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Train Weasel Adventures
26th National Narrow Gauge Convention Experience
August 21st - 26th, 2006

by Gary & Alex Myers

Monday, Aug 21st - Durango or Bust!

Left town about 7:45 AM, with surprisingly light traffic for rush hour, and headed south on I-225 to I-25, then south to Pueblo. We took US 50 west, to Canon City, where we stopped for a few minutes at the Royal Gorge Railroad Depot to get a few souveniers, just as the Royal Gorge train disappeared down the tracks, headed for the Gorge. We spent a lot of time there looking around before deciding on what new shirts & patches to buy, then saddled back up the Mustang.

We whipped along US 50, following the tracks and observing the sites. We caught up to the train sitting at Parkdale as we flew by. At Salida, I had to tank up at a Shell station. Off again, we went through Poncha and Monarch, coming down at Sargents (the tank and a few buildings still there), and on.

We noted at Parlin the topography, but did not stop. The track came very close to the road, which wraps around just north of the stockpens (still there) and yard (yep, flat toward the backdrop behind the tracks, no cuts.) The hill in the distance is very large and we need model a smaller portion of it, with it extending above the fascia and being cut away, sort of like the scenery at Red Hill - so SLMI-Afficionados be not dismayed at the tear out of scenery at the Gunnison-Parlin curve, that area was out of proportion anyway!

On through Gunnision and the Black Canyon, and on the way to Montrose we noted a stand of old West style buildings in a row on the south side of US 50, but we kept going. At Montrose, we turned south on US 550, and sprinted around cars all the way down through Ridgeway, Ouray, Silverton and finally Durango.

We pulled into the town around 3:30 PM and registered at the Double Tree (a block from the D&SNG Depot). We received our shirts & mugs we ordered, and also received commemorative convention pins and replica passes of Otto Mears Silver Anniverary Pass. We only had received 1 commemorative pin in Alex's and my joint registation package (spouses aren't charged registration, but they had no other family discounts, so Alex was listed under spouse, so I only had to pay one registration. last year in Dearborn, we registered separately but paid twice.) Well, we received an additional pin without any hassle which was really nice. We chose two sets of Theatre tickets and signed up for a yard tour. With that, we went to the Iron Horse Inn. Luckily, we had no problem getting our room switched to trackside, as our reservation had been taken incorrectly, but this was fixed at the desk when we checked in.

The Iron Horse Inn is a few miles north of Durango, situated adjacent to the right of way, so we literally stepped from the front door of our hotel room onto the RR property. From there, we were able to get a lot of great photo opportunities and we took advantage of that. The trains would be 15 minutes from arrival or departure from Durango's depot so we had no trouble knowing when the trains were due!

For dinner, we went to KFC but forgot to use our convention provided discount!! After that, we went through the convention schedule and figured out what clinics to see and when, and how we could cram in as much as possible! Finally, with that aside, we set up our portable TV/DVD set and watched (THANK GOD FOR) Otto Perry's "Around the Narrow Gauge Circle" DVD, and then crashed and went to sleep. All the suites are bi-level so Alex claimed the bed in the loft!

Tuesday, Aug 22nd - RR Potpourri


Waking up bright and early, we got ready and had our Iron Horse Inn complimentary breakfast. Then, we scouted a location to take pictures from for the 8:15 and 9:00 trains, with them arriving at the Iron Horse Inn 15 minutes later. Luckily, we were smart enough to bring a pair of our fold up camping chairs so we could await the trains in stlye & comfort!
8:15 train with our Inn in the background, with only my red Mustang all alone parked in front of our room!K-36 #486 on the point of the 9:00 train
Yard Tour

