These excerpts from our club newsletter the Waybill have been selected from several past issues. For more newsletter clippings, see page 1 and page 2.
by Michael McConnell (published February/March 2000)
On a brisk sunny Saturday in March, 10 members of the South Jersey S-Gaugers joined in on a day trip to Flyertown, an American Flyer operating museum run by Joe and Florence (Flo) Jones. This trip has become an annual event for our club, and has been well worth the one hour drive to the New Jersey shore. Flyertown is located on Route 9 just North of Route 83 in Clermont, NJ.
The members who joined in on the trip this year were John and Harry Anneley, Joe Balcer, Dan De Santis, Michael McConnell, Dave Pierce, Rich Raighn, Joe Sullivan, Tom Williams, and Hank Worrell. For most of the members, the day started with breakfast at Dino's Diner just up the road from the museum. After breakfast, we joined the rest of the gang at Flyertown.
The Flyertown Toy Train Museum is the product of several years of dedicated work by Joe Jones and his wife Flo. Joe started building the museum in 1995, next door to his home. The building includes a large layout room with a small adjoining sales shop that features mostly S-Gauge products.
Joe realized a dream of his when he opened the doors of the museum in 1997. The museum is open almost every weekend of the year, and some weeknights during the summer. Flo helps out with the layout and operating the store, and it's obvious she has endorsed Joe's involvement with his hobby.
Joe's museum features around-the-room shelves displaying over 100 catalog sets of American Flyer trains, plus every set made by Lionel American Flyer. Individual pieces on display include most of the annual freight cars produced by the TCA and NASG. Other displays include samples of early American Flyer catalogs and other promotional items.
The layout itself is an imposing structure that fills the center of the large room. The 16x24 foot layout features over 400 feet of Gargraves track on three levels. The 18 pair of Flyer switches allows seven trains to be operated simultaneously with another three trains waiting on sidings for their chance to perform.
The scenery on the layout is well done. There are several urban areas that feature buildings by Dept 56, Corber, Lofton as well as Plasticville. The main city scene is the most striking with the scratch-built skyscrapers and large buildings made out of foam-core panels. Other areas of the layout represent rural and industrial regions. All of the track is ballasted using black roofing stone, and the trackage runs through the mountains and over the valleys via trestles and bridges. A lot of attention to detail is apparent with the streets full of people and vehicles. I counted 16 operating accessories scattered throughout the layout. I'm not sure who enjoys the accessories more, the visitors or Joe - as he obviously likes to demonstrate the Flyer action products. In between the action, Joe turns out the 'sun' and runs trains at 'night' with the building and street lights on.
The rolling stock features engines and passenger and freight cars from American Models and S-Helper Service as well as American Flyer. Occasionally, you can get a glimpse of the new RDC car by Pennsylvania Heritage Models cruising through town. I thoroughly enjoy just watching the trains snake their way through the scenery, and inhaling as much Flyer smoke as I can - after all, the experience has to last until next year!
by Ed Claypool and Michael McConnell (published Dec '00/Jan '01)
On a rainy cold January evening during a local "open house" event for model railroading, Hank Worrell, Ed Claypool, Joe Balcer, Dan DeSantis and Michael McConnell joined for an excursion of several local layouts.
The second stop on the list is almost beyond description, and it was enough to take your breath away. ‘Doc’ Patti (who’s a real doctor by the way) is easily in the Master Craftsman Skills category. I was simply not prepared for the unbelievable detail in Doc Patti’s layout. Doc models in On3 Gauge and the close-to S-scale track with O scale scenery and rolling stock makes a very satisfying combination. Docs’ logging and mining town layout is not physically that large, a wall-hugging dog bone shape featuring one main line track and a few sidings that form a basic loop. Since Doc is much more interested in the scenery aspect of model railroading, the trains are basically considered part of the scenery - the emphasis is on the detailed buildings, landscaping and people. But, oh what scenery it is!
