Year's End

President’s corner, Western New York Garden Railway Society January 31, 2014

Written by Charles Bartel

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.

I joined the club 3 years ago, after thinking about it for a couple of years, reading the email announcements that Gary Tebo sent out about upcoming events. I tried coming to my first meeting in the July, only to find that the club did not meet in July and August, with the next meeting September due to the fair activity. I remember going to the fair that year and looking for the Garden Railroad exhibit. When I walked into the building, Jack and Marilyn Henderson were pulling duty. I remember thinking what fun that must be to be able to spend the day running trains!

So, come September of 2010, I came to my first meeting and David Downs, then president, introduced himself and made me feel very welcome. Bill Robbins had a Pennsylvania steam engine he was interested in selling that evening. He asked if anyone was interested, and I swear every eye in the room turned to look right at me! I looked it over, I believe drooling at the mouth, thinking this is one fine model. Many years ago, I had bought a G scale train for the Christmas Tree, but it was not as detailed as this one was. Bill, sensing a sale, said take it home and think about it. If I wanted it, bring the money to the next meeting or bring the engine back. (Glad I never ran into him when buying something I did not need!) Bring it back? Small chance that was going to happen. I just had to figure out how to sell this acquisition to the chief finical officer of the Bartel household. Turns out it was not that hard. (Thanks Bonny.)

So I came back in October with the money in pocket and left owning my second engine. That November was the first show that I could attend as a member – with my engine! I remember spending a fair amount of time running that Saturday. I would say that my life had changed forever at that point. I was caught: hook, line and sinker.

What was important about this incident was the trust that was exhibited in this simple transaction. I did not know Bill, nor did he know me, yet I left with his engine. I was blown away with that approach. And since then, I have found similar trust relationships throughout the club members. I have heard it told that likes tend to gather together, and so we have. The fellowship, poking (I got a wire cutter!) fun, the companionship is fantastic. I have even seen this trust relationship exist between club members and some of our suppliers.

With my electrical engineering background, coming in on the controls side of the hobby was a natural for me. John and Sam Krakowski had along with Rich Dulski, been doing the wiring of all the shows up to this point, and doing a very good job of it. I dug right in like a bull in a china shop to help with the wiring and controls. Every show we went to, I wanted to push a little farther, adding remote switch capability to the sidings, block control, signals, and building lighting. I got lots of support from the club to go down these paths. (They did buy 500 feet of wire for the shows!) I must say though, not without some caution from club members to not make operation too complicated for Lou Pease (and others). It seems as though Lou had a reputation of derailing trains along with other mishaps such as getting lost between

Page 1

President’s corner, Western New York Garden Railway Society January 31, 2014

the Gardens and Pegasus restaurant ( a straight shoot down South Park). But we moved ahead without looking back. At the fair and the train and toy shows at the Event Center, we now have two mainlines with one passing/holding siding on the inner loop, and two passing/holding sidings on the outer track. We were running Thomas and Toby on two loops and a trolley. We even had a shuttle engine on the tables set up in front of the fair layout. LED lighting was installed in some buildings. Additional sound was added to the buildings.

Mike Flynn and his company sponsored modeling contest which in the last two years generated lots of interest and some very good models that have been integrated into the displays with light and sound. Included were buildings for the Thomas scenes, a filling station on fire, an ice cream truck in front of a country store – with sound and many others. Thanks to Tom Schobert for sharing his approach to modeling people, including the whole board of directors in his Thomas model and to Lou for the burning filling station. I just can’t say enough about the models that were done. We truly have world class craftsman in our club.

We expanded our shows from 4 a year to 5 a year, adding the summer Garden event. And the Garden show went from a 27 foot by 7 foot display to over 50 feet by 7 feet. With a “lake” separating Thomas from Buffalo (after all, the Thomas trains are all on the island of Sodor). A tugboat, grain boat and lighthouse add to the water effect, and those fishermen on the grainer pier are frosting on the cake.

The wiring to achieve the goal of multiple trains on the track and ready to go along with building and signal lighting has reached the point where it now takes a significant crew to get it all done in a few hours for the Toy and Train show and a couple of days for the fair. Sam and John, Gary Schneider and myself have done the primary work, but many others have jumped in to help run wires and do the hook ups. We have switched to different track connectors from the Astrocraft factory supplied ones. With thee new track connectors, we can get the track down and running in a few hours. We spend less time on getting track down and more time in wiring. The lift bridge for the event center was reworked in order to make it more transportable. And we added a waterfall and live plants at the Fair display this year. Lots of public comments about this display. We have great hopes for a unique layout this year celebrating the 175th county fair. We hope to lower the Thomas display so that the kids can get a better view of it without wearing out the shoulders of fathers and mothers.

