President’s corner November, 2013
Written by Charles Bartel
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?
I was a very fortunate individual in that one grandfather worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and the other one took me out for train chasing (going to one of the local north/south rail lines and waiting for the evening Cleveland to Cincinnati run). And considering that this was 1944 and gas rationing was in effect, this was quite a commitment! He and my grandmother purchased a prewar Lionel train set with a steam engine, freight cars, and track. And two things were ignited - my love of model railroads and my interest in making the model trains look real with lights and animation! It ended up leading me to a degree in electrical engineering and a lifelong career in motion control.
Along the way, I pulled two of my brothers into model railroading, one of which is avid train chaser and Garden railroader. I met other boys with similar interest and found out that adults could build very large layouts in their basement! What an eye opener that was that there were “scale” trains and houses other than Lionel and Plasticville (his layout was HO with the first HO engines and cars I had ever seen).
I met my wife and found out that her family was filled with railroaders. And the stores I heard from them. It showed that growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, the train companies were a major source of employment.
A lot of us young boys dreamed of being an engineer and taking those trains to the faraway places like New York City, or Chicago, or Los Angelis. The lonesome steam whistle at night would trigger that dream. We would lay under a trestle bridge where we could see the underside of the train as it passed over the bridge. And talk about where we think it might be going, or where it was coming from.
It is a great past to think about and enjoy the memories.
So now we have the present. Western New York Garden Railway Society! A group I never knew existed until I saw an advertisement for a Holiday display in the Botanical Gardens in South Buffalo. I took my son and wife and went to the display. A trolley running through the vegetation, station to station. Engines with sound going in and out of the plants. And big! My ho layout (yes I have one of those under construction also – 40 years of construction) look small and unrealistic compared to this layout. A couple of years passed and I finally bit the bullet and joined. Two things happened – I met a great bunch of people locally as well as others from around the world, and my train budget tripled! I went on a buying spree that started when a club member, never having met me before, had an engine to sell. He said take it home and think about it. If I didn’t want it, bring it back to the next meeting. What trust! No phone number, no address, just a handshake. If only all business could be conducted that way. (I did
President’s corner November, 2013
buy it at the next meeting.) And then there was the train show at the event center. A few cars, an engine, etc. This was followed by York. I think I am still paying the bills for that trip in the Spring. This was all followed by the National Convention in June in Cincinnati, Ohio. Of course there is there eleven days at that fair, with club members sharing the work of 6 hour shifts running the trains (oh so much work) and meeting the public to talk about the trains. And then to top it off, back to the Botanical Gardens for the Holiday display, where I “met” the club. Life does seem to travel in circles.
And what does the future hold? No one knows for sure, but the things I dream about are trains in the backyard with freight, passenger and trolley service. A circus train with wagons, tents, animals and people moving from town to town by rail. The trolley’s passing each other as they go through town to the train station. Open houses to share this love of trains with others. The opportunity to visit other’s open houses and see their trains.
I trust that the club will continue to grow and create new friendships. That the club continues to participate in more fair layouts and weekend train shows. Maybe I’ll get enough confidence to enter a model into the model competition. More trips to York, not so much to buy more trains, but for the fellowship. Not as many families rely on the railroads for employment today, so these layouts and open house are an opportunity to show the next generation how important the railroads were, and how important they are today.
If you got this far, I hope you enjoyed my look to the past, to today and my dreams for tomorrow. I hope that each of you have similar memories of the past and hopes for tomorrow.
Trains! And the people who introduced me to the great hobby of model railroading. One more thing to add to the list of things that I am grateful for at the Thanksgiving celebrations.