Well we have successfully survived the first day of our National Train show
road trip and the 4 of us are still talking to each other! As a result, we
will continue our Excellent Adventure again tomorrow.
We have made it to Redding, CA where we are comfortably ensconced in our
adjoining rooms at the local Motel 6. The temperature was hovering around
98� when we stepped out of our airconditioned van. Terry pointed out that
it would only get hotter as we headed south to the Bay area!
The concensus of the team was that we had had a very enjoyable and
entertaining first day of our road trip.
The official departure time of our mission was 9:15 am. Fortunately we had
loaded 90% of the van the night before. Once the final pieces of luggage
was squeezed into place in the back of the van behind the 3 layouts making
the trip with us, we were ready to depart.
Almost immediately Terry took a wrong turn and we spent 25 minutes trying to
get back on the interstate highway through some back road in Portland,
Oregon. Once back on the road we made such good time roaring through the
truck traffic on this beautiful sunny day that we arrived in Medford, Oregon
2 hours before our meeting time with Don Bouchard.
Although we like Don very much, we were not prepared to wait 2 hours in the
heat for him at the local truck stop. Sorry Don! After much consultation
and debate, Terry informed us that there was a hobby shop in a small tourist
town called Jacksonville only about 7 miles from Medford. Before we could
get another word out we were hurtling down the country road to our first
hobby shop stop.
Schmetz's Hobby Shop was a very well stocked and maintained hobby and train
store. In fact, we spotted the Z scale almost immediately. The selection
was very modest but enough that Terry was able to find a set of Preiser
figurines that he had been looking for. Marklin, MTL and Preiser were the
major lines carried. I took a few pictures as Terry commiserated with the
owner on how the hobby business was so much better in the Old Days!
In a gesture of good will to the 2 other members of our expedition, we
visited the other stores and shops along the main street, finally stopping
for ice cream floats and a milkshake to help us bear the 90+ temperatures.
Now keep in mind that we were ahead of schedule even with the HSS (hobby
shop stop). So we decided to make a pilgrimage to Micro-Trains Lines at
Talent, Oregon a few miles further down the road. Driving into Talent,
Terry asked me if I knew where MTL was. I pulled out his copy of MR that I
had deftly slipped into the seat pocket, looked up the advertiser index and
then checked the MTL ad for the address. Brilliant! 391 Rogue River
Parkway, but did I know where that was...No!
Intrepid male drivers that we were, we charged onward making turns
instinctively until we stopped at the local volunteer fire depot. The
firefighter that Terry cornered for directions sent us back on our tracks
100 yards to the front door of MTL. It was a miracle! We had driven right
past the factory without seeing it! This was truely a magical place!
Pulling into the large parking lot of the low slung metal building, we
noticed that there was only 1 car in the lot. However there were signs of
life in the car! Pulling up along side, I rolled down the window and asked
where all the people had gone?
Marthe added that we had come all the way from Toronto, Canada to visit the
factory. This last remark seemed to touch the heart of our unknown MTL
employee. He introduced himself, Pat Murphy, Controller for Micro-Trains.
He explained that the summer production schedule closed the shop early but
he invited us in for a quick visit.
The unimaginable was about to happen, we were going to have a guided tour of
the MTL factory. Terry and I bounded out of the car, abandonning our
spouses to their fates while we enjoyed the joys of visiting the hallowed
halls of Z scale production.
Pat showed us everything but the zinc casting room which was off limits to
everyone for health reasons. Believe it or not, there were copies of Ztrack
Magazine on the reception counter next to the current MTL new releases.
Terry adroitly mentioned that I had an article in this issue which I added
was the third of five in the series. A little plug never hurt anyone!
The tour was magical, complete, unexpected and extremely informative. I was
not allowed to take pictures inside the production area but every image is
burned into my memories. I'll draw what I saw using Crayolla Croyons and
post them to the list some day (NOT!).
We learned that George Menzie and Eric Smith would both be at the National
Train Show in San Jose starting Wednesday. No doubt we will have more to
report from our conversations with them.
The MTL factory is an amazing place where we saw state of the art injection
molding machines, numeric milling machines and even MTL's proprietary pad
printing process in operation.
Terry and I would like to say a personal thank you to Pat Murphy for his
very kind plant tour and we hope that he got the kitchen sink repaired on
his return home after our chance encounter.
Needless to say, Terry and I had several hours worth of conversation
following our MTL visit. The evening came to an excellent conclusion with
spaghetti and meatballs at Marie Callendar's Restaurant in Redding, CA,
where all four of us reminisced about the best and worst service that we had
encountered in train shops. This particular topic will probably come back
to appear in a future editorial on the list.
Tomorrow, our excellent adventure continues with our arrival in the Bay area
and a definite HSS at the San Antonio Hobby Shop in Mountainview, CA where Z
has a very prominent place in the train section.
Stay tuned for Day 2 of our Road Trip...
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