Mr. Kenneth Wilk, A Great Friend of the WNYGRS

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Mr. Kenneth Wilk

Director, Erie County Agricultural Society

1940 - 2018

In Memory of a Great Friend

On October 23, 2018, the Western New York Garden Railway Society (WNYGRS) lost a good friend and supporter.  As a member of the club for about 8 years, I first met Ken Wilk during the set up for the 2010 Erie County Fair display.  Dave Downs and Gary Tebo were the Chairmen of this event, working with Ken to get the perimeter landscaping blocks set up and mulch put in the center to be ready for our efforts in turning this into a model train garden layout.  As my involvement in the club increased and I took more time off from work, I got to know Ken very well.  Dave had asked to enlarge the space over these years, and indeed it did grow.  However, we seemed to have reached a point where future growth was going to be limited.  Yet he continued to ask Ken for more space.  And with a smile, Ken said he would consider it for next year.  Each year he would work with us as we changed things, a little here and there to make a better experience for the fair visitors.  And when the fair opened, Ken would stand there and say this was “The Best Yet!”  I believe we had made it a little better every year, but it was still nice to hear Ken make that statement with sincerity in his voice.

Ken will be missed by many people, but he will be sorely missed by the Western New York Garden Railway Society.  Each year as we approach the fair season, we will be reminded of his commitment to our club and to the public in giving us space for a train display.  As our members go about their lives in Western New York, we run into many people that recognize us from the fair display layouts.  From this, we know that Ken’s efforts and support of our club had a far-reaching effect on the residents of Erie County, and all those that come to the fair from around the country.

For all of Ken’s efforts to support us, we than Ken.  For his family, we offer our sincere thanks for his efforts on our behalf, and want you to know how much we appreciated Ken.

On behalf of the club,

Charles Bartel, Jr.

President 2018

Western New York Garden Railway Society

President's Notes - Fair's over, Central Terminal here we come!

It’s Tuesday and time to relax after a hectic 20 days of activity. It all started back in July when they put the walls up and filled in the compost. Things heated up on the Wednesday before the fair when club members descended with a vengeance. Troy, my daughter’s boyfriend, was kind enough to take me to East Aurora to pick up the compactor. His truck with the electric tailgate made it easy to get the compactor on and off the truck. Troy spent the day with us running the compactor. By the end of the day, the form of the layout was pretty much done, and track laying was ready to start. Even though we tell everyone that we have all mulch under the trains, this year, the yards had ¼ inch plywood on top of the mulch. Bob Rodgers spent a fair amount of Wednesday cutting and painting the plywood black. For the next several days, we were busy several hours a day putting things together and test running. I believe that we invested about 300-man hours in the week before the fair.

Opening day and the trains were running. Over the next 11 days, we averaged 4 people at the layout all the time. At times, there were 6 people from the club. Lots of socialization. And lots of time to meet with the public and talk about trains and our club.

In the years that Bonny and I have been doing the fair, I do not believe that we had ever had as many comments on the layout as this year. The over and under elevation track layout was a real attraction. We had up to three trains running on the outer loop. At one time, we had 5 egg liners running on the inner loop. And of course, we cannot forget the gourd train! You just never know what someone is going to run.

As we finished putting away the club material on Monday morning at the boxcar, Dave had a few words for those still there thanking them for their support over the last 18 days. Currently, we have a tentative go ahead for next year, to be confirmed as always later in the year. As president of this club, I want to thank Dave and Gary Tebo for the organization work that they do in getting this program up and running every year. And to thank Dave for pushing a layout with elevation to it. He had the trestles all ready to go on Wednesday set up. Only minor modification was required on a couple of them. Dave’s mind is already working on next year’s layout concept.

Finally, to close out the fair comments, I want to congratulate the other four club members who submitted a model for this year’s contest. Mike Flynn’s contribution to the club in keeping this program going is greatly appreciated. Lots of comments were made about how could you pick one over the other. Some people had a more direct comment – "I am from East Aurora and have to vote for the home town model!" We truly represented Industrial Buffalo area.

And now we party a bit with the club only open house at Hank’s. Sit back, relax, tell train stories and watch Hank’s trains run. A peaceful three hours.

