National Train Show report, Day 3
- 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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
(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
CEO Val Ease Central Railroad
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 articleFeather
> about Z scale...the last one they printed dates back 11 years to the
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.