Sunday, July 30, 2006

Shay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, California

In 1830 a self-styled mountain man by the name of Isaac Graham settled in this area. Legend has it that he and his compatriots would cause such a ruckus that the local Mexican authorities named Graham’s wild settlement “Roaring Camp.” In 1842, Graham established the first saw mill west of the Mississippi but for one reason or another logging never took off here and he was convinced to spare the majestic trees that  25 years later became the first virgin stand of coastal redwoods to be protected from logging.

In order to garner some income the area’s first railroad, the Santa Cruz & Felton, began carrying tourists to the Big Trees as they became known in 1875. In 2003, the
Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge RR celebrated its Ruby Anniversary (40 years) and the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific RY has been operating along the 1875 Santa Cruz & Felton route since 1985.

The railroad is only a little over an hour from my home but I'm almost embarrassed to say that I have never visited it. I had a "spare" Saturday away from the wife so I decided to make the trip. Lo and behold this weekend saw the visit of Thomas the Tank Engine and it's many small fans, their parents and assorted mini vans. Luckily there are several tracks at Roaring Camp and our steam train was unaffected by the little monsters. I wonder how many of these will return to model railroading after suffering the indignities of middle age. The route of the steam train takes you up Herman Mountain amongst the old growth redwood trees. Something that we are blessed with here in Northern California.

Shay Locomotives hold a special place in the hearts of steam enthusiasts. Springing from the fertile mind of Ephraim Shay this gear driven steam engine was well suited to the requirements of the logging industry of which Ephraim was a part of. During the 1870s an inordinate amount of effort was spent on extracting lumber to the mill. Often depending on ice covered roadways during the winter to transport their logs they were hostage to the vagaries of the climate. Shay built some tramways and used horsepower but with the growing popularity of steam he built his first steam locomotive. A locomotive built for logging must be small yet powerful, able to navigate within a restricted space and climb steep inclines. His answer was a gear driven locomotive carried on articulated trucks with direct wheel drive. By delivering equal torque directly to wheels on both sides of the engine at the same time. He was also able to eliminate the jerky motion of a standard steam locomotive which damaged his wooden rails. The Number 7 Shay at the Roaring Camp Railroad was built by the Lima Machine Works and is a Class C Shay. (Class C: three cylinders, three trucks. Weighs between 70 and 125 tons approx.)

 
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Shay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, California
Shay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, California
Shay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, California

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Deutsche Bahn Museum

While I was in Nürnberg for the Toy Fair I had the opportunity for a short visit to the Deutsche Bahn Museum. The Museum has been in the news lately due to the tragic fire in the roundhouse which is located away from downtown, that destroyed many important locomotives. I was able to only visit the museum proper which is downtown. The museum shares a building with some other offices and as such is not specifically designed as a museum which unfortunately resulted in an absence of natural light as well as a large display space. In fact it could even be called cramp for a country that has such a strong railroad heritage. Maybe the fire will force the Deutsche Bahn management to build a proper museum. Because of the lack of space downtown there were a lot of models being used. While this itself is not a problem it would have been nice to see more rolling stock. Another thing which I expected to see is a large working Model Railroad but this was nowhere to be seen. They mentioned a Fleischmann layout at the Fair but obviously it was somewhere else than the museum and might have been at the Toy Museum instead. What I did find interesting was the candor they showed in displaying one of the railroad's darkest periods that of the transportation of Jews to the death camps. 

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New South Wales Rail Transport Museum

The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (NSWRTM) was formed in 1962, preserve examples of steam locomotives that did service on the NSW Government Railways during the last century and one half. Originally the locomotives and assorted rolling stock chosen for preservation were stored in the then active Round House at Enfield. On Sunday 22nd October 1972, the NSWRTM's display at Enfield was officially opened by then commissioner McCusker as one of his last official duties as commissioner.

Unfortunately after his retirement the Department of Railways was abolished, and the Public Transport Commission formed, under the control of a Mr Philip Shirley. The new authorities turned their backs on the past and in 1973 it was announced that the Enfield roundhouse would be demolished to make way for a container terminal that in fact was never built.  After much negotiation, the commission made available space on its property at Thirlmere near Camden. At great labour the exhibits were transferred in 1975 and the Thirlmere Railway Museum was opened on the 1st June 1976.

