National Train Show report, Day 4
- National Train Show report, Day 4
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 ;-)
Day 4 began sunny, hot and humid. Once again we were ready to go at 9 am,
an hour before the doors opened to the GENERAL PUBLIC. The layout had
performed flawlessly and the trains had stayed on the track for the most
part. One small set of fingers had managed to upset the regular flow of
traffic but there had been no damage nor missing objects from the layout.
In addition to the sounds, lights and moving trains to attract the little
ones' attention, I had placed a series of 1/220 hand painted pewter
dinosaurs in the forest and clearing overlooking "Iphtaynt" brook,
christened by the intrepid Val Ease pioneer, Don Ficksit.
The 7 dinosaurs included a mother triceratops and two babies, a tyranosaurus
rex, a diplodon, a male and female brontosaurus. Just to confuse everyone,
I added a woolly mammoth to complete the scene.
The kids just love to point out the beasts to their siblings and parents
and, in their enthusiasm, clip a passing train. It all adds to the
Being the last day of the train show, I was determined to do some shopping.
On my list were two books: 1) UP Color Guide to Freight and Passenger
Equipment by Lloyd Stagner and Robert Yanosey 2) UP Color Guide to Freight
and Passenger Equipment Volume 2 by Lou Schmidtz. I wanted these reference
books in order to more accurately model a UP work train and non-revenue
I was able to find the first one at Ron's Books at the show and the second,
eventually, at the Great American Train Store at the Mall of America, no
Also on my shopping list was an electronic flickering campfire circuit by
Miniatronics. I discovered them by way of the NMRA special edition bulletin
which had a map of the vendor locations. I will soon be able to add a hobo
campfire under the foreground traffic bridge.
Unfortunately, Aspen only had preproduction samples at the show. Otherwise
I would have equipped my steam locos with valve gears.
Begin Personal Commentary: As for MTL or M�rklin rolling stock and locos,
there were no bargains to be had at the show. I have often found good
prices at Great American Train Shows (GATS). One vendor in particular,
Internet Trains, has always offered competitive prices. I would therefore
not recommend a national train show to anyone looking for swap meet prices.
If you can't get to a GATS or the Springfield, MA train show try eBay. I
have found the eBay personal shopper function very useful in spotting the
items I am looking for. End Personal Commentary.
The major event of Day four was the much anticipated visit by Frederic
Gates, president of M�rklin USA. Once again I had made a quick shopping
expedition and had returned to the layout to find a distinguished gentleman
peering through the view finder of his camera taking pictures of the Val
Ease Central. http://members.home.net/trainmaster/NTS-Gates01.jpg
Once he had finished struggling with his camera, Mr. Gates and I began an
earnest discussion of the state of the Z scale industry. We touched upon
the prevailing business model of short runs, collector editions, spare part
availability, new product design, competition and market share and so forth.
Curiously enough, both Mr. Gates and Mr. Smith of MTL agreed that they
viewed each other as complementary in the market place and not as
competitors. So much for cut throat capitalism as practised in scale model
What Mr. Gates really wanted to talk about was the possibility of generating
enough interest for a Z scale convention in the USA. He hoped that the
members of this forum might reflect on this issue and make suggestions.
I'm all for it of course and I think Hawaii would be an ideal venue. The
dates would naturally correspond with my next holidays...
Eventually the crowds got more demanding and I had to return to the layout.
Then all of a sudden I came face to face with a red haired imp who wanted to
run the trains, blow the whistle, move the cars, rotate the turntable and
count the dinosaurs, all at the same time!
It was my 4 year old nephew Dustin, accompanied by my brother Jordan, his
wife Tracey and my niece Samantha. They had managed to stop by the train
show on their way back home to Winnipeg, Manitoba from a 30 day motor home
tour of the southern US.
The National Train Show finally came to an end at 6 pm Sunday, July 25,
1999. The official attendance was 19,222.
My brother and family helped us pack up the layout. About 30 minutes after
the end of the show, we were on our way to the Old Country Buffet just a
spit from our motel. We pigged out on the food while complaining about the
heat and the poor organisation of the train show.
I came away from the experience with the realisation that I derive my
pleasure from showing the VEC to kids. The VEC is first and foremost a
display layout. As a result my future plans no longer include the usual
NMRA sponsored meets and train shows as was my past practise. I am now
working on a project to take the Val Ease Central to the Vancouver
Children's Hospital during the Christmas holidays. Seeing the big smiles on
the kids faces and the wonder in their eyes is the best reward in the world.
The next morning Marthe, Titi, Io (our 13 year old female Cornish Rex cat
who had spent the week in the air conditioned comfort of the motel room) and
I bid farewell to Saint Paul and began our two week return voyage home via
La Crosse, WI, Rapid City, SD, Cheyenne, WO, Denver, CO, Boise, ID,
Portland, OR, Seattle, WA and points in between. As a reward for Marthe's
support and patience we planned to stop at every art rubber stamp store on
the way home. There were probably 15 to 20 of them and there was Caboose
Hobbies in Denver!
I hope that you have enjoyed this subjective and very personal account of my
National Train Show experience. As always your comments and questions are
As you may have guessed the road home took a detour to Denver's Caboose
Hobbies which will be the subject of my next epistle to the group.
Submitted for your enjoyment by
CEO Val Ease Central Railroad
- Jeffery, I think that the idea of a Z scale convention is a good one.
It should probably be planed to be relativly sparsly attended though.
Seems to me that since Marlkin and Micro Trains are not "competitors"
they should jointly sponsor the event. (IE pay for the hall). If the
conventions were held in a cool climate during the summer, I could
possibly get my wife to go also. I would suggest somewhere in the
middle of the country. St louis, or KC maybe.
What did you think of the Aspen valve gear? Their web site sure doesn't
do much to inspire me to send a check and clamor for immediate
delivery. Real pictures would help. Do they look like they are a
"craftsman" project of just an average evening project?
- Thanks alot for the great account from the Show, Jeff!
I especially appreciate the way you value the joy you give those who visit
I wish you every success in the further adventures of Val Ease Central!
Thanks for the great report.
Interesting that you should mention the Springfield Ma show. I attended
that show this past Jan and there was no Z to be found! I was disappointed
in that respect. (It was otherwise a good show.) Though I heard rumors that
it was expanding to 3 building next year. I hope to see some Z then!
Judging from the pic, Your Val-Ease Central is a fantastic layout. I would
love to get the opportunity someday to see it up close.