However, the pace really does not lessen any. Gary Ludwig has visited the Central Terminal and made measurements of the room we are in. He has converted these measurements into a track plan for the Central Terminal exhibit the 8th and 9th of September. Mark your calendars as we will need members to man the trains for those two days. Gary will put a schedule together for getting material from the boxcar and transporting it to the Terminal along with a sign-up sheet to get an idea of who will be available for set up, tear down, and operation. For those attending the open house this Sunday, we will have a sign-up sheet there along with some additional data.

President's Notes - June 2018

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It has been a full month for myself and other club members with the Botanical Garden display, the National Convention, the BTO convention, and the Alden Historical Presentation. The Alden Presentation was done with Gary Tebo, Rob Bond, and Mike Leonard. We got off to a rocky start due to some miscommunication, but once that was corrected, we got a circle of track set up, several displays on the table, and a power point project operational. The presentation lasted about an hour, with questions and answers the last few minutes. It was a good time, with a range of ages in the audience from 10 or 11 to 80+. And they learned some new things about railroads in general and our hobby specifically. Gary had a track powered, Revolution Shay running on the circle and I then I added my battery powered diesel. It was a good time and they were generous with a contribution to our club.

The Garden display was pretty much up and running in two nights, with the third night some final tuning. We have had some issues with both James and Thomas, but Percy is running just fine. As normal, we had visitors putting stones in the troublesome trucks. A fake lumber load was created and has kept the stones out of the trucks. The Buffalo train has had some trouble with one of the donated cars not staying on the track. We are running a short train of just two cars, a boxcar and combine. It seems to be doing very well now. We did have coverage the second day that Stinky was in bloom. There were a couple of issues with kids putting stone on the track right in front of the engine. She was reprimanded by myself and her mother. We did some things different this display with a plywood base for the Buffalo village and carpet for grass. Plus, the Gardens put a 6’ section of flowers as you enter. They also worked on putting in cameras with notices on the plastic informing them of recording activity. They also realized that visitors with small hands were reaching into the control panel. They were prepared to close that gap as well as putting a hasp and lock on the cover of the control box. We hope that this reduces the damage to the trains this display.

We have one more event at the Gardens, Starry Night. By the time of our meeting this month, this also will be completed.

We had two members who attended the National Convention (Lou & Jeannette Pease and Rich & Rose Ann Dulski). I have had several comments on the overall convention, but the one issue that stands out was our Lou taking a nasty fall that knocked him unconscious for a few minutes. After He was deemed to be ok by the emergency medics, he returned to the hotel and attended the final banquet. While there, he received first place with his filling station that was on fire. Lou is getting a lot of mileage on this model!

For the BTO, we had three couple go. Bob and Lois Rodgers, Gary and Judy Ludwig, and Bonny and myself. Both Bob and I entered the model contest, but neither won. Bonny and I entered a build your own layout in one hour. There were five entries, and in the end, they gave prizes to all five entrants. I was completely surprised at the level of these displays. The winner had three circles interconnect with cross overs, a bandstand with a concert going on, along with lots of other display items. Most of you know the winner from her visit to our club layout tours and the banquet last year, Teya Caple-Woods. Bob and Lois won a couple of engines and a couple of cars with the various raffles on the busses and in the convention hall. Gary and Judy were also winners of prizes on the buses. Unfortunately, Bonny and I were not as lucky with the raffles can came home only with the convention car, a 40th USA decorated boxcar. Bob was also able to pick up a train set for the November Mall raffle at a very good price. I heard several comments about the Buffalo convention. We set a few records with attendance of which only one was broken at this convention. I talked to one of the vendors about this year, and she told me that it was ok, but not as good as Buffalo. She ranked it very high in her sales experience. I think it is a credit to our club that it went so well.

Looking forward to a relatively quiet July, so that we can be ready for a full press display for the fair.

Presidents Corner - A Busy May & June 2018 for the WNYGRS

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Written by Charles Bartel, President WNYGRS

April has come and so has the tax man. After York, I sure wish I could claim my train expenses as medical expenses for my addiction! I went to York to buy some more track and split jaw connectors.

I managed to stay out of vendor booths and headed right to the BTO booth to help man it. That lasted just long enough for Bonny to find some “deals” and my will power went right out the window. Needless-to-say, I came back with more cars and three new engines (two egg liners and an RS-3). Got a Laser cut wood kit for only 20% of the list price. Couldn’t pass that up!

