Monday, November 6, 2017

70th anniversary of America's Friendship Train

November 7 is the 70th anniversary of the Friendship Train.

On that date the Train, filled with donations of food, clothing and other items for Europeans suffering from the after-effects of World War II, started its journey across America.

The Train was conceived by journalist Drew Pearson as a way to help people in France and Italy suffering from the after-effects of World War II.

The Friendship Train began in Los Angeles and travelled to New York. Cars filled with relief supplies were added along the way. A northern collection of cars started in Indiana and joined the rest of the Train in New York.

The Trains was easy to spot; communities that filled the cars put signs and banners on them indicating where the donated items had come from.

Altogether, 270 cars of food and other items were filled and made their way to New York. The value of the donated materials was set at $40 million.

In response, the French created the Merci (“thank-you”) Train, which was sent to America in 1949. Some of the cars are still on display in the U.S.

My interest in the Friendship Train arose because of a Mennonite Central Committee boxcar that was inspired by the Friendship Train.

I used to work for that relief and development agency, and was intrigued when I first learned about the HO scale car.

I ended up making versions of the car for MCC’s 75th anniversary as a fundraiser, and have come to own N, HO and O scale versions of the car.

You can read more about the Friendship Train, and my collection here. You can watch a video of the train here.

A Facebook page about the Friendship Train can be found here, with lots of photos and other information.

I think it’s safe to say we will never see another train like it—even though the world sure could use a lot more friendship today.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Neil Young Selling Part of his O Gauge Collection

This psychedelic Hudson from Young's collection can be yours!

Canadian-born Neil Young—who I have written about previously on this blog—is well-known in model railroad circles for is love of model trains.

Now he is selling part of his large O Gauge model train collection.

“Collecting all of these items has been my great joy. They have provided a source of inspiration, fun and creativity throughout my life,” Young said in a statement.

“Now it is time to share them with others in the world who I hope will enjoy and love them as much as I have.”

According to Reuters, Young is putting more than 230 of his vast collection of Lionel trains up for auction at Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles on December 9.

Some of them are listed at up to $9,000.

Young became a model railroader as a way to connect with his son Ben, who has cerebral palsy.

In his book Waging Heavy Peace he wrote that  “I was just getting back into trains at the time, reintroducing myself to a pastime I enjoyed as a child. Sharing the building of the layout together was one of our happiest times."

Young devised a control system to allow Ben to operate trains. "It took a lot of effort, but it was very rewarding for him to see the cause and effect in action. Ben was empowered by this."

Later, the layout became a refuge for him.

The layout, he said, creates “a zen experience” that allows him to “sift through the chaos, the songs, the people, and the feelings from my upbringing that still haunt me today . . .  I need it. For me it is a road back.”

Over the years Young, who once became a part-owner of Lionel, adopted an online alter ego named Clyde Coil to talk about his trains.

This included a website called Coil Couplers of America.

But back to the auction.

Highlights include a Lionel Hudson factory prototype locomotive, and a  psychedelic Hudson.

Young is also selling some of his classic car collection.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Coming Soon: The End of the SD40-2s on CP and CN in Canada

Readers of this blog know that I like SD40-2s.

That’s why the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. is set in the early to mid-1990s, when the SD40-2 was king.

It’s also why I was so excited when Bowser brought out its great-looking and great-running CP Rail SD40-2 models—including the Red Barn.

But if time is frozen in my basement on the M & M Sub., it marches on in real life on both the CPR and CN.

According to the latest information I can find (on Canadian Railway Observations), as of last year there were only 13 SD40-2s on the CP roster, with only four of those operational (and based in St. Paul, MN). The rest were stored.

Some SD40-2s are being upgraded into that railway’s new SD30C-ECO program, so that’s good news. But it’s not the same.

Meantime, the famed MultiMark is also almost gone; as of last year only two units (5911 and 5863) still sport the iconic mark (again, according to CRO).

Once they are gone, the MultiMark will cease to exist in real life.

Meanwhile, according to a report in the September issue of Railfan & Railroad CN has only four SD40-2s in operation, with seven stored serviceable and 142 stored unserviceable. One of them is 6017 (in the photo above).

In 2010, I interviewed local modeler Don McKinnon about his home layout, the Malamute and Klondike.

With construction on the layout starting in 1950, it was the oldest home layout in Winnipeg by the time Don died in 2013.

When I asked him why he modelled the transition era, he replied: “It was modern when I started!”

At 23 years old, I’m beginning to feel the same way about the M & M Sub. layout.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Donald Trump, Politics and Model Railroading

If there’s one thing we all probably would like, it’s to keep politics out of model railroading. No more fighting in clubs over control systems, era, track, scenery or the type of coffee people buy, or anything else.

But what about putting politicians on model trains?

That’s what’s happening with the "President Donald Trump Express" from the Bradford Exchange.

According to the Exchange, you can get a “heirloom-quality HO scale electric train collection [that] salutes the 45th President of the United States.”

That may fire up Republicans and annoy Democrats. But before we get into a partisan, um, “conversation,” everyone should know that the Exchange produced a President Obama train when he was elected, too.

(Jimmy Kimmel satirized the Bradford Exchange Trump train on his show; depending on your political persuasion, you will either find it amusing or offensive.)

Curious about the intersection of politics and trains, I decided to see if there were any other manufacturers producing presidential-themed items.

And, of course, there are. Micro-Trains has a Presidential Series for rolling stock, featuring a number of past presidents—and the current one.

Con-Cor also produced a President Trump car. I can’t find a car for any other president, though.

Kato produced a model of the prototype George Bush #4141 in N scale.

And USA Trains made one in G scale.

Individual modelers also got in on the action, like this one who made his own “Make America Great Again” train.

Not to be left out, Preiser made President Obama and Michelle figures in HO and G scales.  (So far, no Donald Trump figure I can see.)

So, there we are; politics and model railroading mixing. And so far, nobody is tweeting: "Sad."

Sunday, October 8, 2017

More Photos of Chris Round's Atherley Narrows

Like his previous layout, Stoney Hill Yard, Atherley Narrows is also HO Scale and also features CP Rail in Ontario in the 1990s.

Chris sent me a few more photos of his newest effort, and I grabbed some off his Facebook page.

This includes some shots of the boats he is scratchbuilding for the layout.

As usual, what I can say but: "Wow!"