These are extraordinary times. Most of us probably never imagined having to spend so much time confined to our homes. It must be especially challenging for parents with children. Even in ordinary times, keeping kids interested in anything for an extended time is no small feat. At some point, kids get bored with just about everything - yes, even video games. The same can be said for adults, as well.
Building a small model train layout is a project your family can enjoy together during those times when nothing else seems interesting, and it will leave everyone with great memories and something tangible to enjoy for years to come.
All events scheduled through April have been canceled. As of now, the National Garden Railway Convention in Nashville is still expected to go ahead at the end of May. However, no new events with dates prior to June 1st will be posted.
Concerns over the strain of the coronavirus causing the disease COVID-19 are at the forefront of nearly everyone's mind right now. Organizers have canceled or postponed several prominent events as communties take steps to manage the spread of the virus. It is unclear what impact this will have on upcoming events posted on this website as the situation is evolving rapidly. Therefore, we encourage you to check directly with the event host on the status of any events listed on this site before deciding whether to attend. We will include links to the host contact information whenever possible.
Train season is starting to wind down once again. There are still a few activities on the books in case you are not ready to put the trains away quite yet. The TCA has two more shows in Germantown, one on the first Saturday in April and the other on the first Saturday in June. The Memphis Model Railroaders will host their spring open house event on the last Saturday in April. Over in the Nashville area, the Donelson Train Show is still scheduled for May 16th, though we're checking to be sure it is still on given the recent terrible tornado outbreak. We'll add more events as we find out about them. Let us know if you hear something.
Be sure to check out our Events page for more information and stop by one of the shows for a visit.
The town of Collierville held their annual Train Heritage Day event on August 10th celebrating the town’s railroad history. Hundreds of people came out despite the hot weather to see a large collection of model railroads and various railroad artifacts on display at both the Morton Museum and the historic depot in the town square.
The Casey Jones Chapter, TCA layout and other trains running for Train Heritage Day.
Three groups from the Memphis Model Railroaders were in Collierville to support the event. The Bluff City Benders and the Mid-South Garden Railway Society were set up with their layouts in and just outside of the depot. The Casey Jones Hi-railers were inside the Morton Museum running the local TCA chapter’s new O-gauge layout. In addition, several private individuals brought small layouts to show off at the event. There certainly was no shortage of trains running on that day.
A member of one of our groups, Kenny, suffered a serious health setback a few years ago that left him without the ability to walk. This presents a problem for Kenny and others with physical challenges because the train layouts are all on the second floor of the facility where they are currently housed. The only way to get to the second floor is by using the stairs.
If you're a fan of current three-rail trains, then the latest catalog from Lionel is worth a look. As a fan of everything upper midwestern (and by association all things Great Northern and BN), I especially like the "merger-scheme" AA set being offered with the new run of F7s. It features a leading unit in BN colors lashed up to a trailing unit in Great Northern's "Big Sky Blue" scheme. It's a treat by itself to see something in GN's short-lived blue and white scheme, as there hasn't been a lot of it offered in three-rail. This unusual diesel set offering is a welcome departure from the usual mass "re-runs" of the standard road names and paint schemes and makes my "must-have" list.
If these units actually make it through production, they'll fit in nicely behind my Amtrak F7s and add a whole new dimension to my Amtrak rainbow trains.
There's a lot to look at and like in the new catalog. Here's a link to the online version of the catalog on Lionel's site.
The above link is provided merely as a convenience to site visitors. There is no relationship between this website and any company, product or service.
A few months back there was a change in leadership of the Bluff City Division of the NMRA. Talking with Dalton Flowers, the new division assistant superintendent, some exciting new plans are starting to take shape with the division. The new division superintendent, Stephen Flowers, outlines some of his thoughts below on the NMRA and his division plans for the future.