Following our photoshoot, we went down to the Depot for our 11:00 yard tour. While we waited on that, we went through the gift shop (more shirts, patches, a neat plaque of the Rio Grande Railway system as it existed in 1923 -near the D&RGW's zenith - as quoted from the back of the plaque!), museum, and the contest models on display. Our Yard tour was fun, getting to walk through the maintenance buildings, part of the new roundhouse, paint shed and car facility, and visit areas in the yard. Very educational first hand experience, and fun! Luckily for us, it was cooler outside than inside the buildings that day,even though it was a nice sunny day. While we were beginning the tour outside, they brought K-28 #473 fresh out of the paint shed for the first time for everyone to see, so that was a little special! #473 had been repainted in the Bumble Bee livery for the 8th Annual Rail Fest, going on the same week as the convention, to pull a few special trains. I also got a first hand look at the 'ballast' in the yard, to help me refine my scenery in the Salida Transfer Yard. Nothing beats being there.
K-28 #473 pulled from the paint shed by "Big Al"K-28 #473 in Bumble Bee Livery
After the Yard Tour we were beat, so we dragged ourselves over to McDonald's for a lunch, walked back over to the Double Tree to where we parked, and went back to the hotel and took a nap!!


We woke up at 2:37PM, and our movie was at 3:00!! We drove back down to the Double Tree and parked, and high tailed it over to the Abbey (Normal) Theatre, for our Convention provided showing of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. We got there with time to spare to buy popcorn and drinks, before the movie began. The RR scenes in the movie were filmed on the Durango & Silverton. Watching the film in a theatre was a treat! Following our movie, we walked across the street to Farquahrts and Pizza Mia and ate a whole pizza. I still have my convention coupons for them, too.


After dinner and back at the Double Tree, we sat in on two clinics with standing room only. We arrived early and sat near the front in both clinics. The first, "Photographing the Light", by Kim Scott, was very good and we each received a free 2007 calendar of his railroad photography. For the second clinc of the evening, we watched an enjoyable presentation of "Snow Fighting in the San Juans", by Keith Koch. There were 4 clinics going on simultaneously, and we had to skip some we wanted to see because there were so many things to do, and I couldn't even write everything we did during the day! The last clinic ended around 9:30, so we went back to our Inn for some much more needed sleep!

Wednesday, Aug 23rd - Finally the Trade Show!

Waking up bright and early again, we got ready and had our Iron Horse Inn complimentary breakfast at 6:30 AM. We left for the hotel early to park and a front row seat for our morning clinic.

Morning Clinics

Even though the first clinic started at 8:00, we got there plenty early. By 7:45 AM, it was already standing room only (again!). This clinic was entitled, "Pulling Gears, Quartering Drivers", by David Brown. In it, we learned of the proper use and techniques for using the latest NWSL and various tools and problems encountered for remounting drivers and wheels. Our clinic ended early so we made haste over to the La Plata County Fairgrounds (back in town along US 550) to the Trade Show (not enough room at the Double Tree!), which was to finally open at 9 AM!

Trade Show

Finally! After standing in line with the throngs and multitudes waiting to gain entry, we entered the long anticipated trade show! Alex and I hurriedly scanned every vendor, searching for a brass T-12 coveted by Alex, and offered by a few during the 25th NNGC for as low as $125! But Alas! The expensive costs of tables drove away the small time vendors with their lower prices, and no T-12 was to be found! I assured Alex I would continue the search for him, and some day that engine would be his! Meanwhile, we went back to the tables to find treasures abounding.

We met up with good friend Mike Pyne and his wife of Wild West Scale Models to see what new kits they had! Of course, we had to buy a couple to put on the club layout. With our purchase, I received a free Wild West Scale Models T-Shirt! Mike decided Alex needed one too, so we both went away very happy and richer.

We also met up with Art Lort of Caboose Hobbies and Tom Fitzgerald of Crystal River Products, who were out enjoying the convention.

We met up with Joe a few times, and we went over to talk with Joel Bragdon about which rock molds would be appropriate for the Royal Gorge, and Joe bought a few old and new (not yet cataloged - or priced!).