If not for the work done by the society an important part of Australian history would have been lost. Visitors expecting shiny exhibits and expensive displays will be disappointed, but those with a true love for these iron beasts will marvel at the amount of locomotives sheltered here and feast in their ability to climb about these relics. The work necessary in restoring this fleet will probably never be finished but that couldn't be further from the minds of those who toil each free afternoon without any reward but the dream of seeing their trains under their own power once again.

On the 1st of December, 1994, the NSWRTM became the first society in NSW to be granted full accreditation as a owner and operator of a railway - the Picton - Mittagong Loopline.

The Rail Transport Museum at Thirlmere is situated along disused Picton - Mittagong loop line, this line was the original main southern railway until it was bypassed to ease the grades. The loop line tourist railway operates on every Sunday and public holiday Mondays. The round-trip journey lasts 45 minutes and is run every hour. On the 3rd Sunday of each month , an Arts & Crafts fair operates at Buxton, further along the loop line.

Spoorwegmuseum

There are a number of themes that always find their way into my various trips; history, stamp collecting, automobile racing and trains. In Utrecht, a city south of Amsterdam existed two of the four. A stamp store that I have returned to a number of times and the National Railway Museum. The museum is located in the former 125-year-old Maliebaan station in East Utrecht. In an area filled with museums and galleries. Opening hours are: Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, Ascension Day, and public holidays from 11.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Monday, New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, White Sunday, Christmas Day and the Queen's Birthday the museum is closed.

The museum has a shop, guided tours, a restaurant and library. The library of the Dutch Railway Museum contains about 15,000 books and magazines on railways and tramways in the Netherlands and abroad. If you really want to splurge the Dutch Railway Museum lends out various railway carriages and locomotives to transport you all over the Netherlands. Renting your own train as you tour the countryside will make you feel as if you are the King of Prussia during the 19th century.

It seems that you can reach about any place in Holland by train. The Dutch Railways consist of a network of some 2600km, of which 2000km is electrified with 1500V= overhead wire. On the Dutch Railways you can find about 140 electric locomotives, 125 diesel locomotives, 100 diesel shunters, 500 EMUs and 150 DMUs.  The trains cross the country in all directions and not a moment goes by that you don't see a train on its appointed route. The museum itself is less than 10 years old and plays host to many schoolchildren. Though not as large as the  National Railway Museum in York, England I still found it well worth my trip. The exhibits are well arrayed and show many fine examples from the railway's history. The next time I visit Holland maybe I'll rent my own train, then again maybe I'll have to save up some more!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

22nd National Garden Railway Convention

22nd National Garden Railway ConventionSanta Clara was the site of the 2006 edition of the National Garden Railway Convention. The Bay Area Garden Railway Society would serve as its host. Santa Clara is in Silicon Valley which is just south of San Francisco and around 20 minutes from where I live. Though I don't currently have a garden railway and none is planned for the foreseeable future I couldn't let this opportunity pass. Because it was held the week of the 4th of July holiday and I would be returning from Las Vegas that weekend I had to limit my attendance to a single day. I chose Thursday because that would get me into the train show that was to be held at the end of the convention as well as allowing me the opportunity to visit several garden layouts that were holding open houses.

I've always wondered what it would be like to have an open house to show off your layout and I was very pleased by the hospitality of the hosts. They all seemed to enjoy meeting people and it looked like they have had a lot of practice. Model Railroading can sometimes be a lonely hobby when most of your family, friends and co-workers have not only no interest but also little comprehension of what our hobby is all about. After having been asked questions like how much does it costs and do you like real trains as well it's easy to see why you would fail to mention your hobby or even close the door to you train room with you in it hoping that your visitors and your wife will just leave you in peace. Having people over who you know love trains must be very uplifting. Concerns on how your layout will be received is I think unfounded. Building my layout in my upstairs library may make having an open house a little more challenging but I think that when I finish my layout I would want to show it off. Not because it's anything special but rather I suspect being European in focus it's different than other layouts in my area. 

 
22nd National Garden Railway Convention
22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention
22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention
 