Every item on the layout is scratch built (in fact, the only complete item purchased was the Shay engine) and that includes the rolling stock! Let me give you an idea of the detail Doc has been able to achieve; he built an engine house - well that actually doesn’t say much. Let’s start over. Doc started by making hundreds of scale-size bricks. (I did mention he was a real doctor? Well, he has easy access to plaster. Special fine strong plaster – like they use to make casts, and it makes pretty darn good bricks too.) Then he colored the bricks and literally built the engine house brick-by-brick. He built the floor and roof board-by-board, and then added little details like nut/bolt castings, debris, tools, lights, people, empty beer bottles, pieces of engines . . . well, you get the idea. The engine house is a masterpiece. But that’s not the impressive part. Every single item – the buildings, trees, people, vehicles, simply everything on the layout, has received the same care and attention to detail. It’s kinda’ scary actually. You would expect scenes nearest the edge of the layout to be detailed, but not the areas at the back of the layout. I don’t know how much time has been devoted to the labor-of-love this layout represents, but it has to be considerable. We had to finally drag ourselves away - kicking and whimpering - in order to have time to visit the last layout on the tour.
You may be wondering why S enthusiasts would take the time to visit layouts of other gauges. Well, the answer is easy - it’s all about learning. Despite the scale used, the techniques and ideas are universal. If I have learned anything, I’ve learned very well that I have a LONG way to go in my modeling skills. SJSG hopes to co-ordinate a play-trains night soon that will allow club members to have a chance to see these excellent demonstrations of modeling up-close and personal. Bring your camera!
by Ed Claypool (published Dec '00/Jan '01)
The third and final leg of the NMRA Layout tour brought us to the home of an old and valued friend of our club, Mert Gardner. Many of you will recall that in the semi-nascent days of our club, while Mert was President of the Mideastern Region of the NMRA, he became one of our biggest boosters. Mert is easily a member of that exclusive group of master modelers, and is a longtime teacher in the hobby.
Mert's layout, the Denver and Rio Grande Western, runs from Green River to Soldier Summit, going through Helper, Thompson, Sunnyside, Cisco, Somerset, Fruita, Grand Junction and Provo. A spectacular gorge is located between Fruita and Grand Junction. All of the points along Mert's D&RGW line are modeled after actual places, from pictures Mert gleans from his extensive railroad library. This is true modeling, and the layout really comes to life as trains traverse from one location to another, from coal fields, through mountain passes, city scenes, under snow sheds and over mountains and gorges.
Mert uses a radio control system and hand-held throttles to run the layout. There is true railroad operation, thanks to a fine system of block controls placed strategically throughout the routes. Mert is not shy about sharing the secrets of great model railroading, and is pro-active in offering anyone who will listen all kinds of tips and secrets. Mert is a walking encyclopedia of model railroad expertise!
Mert can also spin a good story with a tremendous sense of humor, and believe me, his many years in this hobby lead to a lot of wild stories. On this evening, the South Jersey S Gaugers were the fortunate recipients of both some wild and true tales and a lot of model railroad tips.
by Michael McConnell (published March/April 2001)
What a plan - spend the morning browsing through the Nur Temple train show, and the afternoon marveling at Dave Pierce’s huge American Flyer layout – it just doesn’t get any better than that!
Eleven members of the SJSG (John Anneley and his wife and son Harry, Tommy MacDonald, Larry Gawlinski, Rich Raine, Dan DeSantis, Hank Worrell, Michael McConnell, Wayne Schneyer, Bob Foster and Dave Pierce) met early in the morning at the Nur Temple train show in Delaware to satiate their hunger for additional train stuff. It didn’t take long! In about two hours, we were ready to make the cross-country excursion to Dave’s sprawling AF layout. We all piled into six cars and made like a train following Dave - a very necessary procedure since no one could ever find Dave’s place on their own.
Dave’s layout is enormous! It runs the 60 foot length of his basement and is 11 feet deep at the widest, narrowing to seven feet. To accommodate the layout, Dave knocked out one wall of his basement and extended the track into a crawl space. He even had to put in a closed-circuit video system to keep an eye on the trains at the far end of the layout! There are three levels of track with the capability to run five trains simultaneously. Two tracks can be original AC Flyer - the remaining tracks will accommodate DC or, by using NCE’s powerpack, DCC-equipped engines. Dave’s layout uses Gargraves track and has 30 highly modified Flyer switches throughout.
Dave’s modified Flyer switches are worth a special note. Many of you saw Dave’s clinic at a recent meeting on how to modify a flyer turnout radius from a #3 to about a #4. In addition, the circuit that powers the switch solenoid is enhanced by a 35 volt capacitive punch that throws the turnout with authority – no more sticky Flyer switches on this layout! Dave also unveiled his latest modification – he’s replaced the turnout tower (that houses the red/green indicator bulb) with a snazzy ˝" square acrylic lens that covers two red and green "grain-‘o-wheat" bulbs. Yes, Dave cut the tower off and covered the hole with a flat plate that sports a little block that glows red or green. You can see the turnout alignment from anywhere on the layout! With a little paint and scenery applied to imply a ballasted roadbed, and a rolling green hill that covers the wire connectors, you don’t recognize the turnout at all. Amazing!
