GATS report, VEC at Puyallup, WA
- Hi Gang,
As promised here is my report from the Great American Train Show (GATS) held
November 19-20 in Puyallup, Washington. Puyallup is about 45 minutes south
of Seattle, WA and about 20 minutes east of Tacoma, WA. The show was held
in the Western Washington Fairgrounds complex.
My wife and I were both showing layouts at GATS so we decided to leave
Friday afternoon, sleep over in Tacoma and arrive early Saturday morning at
the Fairgrounds in order to set up and test the layouts. This was our third
GATS at Puyallup so we knew the routine. We dropped off the suitcases for
both layouts along with our tool boxes and material cases for the two
workshops that we were scheduled to give each day of the show.
There were a lot of familiar faces...the circus modelers, the live steam
folks, the Garden railroaders and of course many vendors who are regular
members of the train show circuit. There were several very nice modular
groups in N, HO and G. There were club layouts in O scale, O27 (Lionel) and
We arrived at 8:30 and it took us until 10:30 to finish setting up.
Normally I have the VEC up and running in less than an hour but I had to
make a trip to the local Wal-Mart (10 minutes away) to get an extension cord
and an extra power bar. The local fire marshal always makes an inspection
of the electrical setup of the layouts before the show opens. He found that
each of our layouts needed a power bar with overload protection.
Everything was ready to go when the doors opened for the public at 11 am.
From that point on, the crowds didn't stop! Our tables were in a direct
line from the public entrance so everyone who entered the building passed by
our layouts. I didn't sit down until the show closed at 5 pm. It was a
At 3:30 pm I was scheduled to give a workshop on making fir trees for Z and
N scale. I had my wife as an audience! The crowds had no idea where I was
and no one had thought to provide maps or timetables of the workshops to the
public. I made a tree anyway and went back to dmonstrating the Val Ease
Central to the passers-by. I put the tree on the layout so it wasn't
wasted, of course.
Marthe, my wife, gave her workshop to several people at 4 pm. She was
demonstrating how to weather plastic kits using acrylic paints. Her work is
so convincing that people couldn't believe the change she could work on a
piece of plastic.
BTW her layout is also in a 24" x 30" suitcase. She models in HOe scale
which is HO scale running on 30" gauge (N scale) track. Her layout allows
two train operation complete with chuffing and whistle sound effects.
During a show she runs a Roco 0-6-0T pulling 3 two axle passenger cars or
goods wagons and a Liliput 0-6-2T pulling 1 or 2 goods wagons. The trains
run in opposite directions and attract an enormous amount of attention. The
layout is set in the German Alps in the 1920's. It has just been named:
Kofferbahn von Sankt Bartholom�
During the day we had the great pleasure of meeting our friend and fellow
list member, Terry Sutfin. His mission was to track down any Z scale. He
reported that there were two small collections of M�rklin being offered for
outrageous prices. There were no vendors offering Z as far as I could tell.
We met a tremendous number of people who were fascinated by the two layouts.
The nice thing about being up close to people at a train show is that they
share their impressions and ask questions without hesitation. The children
are great fun to watch. They light up when they see the dinosaurs in the
forest and the arc welder in the workshop. Often a child would return to
the layout 3 or 4 times during the day. The kids could touch the suitcases
and derail trains with their breath if they wanted to. It rarely happens
though but their noses are inches away from my passenger train as it cruises
by the Val Ease East tower.
The disadvantage of being so close to the public is that mishaps can occur.
I had more than my average on the first day. I had several derailments in a
tunnel which forced me to shut down the entire layout for the 5 minutes that
it would take me to open up the tunnel, recuperate the train, put it back
into service and replace the tunnel. After the third derailment I realized
that the track going upgrade in the tunnel had slipped out of alignment and
was allowing the train cars to rub against the side wall. The slighest
knock on the table would derail a car if it was going through the bad track
area at the time. Once I had placed the track back on its guide pins,
everything began to run flawlessly and I had no further problems during the
Of course Marthe called me to say that her Roco 0-6-0 had stopped. I
quickly learned how to disassemble, clean and lubricate the little wonder.
It now works like a charm. I decided to give her 2 other Roco locos the
same treatment and her entire stable of locos are great runners now.
As I mentioned in a previous post, many larger scale modelists were
interested in the track plans of the VEC and the number of people with video
and still cameras was impressive. I was especially touched by an elderly
gentleman who asked my permission to take a picture. He was followed by two
young boys 8-9 years of age who each had a disposable camera for the show.
They too asked my permission to take pictures. It's amazing how polite the
people were. Almost everyone who wanted to photograph the layout asked my
permission. Hey, of course you can, that's why I'm at the train show,
The second day was just as crowded and Terry brought his two grandsons to
the show. They seemed to love the spectacle and spent most of the day
there. We had more people at our workshops on the Sunday since the
organiser decided to tell the public where to find us!
We didn't win the grand prize or the second or third prizes for layouts this
time. Marthe tells me that I had the best layout in the show and I tell her
that she had the best layout in the show as well. It's too bad that the
public doesn't vote for the layouts...but we had a great time and we'll be
back next year.
The show attendance was 12,000 which brings the total number of visitors for
the VEC to 537,000. Our next outing will be at the GATS in Portland,
Oregon, February 20-21, 2000. I plan to introduce "Centre Val Ease" at that
time which will complete the full 3 suitcase Val Ease Central.
I'll tell you all about it, complete with photos.
Thanks for reading and go out to a train show.
- Hi Jeffrey,
> Thanks for reading and go out to a train show.it is we (I) who should thank you for the wonderful story of the show.
> I'll tell you all about it, complete with photos.Please do, I really like to see more on your layout and your solutions on
the various problems involved running trains in suitcases. It would also be
very interesting to see pictures etc. of your wife's H0e layout. I'm also
into building a narrow gauge H0e. At the moment I'm characterizing figures.
Stockholm, Sweden (where it during the night snowed quite a bit but it's
sadly melting away at the moment :-).
- Hello Jan,
I appreciate the feedback on my report.
Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you. We were on a shopping trip
to the US even though our dollar is more of a dollarette than real money!
I will scan a couple of photos of the KB (Koffer Bahn) and post them along
with a photo of the PNR-7th Division meet including the Val Ease Central (in
keeping with the subject matter of this list).
I plan to share my secrets of the trade with the Z scale community. Stay
tuned for developments.
Val Ease Central RR (copyright 1993-1999)
>From: "Lowenberg" <jl@...>
>Subject: Re: [z_scale] GATS report, VEC at Puyallup, WA
>Date: Sat, 04 Dec 1999 11:31:49 +0100
> > Thanks for reading and go out to a train show.
>it is we (I) who should thank you for the wonderful story of the show.
> > I'll tell you all about it, complete with photos.
>Please do, I really like to see more on your layout and your solutions on
>the various problems involved running trains in suitcases. It would also be
>very interesting to see pictures etc. of your wife's H0e layout. I'm also
>into building a narrow gauge H0e. At the moment I'm characterizing figures.
> Best regards
> Jan Lowenberg