Another open house event hosted by the Memphis Model Railroaders (MMR) has come and gone. These events began a couple of years ago when the MMR member groups decided to open up their club layouts for friends and family to visit. They were held once a year and not heavily advertised to keep the events somewhat private. Now there are two open house events each year and word has spread to the broader train-enthusiast community. Last week's event was by far the busiest of any MMR open house to date. A quick count part way through the day-long event registered over fifty people at one single point in the day. It was great to see so much interest in the trains and the work of so many talented people.
Video clip courtesy of Mike McTavish
The Memphis Model Railroaders open house event is scheduled for Saturday, November 17th starting at 11 a.m. Local model railroading groups will put their layouts on display. This is a free event open to anyone with an interest in model trains. Check out our Events page for more information
After weeks of planning and months of building, Casey Jones Chapter, TCA's new portable layout made its debut at our season opener show on October 6th in Germantown, Tennessee. If you've been following this story at all, you'll know that we desperately needed to replace our layout due to its heft. It just had become too heavy to move down three flights of stairs, transport across town, carry in to set up, carry back out, transport back across town, and move back up three flights of stairs. Built almost entirely out of a special type of packing foam, the new layout is a dream to move - and talk about a great way to recycle waste foam!
Images courtesy of Danny Corbitt
The new layout is also much bigger than the layout it replaces. Its three mainline tracks are longer and feature broader curves. We can run more trains at the same time with a wider variety of locomotives and rolling stock. There is also plenty of room to add more scenery details and other interesting features as time goes on. We hope it will make the show experience much more fun and interesting for our younger visitors.
We've still got a few bugs to work out to make set-up and tear-down easier, but all in all we are very pleased with how the project turned out and look forward to seeing people enjoy this new layout for years to come.
Here are some other highlights from the show:
If you didn't get a chance to visit the show or see the layout this time, be sure to visit our annual Holiday Show on December 1st.
Summer days are getting shorter and nearing their end. Work on the layout we take to our local TCA shows is also nearing its end. With just a few weeks to go before our fall opener, the structure and base scenery work are complete, as is much of the wiring prep work. Here's a view of the layout - minus one section on the end - after paint and some ground foam were applied this week.
This weekend we will secure the track into place and dismantle the layout for its move from this workshop to its future home, where finishing touches will be applied and operational testing completed.
The Casey Jones Chapter of the TCA is getting ready to kick off another train show season with its Fall Opener just seven weeks away. It is now possible to reserve your tables for the show online. You can choose any one of the shows in the upcoming season, or select all of them to arrange for tables at every show. Reserve your tables here.
The Casey Jones Hi-railers achieved a major milestone this past weekend with the closing of the third and final loop of track on the new TCA train show layout. The Ron Williams Memorial Layout, named in honor of a former member who was instrumental in spearheading the first local TCA show layout, is on track for making its debut at the Casey Jones TCA show on October 6th.
The 10' x 15' layout features lightweight foam construction. Each of its 10 sections are aligned and held into place with dowel pins and furniture table leaf-style locks. The layout is so light it rests on 2x2 wood rails that sit snuggly in the factory 2-inch notches in plastic sawhorses purchased from Lowes. No more moving heavy tables to support the layout.
The new layout will have three independent FasTrack loops with minimum curves of O36, O48, and O72, respectively. The O72 track is planned to be the longest of the three lines and features a passing siding that transitions in and out of tubular track to allow use of older postwar accessories. The layout will be wired for both conventional and command control.
We hope you will visit one of our upcoming shows to see the new layout in operation.
There is a new National Model Railroad Association division in Tennessee. The Plateau Division was recently formed as a new division of the Southeastern Region and covers middle Tennessee. Their new website went live just a few days ago. There is a link to their new site on our home page. Select "Home" on our menu bar and scroll down to the "Other Resources" section. You will find a link to their site along with links to many other useful and interesting websites.
The Morton Museum of Collierville History will be holding its annual Train Heritage Day on August 11th from 10 AM to 4 PM. This event has proven popular with the model railroading community in the past, and model railroaders are once again invited to participate. This event is open to both groups and individuals.
Participants may set-up on Friday, August 10th between 9am - 5pm or Saturday morning between 8am - 9:30am. The Museum can provide 6ft. tables and chairs, please let us know upon your RSVP how many tables are needed. Groups provide their own extension cords if needed.
Mobile and Stationary Displays are both welcome.
The Museum views this event as an educational opportunity to promote model railroading, teach railroad safety, and celebrate Collierville's rich railroad history. For this reason, we ask that if vendors are interested in participating they not sell on site, but share their information and/or products and teach our visitors about what they do.
Last year around 1,200 people were in attendance. Groups who have participated in the past have been The Memphis Chapter: National Railway Historical Society, The Casey Jones Hi-Railers, The Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum, The Bluff City Benders, and the Mid-South Garden Railway Society.
Contact the museum if you have questions. (901) 457-2650.
Alas, summer! Time to take a break from trains, right? Not for some of us members of the Casey Jones Hi-railers. We have been working hard to rebuild the layout that is a main feature of the local TCA train shows held in Germantown, TN.
The current traveling layout has just gotten too heavy to haul around. It measures 5' X 20' and is constructed out of seems like concrete masonry blocks. We are currently knee-deep into building a new layout almost entirely out of foam. The foam we are using is not the typical blue or pink stuff one finds at a local home improvement store. This foam is a special material used to insulate pharmaceuticals during shipment. The only traits it shares in common with regular insulation foam is its blue color and 2" thickness. Otherwise, it is much stronger and more rigid than the normal blue stuff.