Last year at the November Toy and Train show there were three different locomotives on the track, all running on remote DCC type of controls. By the end of the show, there were four members who brought their remote control engines and were running them. Two of them were operating on batteries, two using track power. And we only had a few rear end collisions! It was enough though that Gary removed the hook from the front of his engine so that he would not connect to the train in front of him! And we have hopes of expanding train operation at the fair even further this year. This past year, with the closing of Astrocraft, we have added enough inventory of switches and track to actually add two true passing tracks this summer. It is going to be interesting.

The social activity of the club has been significant this past year. A large group went to York and met on Thursday night for dinner. It was a great meal, attended by a represented of the Train Bears LLC who

Page 2

President’s corner, Western New York Garden Railway Society January 31, 2014

announced they would be sponsoring our web page (thank you on behalf of the club). On Friday, the ladies grabbed a table in the lobby between the vendors and club displays and members of the club held on to that table all day! That evening, Gary, Cathy, Bonny and myself were out to dinner, and a lady stopped and said, “Oh, you were part of that other noisy group!” She was from the club that had the large layout in the lobby, and as a group, they were pretty loud also. We held our heads up high and said, “Yep, that was us.” Not sure what the total bill was for Friday and Saturday for the club members, but I think the national debt of private individuals went up a tick or two.

We went to the 29th national convention in Cincinnati with a small group of club members. We had a great time traveling on the bus and visiting 17 of 27 local layouts that were holding open houses. There were lots of ideas to take home to work on. Dinner Saturday night at the Cincinnati train station and especially the view from Tower A overlooking the yards behind the station was fantastic.

And then there were the open houses this summer and the picnics associated with them. A dish to pass, and an afternoon to spend with friends. It just does not get any better in Western New York, or anywhere for that matter, than this. A lawn chair, sun glasses and a camera (and maybe a cool drink) is all it takes to watch the trains and talk to those from the public that are attending the public open houses (we also had a couple of club only open houses – another reason to be a club member). These open house are a great way to share the hobby.

Then there was the Christmas party over in Mike’s territory at the Barrel in Fort Erie, Canada. Again, a great opportunity for fellowship.

One area that I have not really touched on are the husband/wife teams in the club. Many of the wives attend the meetings, and are just as good at poking fun as their husbands are. In fact, sometimes they are even better with the wise cracks! The open houses could not be as successful as they are if it were not for the hospitality the wives provided at their houses, nor the food that they prepare for sharing. We had an open house this fall at Lou and Jeanette Pease’s new garden layout. And it rained and rained hard. I called to see if they were going to cancel. Jeanette started listing the food that had already been prepared, saying they would be open to anyone who came out, regardless of the rain. My wife Bonny had made a large crockpot of baked beans, so off we went. The nutty men stood around in the backyard under umbrellas watching the trains go out and back for a couple of hours while the women sat in the dining room warm and dry. It was great when they called out eating time. It was warm in the house. We sat everywhere filling the dining and front room. The women (and some of the men – not trying to discount food prepared by them) did a great job. The club would not be the same without the strong support of the husband/wife teams.

So, as I complete this look back to the past couple of years, and especially this last year, I humbly thank the club members for the trust they placed in me to be President for a year. It was an honor and a privilege that I will always cherish. The board of directors were a great resource, providing input as to issues that have been addressed in the past and activities that had been discussed. My thanks to the track master, Gary Ludwig, for his dedication in working and reworking club layouts for each of the

Page 3

President’s corner, Western New York Garden Railway Society January 31, 2014

shows. Rich Dulski got him a computer program this year to assist in his layout planning. Up to then he had done it with pen and pencil that he had been use to from working in an engineering office.

There is not one person in the club that I don’t owe a special thanks to for one thing or another, from the refreshments, to the raffles each meeting, to track ballasting. And the opportunity to expand my collection of cars and engines as well as track and a reasonable cost! Always a plus. I was told by a wise club member that being president is easy if you have a good group under you. So, I guess my year was really easy. I had a good group to carry out my dreams for the club.

If you are not a member, I hope I have generated a desire on your part to be a member of our group and enjoy all that I have enjoyed over the last three years. Come join us on the third Wednesday of the month except for July and August. My only regret is that I did not join earlier. If you are not from Western New York, find a club close to you and join. I am sure you will have similar experiences with any club.

I would like to close out with my best wishes to Gary Schneider, President for 2014 and Jack Henderson, Vice President for 2014 in the coming year. , May the trains keep on rolling!

Page 4