Remembering the Shawmut

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the final run of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad. An obscure railroad even in its heyday, the Shawmut hauled bituminous coal out of northern Pennsylvania, and served no major cities. Its major claim to fame was operating in bankruptcy for longer than any other American railroad—over 40 years. After they finally pulled the plug in 1947, this lantern found its way onto a mantelpiece in my hometown. My parents bought a house across the street in 1969, and Dad first saw the lantern soon thereafter. Decades later, the neighbor’s children gave it to him after their father passed away. I once asked a memorabilia vendor at the Syracuse show for a ballpark value on a Shawmut lantern with a marked globe. He gave me a number. I mentioned it later to Mom.

She’s afraid to dust it now.

Budd Wiser

When word came round last August that the hobby shop had just gotten in a large N scale collection, I went to see it, thinking I could use another passenger locomotive, or perhaps some more Kato passenger cars. You know, something with lights, that would look good in a darkened driveway. What I found checked both boxes: a Kato RDC (Rail Diesel Car). The prototype was manufactured by Budd, the same company that made those lovely stainless-steel streamliners, and served as a one-car passenger train for railroads working to economize their passenger service. Never mind that none of the railroads I model had RDCs, this one was in Budd demonstrator livery, so it’s easy enough to rationalize its presence in my railroading activities.

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The Best Fifty Years of My Life

For the record, the caboose in the photo is not the American Flyer 806 I received as part of my first train set, fifty years ago today. I still have that one, but after a series of accidents, crude repairs, and ill-considered modifications, it’s not something I care to show to people. I picked up this one at a show some years ago, and it’s identical to what the original one looked like back then.

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My Inexplicable 44-Year Fascination with One Particular Freight Car


Harold put his O scale layout on the tour for an NMRA division meet a few years ago, so of course I went. I didn’t know him very well, but I was familiar with his work. If you’ve ever picked up an issue of Model Railroader, you’ve seen it, too. He’s written how-to articles, and profiles of prototype short lines, but he’s best known for his drawings. He’s had hundreds of them published over the years. He’s been a fixture in the local NMRA scene for a very long time. (more…)

The Essence of the Season

Don’t get me a present. Don’t even bother with a gift certificate. Skip the tree. Forget the decorations. A turkey sandwich and a beer will suffice for dinner. Please don’t make me listen to that Mariah Carey song. There’s only one thing I really, truly want at Christmas time: a few hours spent watching a train do laps in a dimly-lit room.

Well, okay…some cookies might be nice, too. (more…)

This is Gonna be Lit

Kato, bless their hearts, makes it easy to add lighting to their N scale passenger cars. Let me rephrase that slightly: mostly easy. Their lighting kits aren’t quite the no-brainer drop-ins they’re intended to be, but I’ve installed enough of them now to know their quirks. (more…)