But again, some of the gems of the show were not the deals with the vendors, but the socialization with old friends and new acquaintances that I hope become old friends. We talked of layouts, old, new and ones in construction (and you know where that places me). We talked of conventions, open houses, and train picnics. Along the way we talked of our kids, grand kids and great grand kids. Had dinner Thursday night at the Lindon Dinner with members of the Tide Waters Big Train Club. We were a small group totaling about 15. Had a great dinner and conversation. Though most WNYGRS members went home on Friday, I had another great dinner with BTO members and more of the Tide Waters Group. All in all, it was a great weekend.

Looking forward, from our monthly agenda, May is going to be a busy month for the club. On the 12th, we’re invited to participate in the Mini Makers Fair. I have asked for two tables and hope to have a good selection of engines, cars, and models of buildings to show off our great hobby. Of course, we will also need to have a few members around to answer questions and explain what we do. And hopefully it will lead to an association with the school where we can help them to introduce a whole generation of children to this hobby.

Mike Flynn will be kicking off the building contest with his seed money at this month’s meeting. We have a few members who have signed up, but could sure use some more.

On May 19th, we will have the portable display set up at the Orchard Park Depot for National train Day! There will not be an opportunity to participate in the Touch a Truck event this year due to the construction that will be underway. As I write this, Gary Ludwig tells me they are within days of signing the contract. Gary says it’s been 20 years of planning, dreaming, and working to get to this point. It will be a new station when they are done with it.

And then we are into June. The second busiest month for us. We will have the summer display at the Botanical Gardens. I have been in contact with the Gardens and they are looking at security cameras to be installed. They have also asked us to join a planning committee to help select themes etc. for coming years.

We will have a fair planning session on the 13th of June. Gary Ludwig has put together a few track plans for Dave to consider and Rich Dulski has tossed one into the ring for consideration. I am enthusiastic about the fair, as in two of the layouts that Gary has done he has the inner loop in an over and under track plan which will double the length of the run from the yard around the layout twice, and then back into the yard. I think this will be a major change for the layout comparable to moving Thomas down to the floor level and making it easier viewing for the children.

We will also have a short presentation to the Alden Historical Society Presentation on the 14th about our club and hobby.

And there are two conventions in June, the National Garden Railroad Convention early in the month in Atlanta, and the Big Train Operator Club two weeks later at Bird in Hand, PA. We have members going to both conventions. Where the National is doing a lot of layouts tours (which I love as it gives one ideas), the BTO will me more hands on, joint construction. As of this week, members of the BTO have pledged enough track and material to go around a pond, a little over 1,110 feet! Battery power only due to the long loop. In addition, there will be smaller layouts running throughout the hotel. And on Saturday, there will be a railroad building contest that will add a few more trains running. The last time they did this was in Hershey 5 years ago. There were some really neat train sets assembled. One had two loops, with a diamond between the two loops (one track was elevated so the tracks only crossed at grade at one point). The electronics were built in such a way that when both trains arrived at the diamond at the same time, one train took priority and the other had to stop and wait.

I look forward to all the activities and the interaction with club members and the public. I hope you too will find May and June interesting months.




President's Corner - The Feb. 2018 McKinley Mall Train Display

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Written by Charles Bartel, President WNYGRS

The end of my first month of my term has come and gone and I feel as excited today as I did at the end of my first term as president.  This is a great club.  The McKinley Mall February 2018 Display was fantastic.  As the week continued, our layout grew.  We started with the industrial switching yard and six sidings.  During the week we added a dead-end siding that was the parking spot for a second lumber train.

The trolley line has been the home of four different trolleys: Lou Pease's, John Manning's, and Dennis Marrone's, as well as the club trolley.  On the main line, we have had the military train by Bonny Bartel along with her Eggliner, a 2-6-6-2 steam engine and train by Bob Rodgers, as well as assorted steam and diesel engines by Rob Bond, Ron Brounshidle, Lou Pease, Rich Dulski and John Manning pulling sponsor trains.  Lots of opportunity for club members to run their trains.

