I remember my first trip to the big show in Springfield, nearly ten years ago. I carpooled with some clubmates, and we spent a weekend operating on a very large Ntrak modular layout, with members of several clubs participating. On Sunday afternoon, there was a competition known as the “Parade of Trains.” The idea was simple: put a train on the track, and run it for three laps around the layout, past a panel of judges. My entry was a mix of mid-Sixties freight cars, weathered, pulled by three diesels in two different paint schemes. A lot of the other entries were passenger sets, matched cars taken straight of of the box and dropped onto the railroad. “That’s pretty lame,” I said to myself, “I’d never do something like that.”
Actually, that’s exactly what I do with my Kato Broadway Limited passenger-train set. I have to eat my words now.
Atlas, one of model railroading’s most established manufacturers, came late to the online-ordering party. They finally have a web site where you can add items to a virtual cart, feed in a credit-card number, pick a shipper, and have merchandise show up on your porch. You know, the kind of thing that everybody does these days. Half the part listings have no pictures. I never received a shipment notification, let alone a tracking number. I read complaints from other N scalers that shipments would take weeks or months to show up. But I pulled the trigger on Monday anyway, the box appeared on my porch Saturday, and it was full of stuff that solved old problems. Celebrate the little victories.
The drama’s over. The locomotive I’ve wanted for over 30 years is here.
The engine was peeking out of a box under Paul’s table at the Batavia show as I walked past. I stopped, and gently pulled it out for a closer look. Paul looked decidedly uncomfortable. It was easy to see why.
It’s an American Flyer 316, an S gauge model of a Pennsylvania Railroad K-5 Pacific. Manufactured about 1955, beautiful die-cast shell, smoke unit, knuckle coupler, even an air-chime whistle. Nice engine, or at least it started out that way. Then somebody came along and plastered swastikas all over it. Paul picked it up with a bunch of other AF items, some similarly decorated, at an estate sale. He could offer no explanation for why someone would do this, and neither can I.
Another fall show season has come and gone so quickly! After spearheading the 12-table T-Trak layout at the Syracuse show, I helped with smaller layouts at Batavia, The TTCS Eagle show, and the Rochester Mini Maker Faire, before coordinating a 4-table T-Trak layout at the RIT show. No two layouts were alike; modular layouts never are. Each had its challenges to be met. The Syracuse layout, in particular, presented several situations where mechanical issues required finessing, in order to keep trains on track, together, and rolling.
The big night is here: you’ve invited esteemed members of the local model-train community to operate your new Basement Empire for the very first time. You’ve printed out waybills and switch lists, set out snacks and beverages, even swept most of the junk off your workbench. As the guests filter in, you show them around the engine terminal, gesture towards the bare plywood where great mountains will arise, and hand out the throttles.
“So, what era are you modelling?” asks one of them.
“My railroad is set in the mid-Fifties,” you state proudly, as you survey the mixture of steam power and first-generation diesels in your yard.
“But the ICC banned billboard reefers in 1937,” he says, pointing to your wood-sided beer car. “This car doesn’t belong here.” (more…)
For a few years now, I’ve been gradually descending into the morass of Micro-Trains coupler installations. This is not a journey for the faint of heart. There is much arcane knowledge to be acquired, and many pitfalls to be navigated.