Our regular viewers will know Bob Harper and his travels with his Maine style sections of his home layout. His most recent adventure has been to attend The Amherst Railway Show at the Great Eastern Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in January 2018. In this post Bob has written and taken photographs showing how the module is packed to withstand the rigours of airfreight and other travels. Bob’s brother, Gerald, also a keen model railroader lives in Toronto, so it is natural for Bob to travel to Toronto, and then drive down to the US venues.
Before the Amherst show, Bob & Gerald took the opportunity to visit Trevor Marshall to view his home layout Port Rowan in Toronto;-
Bob Harper watches as a freight extra rolls out of Port Rowan, and later commented
“beautiful work, and very British in concept, but sadly not portable of course.”
Click here to visit Trevor’s Port Rowan blog on a new browser page.
Click here to view the Amherst Railway show website on a new browser page.
FRANKLIN GOES TO AMHERST
After the relative ease of taking Franklin to the Narrow gauge Convention in Augusta, Maine in 2016, I got over-ambitious and planned to do it again, but on a larger scale.
There is an enormous general railway show at West Springfield, Massachusetts, every January, put on by the Amherst Railway Society; probably the biggest show in the US, with 8 acres of hall space and around 20-25000 attendees each year. I got cheeky and asked if I could come, and was welcomed with open arms! Fans of The Simpsons will know that they live in W. Springfield! So I arranged for the layout to come with me to Toronto in late January, and we headed off again over the border (a very tedious experience this time) in my brothers truck.
There was a mighty difference this time compared to the Augusta trip in August 2016; the temperature was -10 degrees Celsius and the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers were piles of ice – great blocks built up along both banks, and the whole way across in places. That said, we were very lucky with the weather generally, given how bad it could have been. Everything generally went smoothly at the show, the layout in particular running perfectly, though we had some difficulty with general arrangements and information. Nearly all the layouts and trade stands come every year, and they all know exactly what to do; so information for new exhibitors was very sparse. As a result, we never found the Saturday evening show dinner, though we didn’t go hungry! Packing up on Sunday evening went smoothly, and then another long drive back to Toronto.
This time, rather than bringing the layout straight back to the UK with me, I decided I would leave it, and the rolling stock, in my brothers workshop in Toronto. This means that I can also take it to the Canadian Narrow Gauge Exhibition at Schomberg, 30 miles or so north of Toronto, on Saturday 21st April, and the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Minneapolis in early September. Obviously this saves 2 round trips for the layout, and an awful lot of hassle, though I did have a bit more formality with Canadian Customs this time given that it was staying in the country for 9 months rather than 10 days. So now I’m back in the UK, with only exhibition appearances for my Great Western standard and broad gauge layouts until the Autumn.
Is it worth doing? Financially obviously not, but as an experience of a type of show completely different from a British one, then definitely yes. Although there were thousands of people there, the interest seems to be in the trade stands rather than the layouts. There were rarely more than 1 or 2 people watching any of the layouts, but those who did watch Franklin were usually engrossed for a long time. In particular, everybody was fascinated by my full turntable fiddle yard, where complete trains are turned ready for their next trip. Some people use a simple traverser, but a full rotating yard is a completely new experience. There were a good number of people manning the Maine preservation societies stands, and they made up a large part of my audience. It seemed wonderful to them that their favourite lines could actually be modelled in a meaningful way, with smooth and reliable operation and many of the features of the Maine 2 footers modelled in such a small space. So it was greatly rewarding to present such a novel way of modelling in the land of the actual prototype.
Bob Harper, February 2018.
One of the scenic boards being boxed up
Boxing up the fiddle yard, lighting fascia, and curtains
A snug fit in the Ford Mondeo Estate for the trip to the airport.
The whole layout after collection from Canadian Customs on the other side of the pond.
The layout unpacked and set up in one of the 4 halls of the Amherst Railway Show at the Great Eastern Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Note that most photographs have not been cropped and edited purposely in order to show the vast amount of space at this show and venue.
A local New Englander has a go operating my New England layout!
Although there were 17000 people at the show, it was never crowded in our hall, but there was a steady trickle of Maine 2 foot fans from the WW&FR and SR&RL Museum stands coming round to see, and all seemed amazed that such an interesting layout could be fitted in so small a space, and that everything ran so well, with smooth, slow shunting. They were also all amazed by the fiddle yard, especially when they realised that it could turn the whole trains round 180 degrees ready to go out again! So while a lot of cost, work and stress was invested getting Franklin there, it seems to have been a worthwhile educational effort, as it was a completely different concept from all the other layouts there.
One of the many modular layouts in the show; this one shows the fairly common scenic mismatch of adjoining boards.
However this vast layout has a properly planned gradation from scene to scene. Any Exhibition Manager would be envious of the space available!
A general shot showing the staggering size of the show. Remember that this is only one of four halls, though two of them were smaller.
Scenes from an On30 modular layout. The standard of scenic modelling was exceptionally high, though some of the physical details are a little unlikely! Sadly this layout suffered from a seeming inability to run any actual trains reliably, a common fault with this type of communal project.
This 0-4-0 2ft gauge loco from the Edaville Railway was in steam outside the main hall, though restricted its action to regular whistle blasts.
Click here to view a short YouTube segment showing this loco at the Amherst Railway show on a new browser page.
I was surprised how quickly we were able to get the layout dismantled and boxed up again ready for the open air trip back to Toronto. Normally it travels in the back of my car, with no extra protection. I’m glad we did not try that this time, as we ran into a blizzard just after we re-crossed the border into Canada.
All the rolling stock and ancillaries came in these crates, which also braved the elements in the back of the truck. The crucial piece of equipment is the power converter, which I bought in Canada. This converts European 230 volts to N. American 115 volts, or vice versa in my case. So everything on the layout (lighting, for example) was operated at its normal 230 volts. This seemed easier than trying to rig up temporary 115 volt lighting, power transformer etc. It worked very well, though got pretty warm after a full days operation. None of my UK light bulbs got broken on the flight either, though I had taken several spares just in case.
The next trips;-
The baseboard boxes and most of the rolling stock have been left in Toronto, so I can go back and do the Canadian Narrow gauge show at Schomberg on April 21st, and Narrow gauge Convention in Minneapolis, 5-8 September. I will then bring everything back finally.