In visiting the layouts you had an option of reserving a seat on the tour bus or using your own transportation which was what I elected to do. Each day there were different layouts on view with none repeating on other days. The first layout I chose was one hosted by Bob and Irene Brown.  The layout contained a mix of U.S. and Foreign trains which seems to be more common amongst the Garden Railway set than in the smaller gauges which tend to focus on a particular period and location. Garden Railroads are often what is called freelance and sometimes whimsical in nature. Since many garden railroaders have indoor layouts as well it's almost as if their outdoor layout allows them some freedom of the strictures that they place on their indoor empires. I didn't have the chance to ask this question but I would have been interested in Bob Brown's response because upstairs he had his famous On3 layout. The Browns are publishers of a wonderful bi-monthly magazine called Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette. Packed into their layout were water features, miniature scale plants and wooden trestles. I especially liked their live steam locomotives. Their house and garden had a real lived in look rather than looking like someone had just moved in and not finished un-packing.  But to tell you the truth it was their On3 layout that I wanted to see most. Based on the quality of their magazine I must admit I had high expectations when I climbed up their stairs. The layout that I saw was not only amazing in it's detail but also charming in its subject matter. To describe the layout as museum quality is an understatement as it surpasses any layout that I have ever seen in private hands, hands that I understand have been busy for more than 40 years building the creation that I had in front of me. Bob holds a NMRA Master Model Railroader certificate and after seeing his railroad I can easily understand why. Looking at the layout you felt frozen in time, imagining that you had just checked into the Tahoe Inn, soaking up the last rays of the sun before dinner. 

The next layout I visited is owned by Charles & Elizabeth Garbett and is built around a pool. The motive power is mostly modified Bachmann with some scratch built. As you followed the layout along it's course you were shown several scenarios. I especially liked the harmony of the design and the vignette of the laundry that was hung out to dry.  Their house was very nicely situated in Palo Alto along a dirt path and I would have been satisfied just to tour their house, another one that looked well lived in. The reason I mention this is that most of our friends are immigrants and if anything a large screen TV, hooked up to a karaoke machine is the center of attention where as I much prefer a well stocked library and all sorts of bric à brac.

From there I crossed the Bridge to Castro Valley and the home of Pat & Ken Martin. From the looks of things Ken has had a rather interesting life including a period where he raced cars. The grounds where the layout was situated was the largest that I would see that day and offered a 500' mainline. There were water features, multiple trains running and swings in which you could sit and watch the trains. The Martins have a roster of over 100 large scale locomotives and radio control was used in several places. Their layout was a veritable Disneyland of model railroading that could serve as either a focus or background for large parties that could be easily held in their backyard.

The last layout I visited was one in Fremont which is next door to where I live in Union City. This was the layout belonging to Rick and Liz Zem. The layout contained a small turntable and roundhouse and was made to represent lumber and mining during the '50s. The layout has recently been renovated and I must say their work is very impressive, especially the large trestles and the concrete rocks cast from aluminum foil molds.

All in all four very different layouts each offering hours of entertainment and of a quality each owner can be proud of ... which I'm sure they are. It's a lot of work to open your house to a bunch of strangers from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm and each should be commended. It was quite an eye opener to learn of so many layouts in my area and I can understand how popular layout tours have become at the national level. The Convention Program created by the Bay Area Garden Railway Society helped to make my tour a very enjoyable experience.

 
 
While my schedule unfortunately did not allow me to attend any of the seminars that were held as part of the convention I did attend the Large Scale Train Show where many of the companies involved in this segment of the hobby were able to show their products. The featured car of the convention is a 1/24 scale G-gauge Cable Car (powered) made by Accucraft Trains that retailed for $300. By the looks of it this was a very popular item and I know that I longed for one. 

The range of companies was quite extensive with representatives from AMS, LGB, Bachman and Aristo Craft to name a few.  Some of the notable products I saw were:

Mention should also be made of detail parts by Ozark Miniatures as well as new publications by Garden Railways Magazine. To top it off the Bay Area had a short line modular layout and the Live Steamers had a layout as well to run their live steam locomotives. This was my first American national convention as most of NMRA's conventions are held in the East Coast or mid-west which is the center of model railroading in the United States. Though I model German prototype there is much to enjoy and learn at these conventions.

 

Sunday, July 09, 2006

I've been pouring over this book and some of the comments that were made on my layout and have made some adjustments. I've converted my freight yard from double-ended to a mixed double/single-ended which is more realistic based on the limited space I have and will allow me to store more cars, in fact I could even fiddle with them if I wanted to. To compensate I added a run around track that should give me better switching maneuverability and lesson any clogging of my main lines. This means I need to buy a double crossover switch and I saw one listed on eBay that I have a bid out for. We'll see how it all works out once I let it sit awhile so I can look at it with a fresh set of eyes.

A side benefit of this arrangement is that it gives me more space for my reverse loops and should enable me to stage two complete trains without either fouling a crossover, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I've looked at my German magazines and all of them have quite severe elevation changes but then most of them sported smaller train lengths. Let's see what longer trains can do before I commit to anything.