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.
When it comes to sharing my love of the hobby with my non-railroading friends and acquaintances, I’m not shy about it. They all know where I’ll be on November Sundays. When an Amtrak crash makes the news, they ask me for details. They send me sympathy cards when a hobby shop burns down.
They also send their orphans to me.
I could, I suppose, claim that the tsunami of workplace overtime hours since late March left me with no time for hobby activities, but that’s not quite true. My evenings did become shorter, and so did my Saturdays. I had a choice: spend my remaining, precious free time working with trains, or writing blog entries.
Well, which would you have chosen?
The trouble began a few years ago, at the Syracuse show. I had just dropped a sizeable chunk of pocket change on a new NCE PowerCab, thus hurtling myself headlong into the world of Digital Command Control. With only two decoder-equipped locomotives in my entire fleet at that point, I had some tough choices to make. In order to get more decoders, I had to swear off buying any more locomotives for a while. It was easy at first, but then the GG-1 on the table winked at me. (more…)