In the wake of last year’s Despatch Junction fire, I had my doubts that Stan would rebuild the shop. These are lean times for the hobby business, and Stan’s not as young as he used to be. To everyone’s surprise and delight, however, he did rebuild. My offer to assist with a new layout was accepted, and I’ve put some time in over the last two Saturdays, working on wiring.
The new store is a work in progress. Inventory is still arriving, and being arranged on new racks and shelves. Amazingly, there were some items that survived the fire, with varying degrees of damage. The locomotive in the photo above, for example, had a little water damage, and required some poking to get the sound board functioning again. I purchased a few Kato passenger cars whose boxes are badly battered, but are perfectly fine for running with that Broadway Limited set I bought before the fire.
If you remember that gigantic blue steam locomotive on the mantel of the old store, you’ll be happy to know that Stan salvaged it and sent it out for restoration. It’s back in the store now, and it’s beautiful. (Its accompanying Pullmans, however, did not survive.)
The new building was designed after a New York Central station in Michigan, I’m told, and frankly, I think it looks better than the old one. It’s bright and spacious inside, with an excellent view of the tracks. The new layout sits smack in the middle of the store. The O gauge, S gauge, and HO gauge loops are operable now; an N gauge loop is also planned. There are display cases along the sides, and it’s all attractively done in clear-finished red oak. That’s right—it’s a Furniture Railroad!
My layout-construction time last Saturday was shortened by the memorial service for one of our club members, who died following a short hospitalization. The whole club is still in a state of shock. His passing comes on the heels of several others, mostly ex-members like Bill whose health had been declining slowly. Lynn, who commissioned the Z scale layout I built two years ago, also passed away abruptly over the summer.
I’ve grown accustomed to the hand-wringing amongst my friends about Our Dying Hobby. Model railroading has a disproportionate share of older participants—people who rediscover trains when the kids are growing up (or after they move out). Death happens. This year, it seems real to me in a way it hasn’t before, with the departures of so many people I’ve known well. Is the hobby doomed?
So long as I’m still around to participate in it, my answer is “no.”