Alex and I bought a pile of Chooch loads, from his overstock supply, for more cars than I'll probably ever need. I finally got a G-scale figure of a truck driver, and with some modifications, will make a good reading customer for our G-Scale outhouse. Speaking of G-Scale, F-Scale is now the official Scale for Narrow Gauge on G-Scale track (I think!). The NMRA still hasn't cleared this mess up, they call everything big G-Scale, but there is No.1 (1/32nd), G, F, and Fn3? Hopefully, this will get sorted out in the near future! I bought a 1950 and 1956 D&RGW Time Table to help with designing Modern Operating sessions for you diehard Diesel Weasels out there!! We didn't buy much at the show that day, so it was a little disappointing, especially with the smaller vendors not attending. Two vendors worked out of their rooms at the Double Tree, so we decided to check on them later.

We met the guys at SoundTraxx and decided to sign up for their factory tour at 1:00 PM. We also saw a display of many of the Blackstone K-27s. They had pre-production models of several, including D&RGW #455 in the green paint. They decided they needed to change the tone of the green, and had a sample boiler painted in a more subdued tone. The SoundTraxx Girl told us they won't be coming out until November!! At least she was cute!

We said goodby to Joe and friends and went over to Wendy's for a quick lunch.


The tour of SoundTraxx was fun. Alex cleaned the ballast off their display module's rails and the engine ran much better! They had only ballasted the night before! The whole company is only around a dozen employees. They stopped farming out decoder production a few years ago because of quality control problems. They assemble all the decoders on site, and use a heat machine to solder each joint. They test each and every decoder before packaging. They check their software for programming every decoder by checking every CV for every possibility for each DCC system available. They package the Tsunami's themselves, and shipping. The biggest problem they have is handling their huge backlog of orders, with their small staff, and they want to keep quality high and keep prices as low as they can, so expect no changes for now. With the large backlog, delays for other projects have been incurred. Blackstone consists of two employees, we saw their cubicles! Diesel decoders won't be out any time soon, and their is no time table for that. We met with the Chief Engineer, who showed us how he takes their sound recordings and puts them together digitally for a decoder. It was a great staff of people who are very dedicated to quality and our hobby. It was a pleasure meeting them and talking with them. You can't go wrong supporting this group of men and women who obviously love our hobby.

Layout Tours

After our industry tour, it was time to visit a few layouts! The ones we chose to see this day were the closest to town. We visited 3 G-Scale (or F-Scaler, actually) layouts, all outdoors. The first was in town, the next two several miles out of town towards Vallecito Lake. We ran out of time trying to visit some additional layouts in the area, because most had closed by 3:00PM or 4:00 PM, (and we were running out of gas!). So, we went back to town, gassed up, grabbed some take-out from Subway to enjoy back at the hotel.

Photo Shoot II

While we enjoyed our dinner and snacks back at the Iron Horse Inn, we mananged another photo shoot of the trains returning to Durango.
K-36 #482 heading in to DurangoK-36 #486 right behind, 45 minutes later

Evening Clinics

The evening clinics were at 7:00 PM and 8:30 PM, with 4 offered at each time.

First we enjoyed "Big Sound from Little Trains", by Steven Dominguez, the Chief Engineer from SoundTraxx. He talked about various speaker applications, how the sound systems work, what kind of speaker arrangements to build, how to install them, some neat tricks, some new sound products, a neat clinic while a thunderstorm raged outside deluging outdoor guests with buckets. You can see in the photos above the weather was a little overcast only an hour or so before. Guys were laying in the aisle and standing out in the hallway for this clinic.

Our 8:30 PM standing room only clinic was "Fast and Easy Weathering", by Joel Bragdon. Having used the Bragdon weathering powders by both Alex and myself, we were familiar with most of the techniques explained by Joel. Still, we both learned of new things to try and do, and of new products we would have to go back to the Trade Show and buy! The clinic concluded with everyone receiving a free resin junk pile of various scales to practice weathering, that they could take home and stick somewhere on their layout.

Night Cap

We left the Double Tree in the darkened, clear skies of Durango, noticing the large standing puddles of water, and headed back to the Iron Horse Inn. For that evening, we enjoyed a board game (Carcasonne), that we brought from home with us, back in our hotel room before calling it a night!