Dave also showed off his DCC controlled crane car. Made with parts from an American Flyer crane car and a depressed-center flat car, Dave added two motors to control raising and lowering the hook and the boom, and one motor to turn the crane left and right. Since the crane is controlled with DCC, he can run it anywhere on the layout.
I won’t even mention the new addition of a 22" Bowser turntable and roundhouse at the switch yard, raised platforms at the passenger and freight stations, as well as hundreds of new scenery items that were added to the layout since I last saw it. Dave admits his layout is still a work in progress and there are a few roughed-in items that need to be detailed. But I think it is quickly becoming a showcase layout that nicely demonstrates what can be done in S.
Lest you think that the only thing Dave has to offer is the layout itself, his train room is one of the most complete displays of S products around. Everything from a fine American Flyer UP set to a nice brass engine are lined up all around the basement on 3" shelves. If you want to see anything run on the layout, just ask Dave. His philosophy is, the trains were made to run – not sit on the shelf. So we had the chance to see some nice examples of S gauge in motion.
Enthusiastic railroading can generate a powerful hunger. . .and Dave was kind enough to provide a nice spread for lunch. Take my word for it, there is simply nothing better than munching on ham and cheese sandwiches and inhaling fine vintage Flyer smoke – a magnificent ending to a Flyer-filled Sunday. Thanks a bunch Dave!
by Michael McConnell (published Jan/Feb 2002)
On Saturday December 29th, several members of the South Jersey S Gaugers made their annual trek to Strasburg, PA - the mecca of railroading in this region. In attendance this year were Hank Worrell, Joe Balcer, Walt Mumie, Joe Sullivan, Don McGinnis, Dan DeSantis, and Michael McConnell. The day turned out to be a brisk and mostly sunny day, perfect for a picture-taking excursion.
We followed our tried-and-true itinerary - a tour of the National Toy Train Museum and neighboring Strasburg Railroad; a quick pause for lunch at Isaac’s followed by an eagerly awaited visit to Bob Board’s All Aboard Railroad, plus a stop at the Strasburg Hobby shop. To top off the trip, most of the club members take in some refreshments at the Corn Crib before the long drive home.
We started our day at 9:30am by meeting up with Jim Lyle, Mike Packi and Jeff Leeking at the Toy Train Museum. Jim is a volunteer at the museum and took our members on a personal "behind-the-scenes" tour of the museum. Jim took the time to show us the electronics that runs the Flyer display in the museum and explain how the layout came to be; along with some of the future plans to remodel the display.
Our next stop at the Strasburg Railroad included a private tour of the "J" tower - a relocated and restored switch tower from the PRR. The second floor of the tower still contains a rack of switch control levers. Jim and Jeff gave us some insight on a day in the life of a tower operator. All of the SJSG members agreed the visit was very interesting and informative and wish to express their thanks to Jim, Mike and Jeff.
As usual we made our traditional stop at Isaacs, an excellent restaurant that features some really great sandwiches and soup. Our next stop is on the north side of Lancaster at Bob Board’s All Aboard railroad - a traditional model railroad display that features original American Flyer as well as new equipment from S Helper Service and American Models. Bob’s layout is always a treat as the layout room is surrounded with displays of almost every piece of rolling stock made by A.C. Gilbert. Much can be learned on the history of Flyer by reading the displays notes. We were among the first to see the maiden run of the new American Models J3A Empire State Express set. The chrome and black engine made a very nice presence on the layout, and seemed to run well.
As the sun starts to go down, we all head back to Strasburg to stop by the hobby shop and browse through the video tapes and magazines. Sometimes there are some excellent buys to be had on the discount table. Actually, one of the reasons we stop is just to warm up a little!
Our final stop at the Corn Crib is usually the most entertaining of the day. This little tavern has a rather colorful proprietor who has no qualms about voicing his opinion of just about anything. He has also mastered the art of illusion and entertains (or is that embarrass) his clientele with a barrage of tricks. At any rate, it’s always an interesting visit.
We’ve already made plans for next years trip - better mark your calendars!
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