President’s Corner December, 2013

Written by Charles Bartel

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!” And what was wonderful to hear, “Don’t touch.” “Hands off.” One parent made the comment, “stand still, the train will come around again. We are not going to run in circles to chase the trians!” “Let’s go look at the flowers.” And the child said no. “Can we go see Santa now?” and the child said later! And the camera’s did click. “Listen to the ice cream truck.” “Look at all the people. This display gets better and better every year.” “We come twice a year.” “How long does it take to set all of this up?” “Did club members make the buildings?” “Can I have this for my birthday?” “Can we take this home?” “Look at the monkey in the car.”

Sometimes, I can’t tell who is having the most enjoyment, the parents or the kids. I saw parents and children leave the layout, and come back again in 10 to 15 minutes! What a Christmas present to be able to share our love of trains and our models with the community. Of course there are all of the conversations along the lines of... “Dad had a train under the tree.” “I always wanted one, but we could not afford it.” “My brother had a train and let me play with it.” It is so sad that parents gave trains to their sons and not to their daughters. I think today, it is easier to give a train to a daughter. And of course, today, we have a number of women members that reinforces the fact that trains are attractive to all. We do tend to forget that this older generation of women grew up with their mothers, aunts and or female friends of the family that were instrumental in keeping the trains running in the 40’s.

It is a tribute to all of the members that the trains are running very well. We are not having many reports of trouble. The Garden Staff has told me that there have only been a couple of derailments this year and they took care of them. We are running the trains a bit slower this year, and that makes a lot of difference. It is difficult not to run the trains a bit faster, but the slower speed gives the kids a better view as they pass at eye level. We also did a very good job of keeping the track level and that has contributed to a well running layout.

This sharing of trains is one of the great things about being a club member. Individually, we can have open houses if we have a layout. However, that open house only last for a few hours. At the gardens, the train is available for viewing 7 hours a day, 7 days a week! The fellowship enjoyed during the set up is great. Tear down is both a little sad and great fellowship. Sad to take the display down, great time working together.

We had our annual Christmas party at the Barrel in Fort Erie, Ontario this week. Again, it was great fellowship. I was informed that I was a lame duck president, as we have annual elections in January. So my year is almost up as President. It has been a great year with lots of activity. I learned a lot from the club members as we set up and ran 5 shows, two week end events, two layouts at the Botanical Gardens, and 11 days at the County Fair. I always thought that the “good” trains ran on power from a transformer, even if they were digital command control (DCC). This year was an eye opener. Several club members are running battery trains, either with the battery in the engine itself, or pulling a battery

President’s Corner December, 2013

car. And when we are using battery powered trains, we do not have to worry so much about track wiring and good track to train contact.

But what was even more impressive, by combining DCC control, track power and battery power, we were able to mix control systems and run multiple trains on the same track. Several times we were running three trains on a single track. And you begin to understand that controlling a track and running a train is not so easy. When you have to keep track of what is in front of you, you really have to concentrate. You also want to answer questions from visitors, and that leads to some minor rear end events! But it is all fun.

I have been asked what is so interesting in watching a train go in circles? I can’t really answer that question except to say that personally it’s enjoyable. I just know that after seven hours at the Gardens, I was enjoying the trains just as much at the end of the day as I did when I came in, as well as when we set it up. One of the neat things is the continuous addition of small details. I notice today that club members have been bringing in small items like track side signs, more people, and more cars. And even though I was here for most of the set up, I still find small scenes that someone else worked on that I had not noticed before. One time I was told that God did not subtract from our life time the time that was spent fishing. I have to believe that the same is true for watching trains. It is relaxing, a time to look back on our youth and that first train set, and a time to remember all of the men and women that made our country.

For those that are reading this, on behalf of myself, my family, and the members of the Western New York Garden Railroad Society, I trust that you had Merry Christmas. May the New Year be filled with promise and great opportunities. And if you are not a member, think about joining. We love to share this great hobby!