower.

Once again, for the benefit of train fanatics, you can check out a video about this station complete with a view of the access road and a train arrival and departure.  Just go to

That’s it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave