Dear fellow Valeasians,
Here is the first report from the front lines of the Amherst Railway Society Big Train Show in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
I woke up this morning 5 minutes before the alarm went off at 6 am. The layout was already loaded in the car the night before and all that was left to do before hitting the road was to put my razor in the bag. Marthe still had to pack but with all her experience getting ready for my train shows over the years, I knew that she would would be ready by our target departure time of 7 am. The big question mark was how bad the roads would be following Toronto's first snow storm of the winter.
Fortunately I had 4 new snow tires on the car and all-wheel drive. No problemo. It took us about 20 minutes longer to get to the US border than usual due to the poor driving conditions and our aborted attempts to find breakfast. Part of the storm was comprised of sleet and freezing rain. There were so many tree branches down on power lines that all of the Niagara penninsula was without power. We finally made it to the border under a slight rain. As we pulled up to the border inspection station I was already mentally prepared to have to open every suitcase for inspection under the suspicious gaze of a customs inspector. However the inspector accepted my explanation that we were heading to the BIG train show in West Springfield. Of course showing him a copy of my contract with the Amherst Model Railroad Society helped a bit. ;-)
We finally found a hearty breakfast at Bob Evans restaurant in Niagara Falls, New York. By 9am we were back on the Interstate running ahead of the storm front. At 4pm we pulled into the Red Roof Inn in Enfield, CT, 10 miles South of West Springfield. The hotel did not have the room that I had reserved, of course. 10 minutes after arriving we had an upgraded room and were comfortably moved in. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the hotel was surrounded by shopping malls and restaurants. Our first attempt at supper was aborted due to the heavy cigarette smoke in the dining room. We made a quick trek across the boulevard to the local Hometown Buffet where we took the time to catch our breath before heading over to the Eastern States Exhibition to set up.
At 7pm we had picked up our badges, the parking pass and a floor plan showing the location in the Young building where I would soon be installing the layout.
Now the Amherst train show is a big show. I knew it was big...but I didn't realize just how BIG it is! The show takes place in 3 buildings, big buildings. Doug Moore, the president of the Amherst Club, came by my table to welcome us to the show. He informed us that the show had signed 400+ contracts with vendors and exhibitors. There were 40 layouts on display and more than 1000 name tags made up for participants. Almost every hotel in the area is filled with train enthusiasts. Tomorrow's crowds are expected to be enormous although Sunday's Superbowl game might have an impact on attendance later Sunday afternoon.
Set-up took a full 3 hours this evening. The main reason was not any problems I encountered. In fact everything worked fine including the EMD power plant simulator. The new throttle ran great as well. it was fun playing with the momentum effect. No the reason it took so long to set-up was the stream of visitors who stopped by to look at the layout, ask questions and just chat good-naturedly. I've rarely met such welcoming people at a train show but they did slow things down a wee bit. No matter. It was great to meet some of the members of the organizing committee. Marthe did a fine job of intercepting several people and engaging them in conversation so I could make some progress with the layout before the doors closed at 10pm. And exactly at 10pm I finally left the building knowing that the Val Ease Central was ready to go tomorrow morning at 9am.
Marthe and I were very pleased to be greeted by Al and Liz Passman. They have been managing the Greenberg Train Shows for the last 13 years. They remembered Marthe and me from our only participation at a Greenberg Show in December 1995 in Troy, NY. They told me that they would be happy to have the VECRR back with them. I am interested in a venue in Maine, Vermont, Connecticutt, Rhode Island and Maryland in 2003. They suggested Rhode Island which would be fun to do and accessible from Montr�al, Qu�bec.
We plan on having a hearty breakfast in the morning and snack lightly during the show. The crowds will probably be so thick that it will be difficult to stop to eat. We have the cooler all ready with our favorite snackables. I did notice that the table the layout is on needs to be shimmed slightly to lessen the downgrade on Val Ease West. I'll find something suitable for shims before the doors open to the public at 9am. I plan on running the FR boxcab and also seeing how the AZL PA1 handles the rough track of the VECRR. You'll be able to read all about the day's action tomorrow evening.
Chief Imagineer - VECRR