Thursday, Aug 24th - RR Potpourri Part Deux

Having our usual Iron Horse Inn complimentary breakfast at 6:30 AM, we joined a large tour group and were barely able to find a seat!. We left for the convention early again to park and get that front row seat again for our morning clinic. This time, it filled even earlier, but we still sat up near the front.

Morning Clinics

The morning clinics were at 8:00 AM, 9:30 AM, and 11:00 AM, with 4 offered at each time, Wednesday - Saturday.

Our first clinic, "21st Centur Weathering", by Jimmy Booth, explained the latest tried and true methods of weathering using MEK and an airbrush, especially helpful steam locomotive weathering techniques. Another packed house.

We followed up that clinic with "Modeling Water", by Joel Bragdon. We would have gone to the trade show again but I wasn't going to skip a clinic by Joel. This time he talked about the various water products available and how to use them, including his new water products. Joel Bragdon is a chemist by trade by the way, and a model railroader, in case you wondered. Joel's products are very similar to the Woodland Scenics products we have used, but may be superior although more expensive. Joel pointed out that epoxies such as EnviroTex, all age yellow with time, and should not be used where you want clear, shallow water, but are fine if you color the 'water'. He also recommended not coloring streams, especially blue, he emphasized they should be clear and the botom of the river darker (greens/browns) toward the middle to simulate depth. He also showed how to build large to small waterfalls.

Return to the Trade Show

Returning to the Trade Show, and after purposely wearing our Wild West Scale Models T-Shirts, Mike of Wild West had his wife take our pictures to put on their website! They had a really neat new kit out, Franke Furniture, which I would really like to place in West Salida, but I decided I would need to do some research to see if it would really belong in there. It is an awesome kit. The club currently has Wild West's Miner's Supply (Crested Butte), Bakery (Crested Butte when Joe ever gets it done!!), Harvey's Hardware (Crested Butte), Soon 2B Saloon (Parkdale), several outhouses (Parkdale so far), Earl Lee Store (Crested Butte), and the Boreas Section House to be built, awaiting an assignement.

We ran into Phil & Joe, bought some weathering stuff from Bragdon Enterprises, and I bought another Narrow Gauge Pictorial, this time Volume IV, Stock, Gondolas and Tank Cars of the D&RGW. We talked with some more vendors and the guys from LGB. LGB has got a new product out that lets you hook up what is basically radio DCC to the rails for your Garden Railway. No batteries in cars, just electricity through the rails, which apparently holds up well in the weather, because the layouts we visitied all ran that way. LGB is also bringing out new nickel silver track! I wonder how much that will cost?

Somewhere along the way back in the Double Tree, Alex and I tagged up the Proprietor of Room 340. I purchased a pair of Grandt Line Flat Car kits and Alex lucked out getting an Alamosa Shops (2) Flat Cars Kit.

Lunch & A Movie

We only had time for a quick bite for lunch, so we had a couple slices of pizza at Farqhrts and Pizza Mia across from the Depot, and then went to the 12:30 PM showing of "Denver & Rio Grande", at the Abbey (Normal) Theatre, across the street. In that movie, the Hollywood version of the Royal Gorge War is told, with the culmination of Engines #319 and a C-19 stand-in for #268 (I think it was #340), but a great bit of fun with the Rio Grande history, filmed in 1951 along the D&S line, starring Edmond O'Brien. Lots and lots of filming of the D&RG equipment and railroad. I was lucky enough to find the DVD the next day in Silverton to purchase, but I can't give away tomorrow, just yet!