We had many opportunities to engage with young visitors to blow the horn and ring the train bells.  The resulting smiles made the effort to set this display up worthwhile.  Once again, lots of conversations with people about trains around the Christmas tree, Grandpa's trains in the basement, etc. It's always a pleasure to hear their stories.

Besides the opportunity to run trains, there were lots of opportunities to socialize with other club members.  And the club members took advantage of that.  Most sessions had one or two other members than those that had signed up.  We had 4 people on Monday of set up week, 9 people on Tuesday, 6 people on Wednesday and 5 people of Thursday, the first day of full operation. It should be noted that Thomas and Friends were operational on Wednesday as was the trolley.  The outer loop was also active on Wednesday, with the inner loop completed on Thursday morning.  The industrial switching unit was operational later in the day on Thursday.

The newest feature of the layout was the industrial switching yard.  We had a few sidings and a run around track.  There were multiple industries supplied by Jack Henderson and Ron Brounshidle along with club industries such as Tom Schobert's Ross Manufacturing. We placed Jack Henderson's Cargill model on the edge of the table with the inner space of the layout representing Lake Erie. One of the sidings went to a single stall engine house.  Thanks to Ron for putting the club coaling station back together and to Lou Pease for his water tower. Several members spent time moving cars around and making up trains to be picked up for mainline service.  I believe it was a very good addition that added interest for both club members and visitors.

We had some visitors that both donated and bought raffle tickets for the train set.  We tried to thank all who did that and let them know that we appreciated their support.

We saw notices in the East Aurora Bee the week we opened and in the Orchard Park and West Seneca editions the next week. We tried to get television coverage but were not successful.

Several visitors commented that they came to the mall to see the train layout after getting Gary Tebo's email that they had signed up for.  Our email notifications do work.  I had more than one comment about overhearing people coming into the mall just to see the trains. We also printed up fliers that were posted locally in libraries, grocery stores and were handed out in one of the booths at the WNYRHS Toy and Train show.

It was a great way to start out the new year!

Chasing Steam

Chasing Steam

I never thought I would be one of those people who chase after trains just watch them go by and / or photograph them. It started out quit innocent, a friend of mine sent me an email several months before about the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Societies up and coming passenger steam train excursion from Buffalo to Corning and back. I thought wow a passenger Steam train in Buffalo, We have to be a part of this. As I explored the web I discovered that the cost per ticket was out of the family budget. So I placed it on the “Bucket” list.

Another Convert to Battery!

Another Convert to Battery!

Summer is coming, and before we know it, the Fair will be here. And I truly want to run my Chessie engine at the fair. It looked so good pulling Gary Schneider's heavy weight coaches at the February train show. But that engine was sidetracked with unknown issues during the February train show. As some may know, I bit the bullet big time last year and had 6 engines upgraded with the Revolution control system.

Tales of the Little Red Wagon

Tales of the Little Red Wagon

It’s Monday morning as I start this paper and another York road trip is in the books. But what a trip it was with the Little Red Wagon. Just to make it clear, the Little Red Wagon was a Christmas gift from my wife who thought this would be a great gift for me when I go shopping! Or bring trains into the Fair, or the Event center, or......

The Lure of the Train

The Lure of the Train

 believe that the club did it again - a master display to entice young and old. I did some quick statistics on the show and I believe in a day and a half, the club track crew laid down about 360 feet of track, with trains running on about 290 feet, the rest in sidings and a small fiddle yard. The signal crew laid down about 500 feet of wire, often slightly ahead of the track crew, other times behind them. The electricians laid down about another 150 to 200 feet of wire for building lights. There were 5 working track signals.

Train Show

The 24th annual Train & Toy Show is just around the corner. it's one of the local railroad events that I really look forward to. This February show will be extra special to me as the November 2014 show was cancelled because of The Snowvember storm also called The Wall of Snow. I enjoy watching the youngsters as they take in the sights and sounds at our clubs operating layout. My son Sam and I bring along a few pieces of our fleet to operate. We have a new engine that we are anxious to put thru all of it's paces for the first time.  

We Did It Again!

We Did It Again!

Once more our club pushed the boundaries of performance at the Erie County Fair. And I believe that we did something this year that has never been done at any train show in Western New York, or for that matter, on the East Coast. We ran two trains on one track in opposite directions! Dave Downs even talked about this activity on the radio, telling people when we would be doing this. At one time, I saw Dave Downs and Gary Schneider running two trains, with Dave both being an engineer and the “tower” man, throwing the switches as appropriate.

