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National Train Show report, Day 3

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  • Jeffrey MacHan
    National Train Show report, Day 3 Warning: the following is biased personal opinion of the basest nature and may not come even remotely close to reality as
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 6, 1999
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      National Train Show report, Day 3

      Warning: the following is biased personal opinion of the basest nature and
      may not come even remotely close to reality as perceived by those
      unfortunate enough to be mentioned herewithin ;-)

      When we last left our story we were heading into day 3 of the National Train
      Show adventure. The layout competition disaster had taken place, the dog
      was happily making new friends under the table, the HO and N scale
      enthusiasts had hunted down their BARGAINS and the First Wave of the GENERAL
      PUBLIC had rolled through the show.

      Day 3: I had plans to meet the Big Guys of Z, none other than the major
      players in American prototype manufacturing: Micro-Trains Line Company and
      M�rklin USA Inc.

      I have a dream...a dream that one day Model Railroader will run an article
      about Z scale...the last one they printed dates back 11 years to the Feather
      River Canyon layout series.

      The GENERAL PUBLIC began arriving at 10 am. We had been in position since 9
      am. That being the case, I had had time to make a quick run about the train
      show keeping a keen eye out for anything Z or of use there unto.

      I was happy to meet the folks at Aspen Model Inc. who were introducing a new
      line of Z and Nn3 steam locomotive conversion kits and assorted detail
      parts. The most impressive of all, for me at least, was the valve gear
      details for Z scale locos. I had a wonderful conversation with the boys
      from Aspen: (from Left to Right) Achim Buerklin representing Westmodel,
      Billy Dittmar representing Aspen Model Inc. and Klaus Bachman, the producer
      of the new products. http://members.home.net/trainmaster/NTS-Aspen.jpg You
      can see the entire line of new items and prices at http://www.aspenmodel.com

      Further down the aisle I ran into a large Z scale vendor, Robert Hajny, the
      owner of Bob's Model Railroad Supplies. His stand was one of two offering Z
      scale and the only one exclusively offering Z! Well Bob had some mighty
      nice stuff, such as the new Miller Engineering Microstructures Z scale
      drive-in theatre with the color LCD screen! There was no price tag? He
      also had a nice selection of Pennzee conversion kits selling for much more
      than yours truly would ever dream of paying! There were M�rklin UP F7 A-B-A
      units, Micro-Trains cars and quite a good selection of M�rklin accessories
      and track. I was especially interested in the M�rklin Z yard lights. In
      fact I asked Bob how much discount he would give me if I purchased 5 at the
      show. His answer: "I never give discounts". My reply: "Too bad, I'll just
      make them myself."

      To Bob's credit, he did come by the layout the next day and told me that it
      was one of the best he had ever seen. He took several pictures as well. I
      told him that I thought his prices were still too high! You can visit Bob
      at http://members.xoom.com/bmrrs/bmrrs.htm

      When I got back to the Val Ease Central from my wanders around the show, I
      was greeted at the layout by Jeff Stimpson and Riley O'Conner from M�rklin
      USA. http://members.home.net/trainmaster/Marklinvps.jpg

      They had a very close look at the layout and played a game called: I spy
      with my little eye something made by...M�rklin! We had great fun! Jeffrey
      Stimpson told me that the president would be by on the last day of the show
      and that he HAD to see the layout. In the meantime, he sent the M�rklin USA
      photographer over to take a few pictures.

      Marthe and I had several interesting conversations with members of the
      GENERAL PUBLIC who continued to spend 10 to 15 minutes in front of the
      layout. http://members.home.net/trainmaster/NTS-Fans01.jpg The nice thing
      about having chairs in front of the VEC was that even the youngest, and the
      oldest or most tired train enthusiast, could relax and enjoy the trains.
      http://members.home.net/trainmaster/NTS-Fans02.jpg

      From my vantage point to the side of the suit cases, I could operate three
      trains, make the turntable rotate, open and close the round house doors,
      blow the steam whistle or the diesel horn and switch trains out of the Val
      Ease West station. http://members.home.net/trainmaster/NTS-Me.jpg

      It was time for another quick run around the show. My mission: get close
      to and invite Andy Sperandeo, editor of Model Railroader magazine over to
      the layout.

      I headed for the MR booth and I was in luck. Not only was Andy S. there but
      he had Jim Heidiger with him. Jim is the publisher of MR and the editor of
      Great Model Railroads annual. I managed to rudely interrupt a fan in order
      to get Andy's attention. After a brief introduction of the Val Ease
      Central's pedigree, I invited Andy and Jim over. Both said they wouldn't
      miss the opportunity and would be over later in the afternoon.