Photo Shoot III

After the movie, we went over to the Depot where they prepared K-28 #473 with a mixed freight, for a special photo shoot. We took some pictures, headed back to the Iron Horse Inn for our next photo shoot.
K-28 #473 preparing with mixed freightMixed freight included passenger, flats, box cars and the K-28 #473 in Bumble Bee livery
K-28 #473 approaching the Iron Horse Inn with thr mixed freight Special Mixed freight Special heading to Cascade Canyon, for a photo shoot at Rockwood

Layout Tour II

After photos, we had time for another Layout Tour. On the way, we stopped along the highway (US 550) to scoop up some red and orange dirt in some containers we purchased at Albertsons yesterday, (or was it the day before?). Today, we finally saw an HOn3 layout, the Arizona/Colorado branch of the Mudhens, featured in the July/August Issue of Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette, Volume 32, Number 3. They had a model of the Alpine Tunnel, and Corkscrew Gulch. Actually, we also had time somewhere in the past few days to check out the modular layouts in the downstairs area of the Double Tree, of various scales. Each module had its intersting points, and it was fun to see how everyone else does track and scenery. I should mention that I thought the scenery on Blackstone's module at SoundTraxx was on a par with the best of what we saw, and I think the scenery on our own layout is up there as well. We are only lacking the details. With layouts relatively early and the next clinic not until 7:00 PM, we had time to go back to the Iron Horse Inn for a nice swim, in their large, deep, indoor pool. We ended up hanging out at the Inn eating our snack foods and waiting for the return of the daily trains for more photos.

Evening Clinics

At 7:00 PM, with standing room only as usual, was "Two Dimensional Illusions", by Michael Stangler, which was about backdrop painting techniques and tips. We cut short our clinic night and skipped the 8:30 clinics.

Night Cap II

For a late dinner, we stopped at the Dairy Queen for some desserts along the way to the Iron Horse Inn. That night, we watched the rest of "Soldier Summit Reflections", left over from a club video nightthat we had cut short to work on some scenery. We also knew the Mixed Special was due, so we waited for a possible night shot, our efforts below:
K-28 #473 Mixed Freight Special, a blur in the night ...Ghost of #473

Friday, Aug 25th - Silverton!

Morning Clinics

First up at 8:00, with standing room only as usual, was "Scratchbuilding with Wood", by Chuck Lind, with much of his clinic described in the December 2005 and May 2006 issues of Scale Rails. The clinic was very good and we left armed with more knowledge than we knew what to do with. We cut out from the clinics after the first one with our planned day to spend at Silverton.

Silverton Adventures

We caught and passed the morning trains on the way to Silverton. We sped up the passes on US 550 and arrived in Silverton an hour and a half before the first train would arrive. We walked around the Silverton yard, taking photos of various equipment; the Casey Jones, the derelict (but still rennovatable K-37 No. 493, a burro crane, ex-White Pass & Yukon water car, box cars, work cars, drop bottom gondolas among others.
Casey JonesSilverton Depot (& Museum)
Old Ticket OfficeDerelict K-37 No. 493
We had to put our jackets on while the air cooled, the first time we needed more than shirt sleeves all week. A good thing, too, we waited out in sprinkes and the cool morning air before the first train arrived almost an hour late! The second train was due right after, and showed up 20 minutes later. We waited awhile for Motor No. 5 (the Dolores Galloping Goose!), but it proved elusive to our cameras again, as it had done repeatedly all week. Several times the darn thing snuck up on us at the Iron Horse or on the line when we didn't have our cameras, but we were determined we would get some photos today (especially since it was scheduled for Railfest to spend the night at Silverton!).
The 11:30 Train at 12:30!!486 brings in the 12:15 twenty minutes later!
We went to lunch at High Noon Hamburgers, just before the drenching rains began. When we were done, we went out into a light rain/sprinkle as we scoured shops for more souvenirs. Alex found some nice new pins and traded his UP Challenger for a Rio Grande Action Road pin. As I said earlier, I found a DVD of "The Denver & Rio Grande" by Parramount Pictures. As we waited for a shop keeper to pack the antique vase we got for Michelle, we watched another deluge of rain hammer down on the tourists in shorts, flip flops, and new sweatshirts and ponchos. Finally, it was time to head back to the to see the Goose and then head back to Durango, with the rain suddenly subsiding to no more than a drizzle for the rest of our stay in town.
Motor No. 5, the "Dolores Galloping Goose""Builder's Plate" shot of Motor No. 5


