Open House Thoughts

President’s Corner – Open House comments

Written by Charles Bartel

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! Accidents were few (after all, even the big boys have a derailment or two once in a while). With a mission to share our hobby with the public and encourage others to get involved, I think the club did a great job this month. If you have not checked them out, take a look at the posted fair video on our you tube site,

If you are not a club member, and reading this column because you stumbled on it or was referred to it, let me explore with you a bit more on the open houses. The first one, Blackwater RR, President Rob Bond, is a railroad set in Alden, New York currently under construction. It is only in its second year, having rails first laid about a year and a half ago. The locomotives are battery operated. The layout has an outer loop that is in place and operational. The inner loop has been graded to provide an over and under figure 8 track plan. About 1/3 of it has been laid
down. There is one long siding going from the back of the property to the swimming pool up by the house. (Can’t image what was in the president’s mind for this siding except to have refreshments brought from headquarters to the work site!)

Rob’s layout is located in a small fruit orchard (half dozen trees) and has scene blocks due to the distance and landscaping. This layout was not open to the public, but only to club members. For those of us still in the planning stages, it shows what can be done in the year Robb has been working on the layout.

The other advantage to being a club member was guest privileges on the home tracks. Gary Schneider, with his traveling railroad, was able to run an engine and two cars. So, once again, we were running two trains on the same track. Battery power does have its advantages when coupled with a remote control system! Robb does not have any power to the tracks, so his track can become fairly complicated but with no wiring issues.

The second layout in Elma, Leonard’s Railroad, President Mike Leonard, was a public open house. Mike was running several trains, switching from passenger, to work to freight trains. He has a small yard and was doing some staging/switching in this yard throughout the afternoon. He has a large water feature that his trains curve around. Please visit the WNYGRS web page under member layouts to see photos of this layout. Mike has concrete roads, grass growing in the right areas, and lots of flowers and shrubs

planted around the railroad to make nice scene blocks and provide interest in the layout. Mike’s layout is a very good example of a mature layout, i.e., well developed with track, switches, yard, buildings, plants and block control (i.e., isolated section of tracks which allows Mike multi modes of operation). Yet even this mature layout has one section that could have a spur coming off the side. A model layout is never complete.

What was not open to the public was the club picnic that followed the open house, much like the picnic at Bill Robbins after the July open houses at Gary Tebo and Bill’s two layouts. (Again, two in one day.) And this picnic represented the other side of our club activity – socializing with fellow train enthusiast and their spouses. There was a lot of laughter, good old fashion give and take (is that the only color shirt you guys have?, take a picture of us smoking our cigars (which were just stick pretzels)) and lots of good food to go with the hot dogs. And all the time
in the background were the trains running and the horns going off. Of course not everyone can make 7 hours of open houses and picnics, but the majority of the club put in an appearance at one or both of the layouts during the day, with a fair number at the picnic.

Based on comments made, there will be a short seminar on upgrading a stock Astrocraft diesel for either track or battery power operation with remote control of speed, sound and lights. If you are not a member, interested in trains, and can spare a couple hours the third Wednesday of the month, please come out and join us. Seminars are generally done a half hour before the club meeting. Check our web page for times and address of the meeting location.

In closing, paraphrasing Roy Rogers from my youth, Happy railroading.