Notes from August

Written by Charles Bartel

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). What we have new is the water feature complete with fisherman in the gorge and plants. I believe that on two sides of the layout, the plants make the difference (the side where the controls are and the side where the Central terminal is) because you really don’t see the water feature from these sides. From the front (side by the maple booth), the water feature is front and center, defining the layout!

From an operaFons point, we have two main lines with a total of three sidings, Thomas and Toby on two mainlines, and of course the trolley from Central Terminal to Main Street. Plus we have a liPle shuPle between train sheds on the front table. That’s a total of 6 trains operaFng! And when one of the members shows up with DCC operaFon, either through the track or by radio control, we had two mainline trains operaFng on the same track – a 7 train passenger train under steam, and a 7 train stack train pulled by a diesel. With about 12 feet separaFng them, it was a test in concentraFon to make sure we did not “touch” and derail. We even had visitors standing around with a bit of the Adam’s family in them, waiFng for the two trains to come together! And that they did once or twice. But it was fun, the visitors enjoyed it, and no damage was done to any of the rolling stock. Running these trains was a benefit of using club equipment with the addiFon of private cars and engines. We even ran a brand new club engine that arrive only minutes before the display opened Wednesday night.

So, if you are not a club member reading this arFcle, you might wonder what is so great about this event at the Erie County Fair. And, as a new member, what could you learn from it. First, the club tack master spent hours exploring various track layouts that met two needs – 1) members desire to run long cars and engines and 2) to have as much display as possible in a given footprint. Everyone learned something new in this effort, including how to use a new track layout program. Second, this display area was a flat concrete floor 10 days before the fair. A week before the fair, it was a block retaining wall filled about 1/3 with mulch. By the end of Thursday, it had the basic shape with some track laid down. And we had to make changes on the fly to fit it all in. Third, we put in a underground conduit to run wires around the layout with pu`ng them on the outside. It was a cleaner approach, but took planning to accomplish it. We want to model a train layout, not a power grid. Wiring a layout this size is an effort that required several people working over three days to get it tone. Fourth, we added a water feature this year without a firm design except it was to start in the middle and end at the edge. So we did on the spot design and ended up with a prePy good lake, water fall and river. Several lessons were learned as we flooded the floor a couple of Fmes as we tried different approaches. Fibh, we spent Monday pu`ng in final touches, i.e., houses, roads, live plants, etc. which created a working model of the Buffalo area in the 1940’s. Lots of give and take discussions on where item should be, how that placement affects other buildings and scenic components around it. And finally, you can get a feel for some new equipment that might not of thought to use. We have a block signal that turns red when a train passes it, then yellow and finally back to green. No sensors on the track, no special wiring. But the effect is fantasFc. It is acFvated by 12 volt power. Someone without a layout and planning on designing and building one would come away with a sense of the effort required, the planning, and finally the implementaFon of

the plan and the pifalls that cause the plan to be reworked unFl it meet the operaFonal goals, was pleasant to look at, was believable and most importantly, maintainable.

And that brings us to the last major lesson that can be learned from this layout. It runs 12 hours a day for 10 days or 120 hours. For a garden railroad that is a lot of Fme. Wheels wear (you learn quick that metal wheels are important), track gets dirty, engines need greasing (just like the real items that need shop maintenance during operaFon). Can you get to every corner of the layout without stepping on a feature? Can you water the plants without destroying anything. (BePer make those model out of wood or plasFc, and make sure to seal with some waterproofing finishes when necessary.) Are any structures with a bridge feature installed with enough clearance to clear the highest model? Even the club has an accident once in a while with this feature. See picture of the complete derailing of a freight train whose caboose smoke stack caught the overhead bridge as it went

through. It took out part of the Central Terminal, overturned one passenger car and one of the flat cars on the freight train. It was tragic at a public display.

But we recovered quickly, made some minor adjustments to the bridge height, and were off and running again in a few minutes.

Finally, there was the fellowship over 295 man hours to put
this display together. We needed to work as a team to get it
done and be ready for opening. And now there are two
teams a day, on site and operaFng the trains for 12 hours.
Truly a commitment from the club members to keep this
layout manned throughout the fair Fme. There was pizza, breakfast and lunches during setup.

If you have not joined a club, but are interested in Garden Railroading (or for that maPer O, HO or N scale) find a local club and join. Model railroading is fun by yourself, but it is much bePer in a group. The lessons learned are worth the dues! If in Western New York, come to a meeFng and join the club. You don’t need trains to join, just an interest in trains and willingness to work with others to make this love evident to others. If you are like me, and dream had enough, you could even “ride the rails”.