We arrived back in Durango at dinner time, and we planned to go out someplace special. We did not take the $100 per person BBQ train with the Bumble Bee, nor did we plan to attend the Convention Banquet on Saturday night. So, we decided the appropriate dinner on our final night was to be at the Steamworks Brewing Co. It was only a few blocks from the Depot, not on the main drag, and hopefully not crowded and we had a 7:00 PM clinic to go to! So we raced down there, (we still stopped off along the way to scoop up another sample of red Durango dirt!!), got our names in about 5:40 PM and waited. We finally got seated at around 6:10 (Friday night!), ordered the Special Orange Almond Beef, home made Root Beer and Cream Soda, and of course a pair of shirts. I couldn't pass up a chance of a shirt with SteamWorks as its monicker! The Root Beer was smooth as a baby's behind, and the Cream Soda, which looked blacker than Coca Cola, tasted like it was filled with a quart of old vamilla ice cream! Then came our entrees, hotter and spicier than an anthracite fed firebox, with plenty of Rocky Mountain fresh ice water to keep our boilers from exploding, but it was damn delicious! By now it was pert near 6:45, so we figured we would be stuck for once on the outside looking in on our 7:00 clinic. We high-tailed it down to the Double Tree, literally jogging/running and walking as fast as we could, after stuffing ourselves! Wouldn't you know it, we get there with a few minutes to spare and the place only a few rows full! Guess a lot of people were on the BBQ train! So, we sat near the front and got to enjoy the evening as the steam escaped our crevices from our meal!

Evening Clinics

Our 7:00 clinc, "Wood 101", by Gerry Cornwell, of Mt. Albert Scale Lumber Co., gave a very entertaining presentation of his company and wood building and weathering techniques. Our final clinic of the convention at 8:00 (there was a full slate of clinics Saturday morning but we planned to skip the last day to head home), was "The Narrow Gauge Circle Today", by Bill Fleisher, who gave a slide presentation and discussion of many of the remaining structures, rolling stock, engines, roadbed/track, etc., that you can still visit now, which was also very fun. Afterwards, we each received a copy of a 1936 D&RGW Time Table.

There were a lot of other activities going on with the convention that we didn't have time for, and I only mentioned a few of the ones we skipped. There were train rides, other industry tours, more layout tours, and the model contest to name a few. I hope our description of our adventures gives you some insight into what a convention can be like. We had fun, ran into old acquaintenances and made some new. This was my 4th and Alex's second National Narrow Gauge Convention, and each has been unique. The next conventions will be 2007 Portland, Maine; 2008 Portland, Oregon; 2009 Colorado Springs, CO; 2010 St. Louis, MO. Alex & I will probably miss 2007-8, but plan to attend 2009 and probably 2010 and are already looking forward to it! Hope some of you make it, plan for the tracks ahead!!

Saturday, Aug 26th - The Voyage Home

Slept in 'til 5:50 AM, went down for our complimentary breakfast at the Iron Horse Inn, came back to pack. Then waited a few minutes until a downpour coming down in buckets subsided to finally load the car! We gassed up in town and pulled out of the Mustang Cononco on US 550 at 7:58 AM.

This time, we headed east on US 160 all the way across Colorado to Walsenberg. Beautiful country, incredible scenery on both sides of Wolf Creek Pass. Saw a Water Tank still in good condition at South Fork. We didn't stop until Alamosa, where we pulled into the Visitor Center off US 160, took some photos of T-12 169 thru the bars of the fence. Somebody explain why there is another small barred fence inside the outer fence?! It serves nothing but interruptive of the view of the engine and Businees Car B-1, both currently undergoing rennovation. With a quick visit to the little boy's room in the Visitor Center, we were off again!
Alamosa's T-12 (4-6-0)No. 169 undergoing rennovation
Across the valley, we hit heavy fog in the mountains as we got near La Veta. Saw no sign of the La Veta Passenger train, but we weren't looking at the schedule to see where it was supposed to be. Finally, we hit I-25 and cruised north.

We pulled into our carport at 2:09 PM, 371 minutes after leaving, with 377 miles on the trip odometer.

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This page last modified 28 August 2006.