Observation

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.

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.

(more…)

Windlenook Live Stream This Week

I have to admit, the pandemic does have its upsides. There’s been much less wear and tear on the car than usual. Disruptions from door-to-door ESCO sales reps are just a fading bad memory. Begging off holiday gatherings with annoying in-laws is delightfully easy to do now. Best of all, conventions have gone virtual, which means we can participate without regard to travel expenses or advance reservations, and nobody asks to see your membership card.

The Northeastern Region, NMRA had originally intended to hold its annual convention in October, but Covid-19 has moved it online, and it’s happening this week. I’ll be giving a clinic about Inglenooks (and Windlenook in particular) on Thursday evening. Click on over to the NMRA’s YouTube channel, and tune in!

Our Lives Now

Yesterday’s NMRA picnic at Dave’s was a modest affair. All told, maybe two dozen people showed up, both from the NMRA division, and my N scale modular club, which was also invited. We filled Dave’s two-car garage with a modest T-Trak layout, my Inglenook puzzle, and a few tables of member for-sale items. People brought their own sandwiches and camp chairs, and ate in a big circle under a pair of canopies erected in his back yard. Everyone had masks, of course. (Don, in fact, had a hundred of them, sewn by his wife in a variety of colorful interest-themed fabrics. I purchased two.) For most of us, it was our first train-related gathering in six months. (more…)

Running Trains at Twilight, in My Driveway, During a Pandemic, With Neighbors Watching

It’s been a weird summer. Society has been gradually opening back up, but large gatherings are still taboo, we’re all wearing masks when we’re out in public, and train-club meetings remain on Zoom. I’m starting to miss those things we used to call “events.” Because the recession came knocking at our shop, and slashed our workload, I now have four-day weekends to fill. The COVID-19 Emergency Railroad has been coming out a lot lately. (more…)