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