COVID-19

A Season Without Train Shows

In a normal year, this would be the first day of the fall train-show season. I’d be in the car right now, with a load of T-Trak modules and gear, on the way to the fairgrounds in Syracuse. I’d spend the afternoon dragging folding tables into position, shimming them up into some semblance of levelness, spreading tablecloths, laying out modules and cables, and building a railroad to run in public all weekend. I’d be doing the same thing next weekend, and several weekends after that, right into mid-December.

But this is 2020. None of that is going to happen. Everything is cancelled. (more…)

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…)

Handcrafting a Jack Panel for the Pandemic Atlantic

In the first chapter of the Pandemic Atlantic saga, I addressed the loose drivers and bent side rod that I hadn’t noticed when purchasing the engine. The next thing I wanted to deal with was the jack panel at the rear of the cab, which was cracked. This is a common problem with these engines. Sure, repro panels are available if you know where to look, but there’s a pandemic going on, and I had time on my hands. (more…)

Yonder Gallops the Gift Horse

Shown: brass-railed Atlas code 100 flextrack, and code 175 rail.

The appearance, some fifty years ago, of nickel silver rail has been hailed as one of the hobby’s great milestones. Not only did it present a more realistic appearance than the brass rail of the day, but when it tarnishes, it still conducts electricity reasonably well. Aside from cost, there was no drawback to choosing nickel silver over brass. Because cost plays a bigger role in the hobby than anyone cares to admit, it took another decade or two for brass rail to vanish from the market, but vanish it eventually did. You can’t give the stuff away now.

Okay, I’m lying. You can. Somebody just did. (more…)