      Well, I practically floated back to the layout where I informed Marthe and
      Titi that MR would be over later. Finally they would see my layout and
      naturally they would offer to publish an article, heck, a series about the
      VEC and it's builder, of course. Marthe laughed out loud. You're dreaming,
      I remember her saying. "They'll never come, so get used to disappointment!"
      I think I replied wittily, "Oh yeah!"

      Believe it or Not, Marthe was RIGHT! Not only did they not show up, they
      left the show all together. My beef is that they didn't simply say that
      they didn't have the time, or that they had to catch a plane, or that they
      didn't give a sh__ about Z scale. Anything but making me look stupid in
      front of my wife. On second thought, she is used to that anyway. I guess
      we'll just have to wait a while longer for an article. (SIGH, I hate it when
      she's right!)

      Guess what? While I was wasting my time with Andy Sperandeo at MR, George
      Menzie, esteemed Z_scale forum member, and marketing manager from
      Micro-Trains Lines came over to the layout in the company of Eric Smith, VP
      sales. Marthe had a good chat with them! Fortunately for me George said
      that he would be back later in the show. This time however, I didn't take
      any chances...after making sure that all was well with the trains, I left
      the VEC in Marthe's capable hands and went right over to the MTL booth.
      (Sorry, I did take pictures but I can't find the film!!!)

      At the MTL booth, I introduced myself to George and Eric and thanked them
      for Micro-Trains sponsorship of the Val Ease Central in the miniature
      exhibit at the Qu�bec Museum of Civilization from April 1997 to April 1998.
      MTL supplied 2 F7's in UP colors and 8 freight cars also in UP colors as
      well as motor brushes and periodic servicing.

      (Aside: to MTL's credit, the F7 ran 8 hours a day, 6 days a week for a full
      12 months without failure. Every 2 weeks, a technician would swap the F7's
      for an occasional wheel cleaning.)

      As promised, I presented George with an exclusive Val Ease Central lapel pin
      as a souvenir of his visit to the VEC during the National Train Show.
      http://members.home.net/trainmaster/VEC-Pin.jpg

      George and I took a few minutes to discuss the future of North American Z
      scale. We commiserated over the premature demise of Rogue Locomotive Works
      and we wish Bob Bouchard a rapid return to health. George said that MTL is
      committed to Z scale and that several new products were in development.
      Under an oath of secrecy, he confided in me about some of the projects.
      When MTL finally announces the NEWS, remember that you almost heard it here
      first!

      (Hey George, why don't you make your announcements on the Z_scale list. Now
      there's an idea!)

      The crowds were heavy all day Saturday. Sunday was looking like more of the
      same. I still had hopes of seeing the president of M�rklin USA and maybe
      finding something to buy!

      The show closed at 6 pm. We covered up the layout, packed up Titi and
      headed out to the 85 degree heat of Saint Paul. One day to go...and here
      are two close-ups of the layout. Sorry about the picture resolution.

      This is Val Ease East showing the ISM heavy Pacific conversion on the
      turntable. You may also notice on the Left the yellow UP Russell snow plow
      that I built starting from a M�rklin caboose. The water tower and the
      coaling station in front of the round house are scratch built from styrene
      and aluminum foil. The chimney of the heating plant (left) produces smoke
      and the large station in the back has platform lighting, a blinking warning
      beacon and provides a uniquely inventive solution to hiding the 3% grade up
      to the rear bridge section. http://members.home.net/trainmaster/VEC-VEE1.jpg

      The second scene is an aerial shot of Val Ease West looking left towards the
      bridge section. You can see a UP freight on a passing track, the passenger
      train making its way downgrade to the right and the tourist excursion train
      at the VEW station. This train is made up of a UP railbus pulling a scratch
      built open tourist gondola followed by the M�rklin UP Golden Spike caboose.
      A bright young girl asked me why there were people in the gondola but nobody
      in the railbus, the caboose or in any of the passenger coaches...now there's
      a good question! http://members.home.net/trainmaster/VEC-VEW1.jpg

      Stay tuned for the fourth and not quite final episode of this series coming
      later this week, I promise...


      Submitted for your enjoyment by
      Jeffrey MacHan
      CEO Val Ease Central Railroad
    • BJKRONEN@aol.com
      Jeffery: Still another well written documentary of the show. Thanks. Good writing is seldom seen on the web. ... Feather Well, you can wake up now. In this
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 7, 1999
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        Jeffery:

        Still another well written documentary of the show. Thanks. Good writing is
        seldom seen on the web.

        > I have a dream...a dream that one day Model Railroader will run an article
        > about Z scale...the last one they printed dates back 11 years to the
        Feather

        Well, you can wake up now. In this month's MR that just arrived, it talks
        about next month's issue......which includes an article on a Z scale layout.

        Bill Kronenberger
        Houston
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