Austin and Buffalo Railroad: The Journey Starts

Austin and Buffalo Railroad: The Journey Starts

One of the features of garden railroading that I have experienced is the wide group of people that you become associated with throughout the country.  Because of a friend in Austin Texas, I have been very busy planning the Austin and Buffalo Railroad.  This is a fictions railroad connecting Buffalo, New York, with Austin, Texas.  This railroad will have one “yard” in Austin, TX, and one in Buffalo, NY.  When they are both up and running, the idea would be to send cars back and forth for maximum enjoyment of a “transcontentinal” railroad. 

Year's End

Year's End

The clock is ticking towards midnight and my term to serve the club as president is nearing its end. Gary Schneider will pick up the reins and lead the club for the next year. I wanted to pen this last note as president to summarize my feelings about the great club and look at the things that have happened over the last 12 to 36 months.



It’s the middle of the Botanical Display schedule and Santa is here. And so are an army of children! Deciding to spend the day at the Gardens, I brought in a lawn chair to be comfortable and some refreshments for the day. I set my chair up off to the side of the traffic pattern so that I could watch and listen. The comments I heard were: “Wow! Isn’t this cool!” “Look, it’s the Gardens.” “The filling station is on fire!” “There’s Thomas!”



Thanksgiving time is just around the corner. The holiday season is on us, with Christmas advertisements and displays already hitting the airwave, newspapers and store shelves. It is a great time to sit back and reflect on the past, the present and the future. If you are reading this corner, you are interested in trains. I would ask of you who open up the world of model trains and layouts? Was it your grandparents (probably your grandfather with grandma looking on with smiles), your parents (again probably your father), or an Aunt or Uncle? (When I was growing up, women had taken to the work force with the men overseas. They kept the trains running. Maybe even your big brother. Did someone in the family work on the railroad, or maybe a neighbor?

Summer is Over

Summer is Over

Summer is over, fall is here. It’s been a long summer for the garden railroader in Western New York. The 29th national convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, a 30 day display at the Botanical Gardens in June, an 11 day, 12 hour a day manned display at the Eire County Fair, and 5 open houses, two of which were for members only as they are railways in development. And that brings me to the point of this message. The benefits of club membership.

Open House Thoughts

Open House Thoughts

We have come to the last week in August and there has been a tremendous amount of activity in our club this month. This included a week of activity setting up for the fair, 11 days of 2 shifts a day, tear down, followed by two open houses on August 24. At times there were 6 to 8 people at the fair, with several spousal teams working together, others just dropping in as they were at the fair with their families and thought they would check in and see how things were going. And they were going great!

Notes from August

Notes from August

It’s the middle of the fair, 5 days behind us, five days to go! And what a layout! I want to congratulate everyone who provided the new buildings for the show. Oh, that’s right, no provided any new buildings. But I have been told by annual visitors that they really enjoyed the new buildings this year. And then I have to break their bubble and tell them these are all buildings that they have seen before with one excepFon, the small house on the hill by the granary (the smaller scale makes the silos seem much taller).

End of July

It’s the end of July and the summer is half over! A lot to do in the wonderful days of June, July, and August. For the Wester New York Garden Railroad Society member there are open houses to visit, train trips to be taken, layouts to be maintained, and the County Fair to get ready for. Let’s look at open houses and what they offer to the Garden Railroader. We all have dreams of that perfect layout in the backyard (one of the magazines refer to this form of modeling railroading as an armchair modeler). A passenger train rushing to its desRnaRon, passing a freight train on the siding, waiRng it’s turn on the mainline.

Back from Cincinnati

Welcome back to the President’s corner. I have one thing on my mind this month, and that is the activity in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 5th through the 9th. It was the 29th large scale national convention organized by the Cincinnati Garden Railroad Society. Though I have been in model railroading most of my life, and have attended many conventions/trade shows over the years, this was my first (at 70 years) train convention. It was a great event attended by several members of our club. The convention activity can be divided into four activities: 1) backyard tours of local Garden layouts, 2) workshops and seminars, 3) vendor’s floor, and 4) the social activity.