The current layout uses the older tubular O-gauge track, has two mainlines and several sidings, and it features several postwar operating accessories. Our new foam layout will use FasTrack and feature three mainlines. There will be single passing siding that retains the more traditional tubular track to simplify the reinstallation of older accessories. Otherwise, it is all foam and FasTrack.
Whereas our current layout is composed of four heavy sections that each require two people to move, our new layout will consist of ten smaller and much lighter-weight sections. One person can easily move two of the new sections at a time. The sections will be arranged in a rectangle doughnut-like shape measuring approximately 10' X 15'. The foam base will rest on two sets of collapsable 2x2 wooden rails that rest nicely in notched plastic sawhorses. The rails are constructed in such a way that allows them to fold down to under five feet. Every aspect of the layout is designed and being constructed with easy transport and storage in mind.
We hope our new layout gives show attendees something fresh to look at and enjoy and be easier to manage for our Hi-railer helpers. It will certainly be a lot lighter, if nothing else.
We kicked off our project back in June and are about a third of the way through. Anywhere for four to eight members get together every Saturday morning to complete the tasks outlined in our project plan. Our objective is to complete the rebuild in time for our season opener show on October 6th. The project is tracking pretty close to plan and we should be finished in time for our first show of the new season.
Below are a few shots from our first few working sessions.
The final Casey Jones Chapter TCA train show of the season is in the history books and our proverbial last train has left the station.
It was a very sunny and extraordinarily hot Saturday morning. The temperature and humidity soared to uncomfortable levels well before noon. Fortunately, that didn't stop people from getting out to the show. Over 150 people visited the show, which is a big crowd for what is typically one of the quieter shows of the season. Perhaps people were there to take refuge in the cool comfort of St. George's air-conditioned facility. Whatever the reason, it was great to see so many people come out to enjoy the trains on such a hot and humid June morning.
Saturday's show brings the Casey Jones Chapter season to a close. The 2017-18 season was an exciting one for both the chapter and the show.
Mike and Liz Kelly took over responsibility for the Kids Club and really notched it up (pun intended). They made and continue to make all sorts of adjustments and improvements to the club to enhance the show experience for our youngest members and visitors. This is perhaps our most important function as a chapter: introducing kids to the hobby so our shows and the hobby have a bright future.
Mike and Liz have some exciting changes planned for next year as well. They want to provide more hands-on activities to help kids develop their model railroading skills. We will share more information closer to the fall show.
Len Burke joined as Chapter Secretary in December and focused heavily on our marketing and communications efforts and show presentation and administration. We now have a social media presence, a webpage, a system for managing our email lists, the beginnings of a visual identity (things like a logo, colors, standard typeface), a streamlined check-in process, and we cut the amount of paper and postage we use as more of our communication and marketing is now done electronically. We also conducted our first satisfaction survey and received important feedback from both visitors and members on how we can improve the show. We believe this work is starting to pay off as we are seeing higher attendance.
Vendor participation was also up for the year thanks to Richard Gonzales' relentless pursuit of both old and new vendors. We nearly ran out of tables at every show! We are also starting to see a wider variety of trains offered as a result of his work. It's not just an o-gauge show anymore. This should come as good news to those asking us for trains in other gauges and scales.
While we are on the subject, we would like to thank our vendors. Without your support there is little reason to have a show. Your trains help keep this hobby alive. Your support, friendship and humor help keep the show alive and make it a more interesting place to be five times each year.
Bill Autry and Nep Maury continued in their roles as President and Vice President, respectively, and provided their expert guidance and leadership to the chapter throughout the year. Bill and his brother, John, are also important vendors for the show.
As always, there was the faithful crew of people from the Casey Jones Hi-railers that helped with the moving, set-up and operation of the layout. This activity involves a lot of time and physical labor. It is grueling work, especially in warmer weather, and the importance of their work cannot be overstated: there simply is no show without the layout. The layout is what everyone not buying trains comes to see. We hope to make some big changes to our train operations for next year to make our trains more interesting and reduce the work involved for the crew.
Higher attendance enabled us to add a few things to the show this year. These changes were part of our ongoing commitment to improving the show.
Probably the biggest addition to the show involved our giveaways. We were able to give away train sets at our Holiday and Winter shows. This was a first for us and a tradition we hope to continue.
We also started offering food at the show. Eric Meyers of Eat at Eric's Grill was on site with his mobile kitchen starting this past winter. It was a hit with some of the vendors because it meant they didn't have to leave the show to get something to eat. We also think it makes a nice addition to the show for attendees. Eric reports that business has been acceptable but that it could improve. He provides his services at no cost to us. We are hopeful show attendance and patronage of his kitchen will continue at levels high enough to support his continued presence.
We kick off our next season - the chapter's 40th Anniversary season - on October 6th. As we mentioned earlier, look for some exciting changes to the show as we work to make it the best it can be. We'll provide more details as we get closer to October. In the meantime, we at the Casey Jones Chapter would like to thank everyone for their support during the past year. We look forward to seeing everyone again in the fall.
Here are the show dates for next season:
Fall Kick-off - October 6th, 2018
Holiday Show - December 1st
Winter - February 2nd, 2019
Spring - April 6th
Summer - June 1st
We are 99% sure these dates will hold, but be sure to check back from time to time in case there are any changes.
P.S. Summer doesn't have to mean the end of trains entirely. There are still a few things going on around the area. Be sure to check out our Events page for more information.