Facing the Temptations of Altoona


Several of my clubmates have attended the N Scale Weekend show in Bedford, Pennsylvania over the past several years, and have urged me to join them. The event is no longer held in Bedford—this year, it relocated to Altoona—but no matter. I went along, and had a great time. I somehow managed to make it home with a whopping 19¢ still in my pocket.

The show’s new venue is a Shriners’ hall, an impressive old building with Gothic-arched doorways and terrazzo floors. Most of the exhibits were in the basement, which was clean and had good lighting. (There are few things model railroaders love more than a high-quality basement.) The concession window upstairs didn’t have much to offer beyond the usual hot dogs and hamburgers, but it was reasonably priced. (Hey, more money for trains, right?)

This was my first time attending an all-N-scale show, and I grossly underestimated the danger. At a typical train show, I can cruise the aisles and ignore the 80% of the sales tables full of Lionel, blue-box Athearn HO, old calendars, or other items of no interest to me. No such luck here. This shows, on the other hand, had N-scale temptations on every single table. The variety was impressive. I saw everything from 40-year-old Rapido to brand-new BLI.

My purchase budget was blown within minutes of Saturday’s show opening, naturally. I came away with a Kato locomotive, a decoder to fit it, and three freight cars that I just had to have slightly more than the dozens of other freight cars I just had to have.

The show was not particularly large, but it had a number of operating layouts. It seems like every N scale club in the northeast brought an Ntrak layout, or T-Trak, or both. I didn’t bring any of my T-Trak modules, but I had some rolling stock along, including my trusty C-Liners. I left my Kato Broadway Limited set home. Everyone else brought theirs, of course, because…it’s Altoona. This is the town that Pennsy built, after all.

No, I didn’t get a chance to visit Horseshoe Curve, or the tunnels, or the Railroaders Memorial Museum, or any of the other railroad-related attractions. To do so would have meant taking a day or two off work and stretching the weekend, as some of my clubmates did. As it was, we departed home at 4:30 Saturday morning, drove five hours, and arrived right before the show’s opening. As soon as teardown was mostly finished on Sunday, we left for home, and I got to bed on time.

I don’t know if I’ll make it next year, but I’m sure going to try.