One of the few known communities in the Bluff City area for model railroaders and train enthusiasts, the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA), has been providing standards, fellowship, and love for the hobby since 1935. But it’s not just for the Memphis area. The NMRA has 18 regions and over 150 divisions in North America, Europe, and Australia, so whether you’re in London, England or San Diego, California, there is a NMRA Region and Division in your neighborhood! If you happen to live in the West Tennessee or North Mississippi area, you are in the Bluff City Division. This is one of the largest divisions in the Southeastern Region. In the past year our new superintendent, Steven Flowers, has taken over the division from Mike Fleming, who is currently in charge of the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum. Our plans for the future include holding monthly meetings and bringing an [NMRA] train show back to the Memphis area. Train-N camps are also in the plans. These are where members can sign up for clinics and are taught modeling techniques from experienced modelers. Hopefully with the presence of new members and the willingness to teach, we can build up the Bluff City Division of the NMRA successfully.
This week the MMR website got its annual facelift. This refresh was a little more extensive than most. You should notice cleaner lines, more readable text, more white space, revised colors, improved organization, clearer links to other content, and better consistency across the site. The goal was to improve the experience for site visitors without losing the minimalistic design that keeps the focus on the content rather than the site itself. Hopefully, we have achieved this goal without losing anything in the process or introducing new problems. Let us know if you run into any issues.
Four Shows and Eight Months Later...
The Casey Jones Chapter's new traveling layout has been up and running for nearly a full season. It has been moved from storage, set up, operated, torn down, and moved back to storage four times over the last eight months. Thankfully, the foam base and Lionel FasTrack have held up fairly well. There are few dings and broken track pins that we will have to fix over the summer, but so far there are no serious problems. There have also been no electrical issues.
Where we have not fared as well is with the underlying support system. It was apparent after the first three shows that our idea of using wooden support rails on sawhorses was not working so well. The low-quality 2x2 lumber we used to construct the rails had twisted and warped. We also had not constructed the rails long enough to support the layout at the very edges and had to sister extensions on to the ends. The extensions prevented the rails from folding properly. The whole apparatus had become unruly to transport and setting a rail up straight and level was difficult.
Another problem we encountered was it took too long to lock a support rail section into its open or extended position. The rails are sectional and designed to unfold to achieve the required length. This folding action eliminates the need for assembly and makes transporting the rails in smaller vehicles easier. When unfolded, the sections need some sort of locking device to prevent them from folding back up and collapsing. We chose threaded hex bolts and knobs as our method for locking the sections into place. One permanently installed bolt serves as a pivot point for the folding action. A second bolt serves as a stabilizing pin and is inserted into the rail section near the pivot point to keep the rail rigid across sections. This method seemed good in concept but did not pan out in practice. The bolts are just too cumbersome to use. It is hard to insert them into the rails because of their threads, and the knobs take too long to screw on to the bolts. We needed a solution.
We still fundamentally believe in our original design approach to supporting the layout. The combination of the rails and plastic sawhorses provides a lightweight and very sturdy platform that is easy to transport. It was our implementation that needed work. Our best option was to scrap and rebuild the rails using better lumber and finding a more convenient way of locking them into position..
The first step was to abandon using 2x2 lumber in favor of 1x2s to achieve our desired 2x2 profile. First of all, the 1x2s at our local home improvement store seemed to be in better condition. The cuts were cleaner and the wood seemed drier and not so crooked. The biggest advantage of using two boards instead of one (besides increased rigidity) is they can be counter-crowned (i.e., placing any arching pieces so the arches oppose each other) during assembly. This helps offset their tendency to want to bend one way or the other as they dry. Wood glue, a brad nailer and clamps made an easy job of assembly and produced a very strong and straight final product.
The finished 2x2 sections were then cut to their proper size and drilled for assembly. This time we only used the hex bolts to create the pivot points for each of the sections. To secure the rails in their extended position, we settled on 1/4-inch wire locking pins. These pins are smooth and easy to handle, which makes it easy to push them into the rails without having to bore out the holes. The attached clips secure the pins in place. A pin can be inserted and secured in a couple of seconds using only one hand. There are also no parts to get lost. The pins can easily be attached to the ends of the rails during transport and storage. We found a perfect solution.
We are still learning and have a couple of other improvement opportunities. This was a big one, however, and so far it looks like two time's a charm, to adapt an old phrase.