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.
The Memphis Model Railroaders have gotten in the habit of holding two open house events each year. As some of our previous posts describe, these events provide an opportunity for train enthusiasts to visit several model railroads under one roof and see the work of very talented modelers.
Our latest open house was last weekend. We estimate about eighty people attended the event. If you missed our open house, don't worry. You will have another opportunity to visit this fall.
While many people keep the model railroading hobby fires burning year-round, for others the hobby is more of a cold-weather endeavor. Spring and fall are the transition seasons, where trains are put up on the shelf and then taken back down five or six months later. Even the biggest names in the model railroading hobby magazine business optimize publishing schedules to focus on the colder months. But let's not be too quick to forget about the trains. We still have a couple of big family and hobbyist-oriented events in the Memphis area before things start to quiet down.
More information about these and other events can be found here. We hope you will make it a point to come out and support these excellent events.
Would you like to be kept informed of various happenings with the Memphis Model Railroaders? You can sign up on our home page to receive occasional emails from us. Don't worry. We will try not to overload your inbox. We just want to be able to send occasional news letters or let you know about important events in the area. This feature is now active, so why not add yourself to our list today.
The Casey Jones Chapter of the Train Collectors Association held their second show of the season at the beginning of December. Show volunteers decorated the facility and even added Christmas touches to the operating layout to create a more festive atmosphere.
Well over two hundred people came out to see the show. This is pretty good considering the show fell on the same day as the St. Jude Marathon. There was also a Christmas crafts show in town just down the road at the Agricenter. Still, lots of families came out to see the trains, and over sixty kids entered a drawing to win a new Lionel train set that was awarded near the end of the show.
The Casey Jones Chapter holds five shows each year in the months of October, December, February, April, and June. The shows are aimed at people with an interest in larger toy-like trains, such as those produced by Lionel.
The Pennsylvania-based Train Collectors Association has over twenty thousand members around the world.
Do you have trains set up around your Christmas tree or in another winter holiday scene? Let us see them. The Casey Jones Chapter of the TCA is putting together an online holiday photo album and would love to get pictures of your holiday-themed train displays. You don't have to be a member of the TCA to send us pictures. You just have to snap a picture or two and be willing to share them with the rest of us. Any scale or type of model or toy train display is just fine with us as long as it is winter / holiday-themed.
If you would like us to include your pictures, please submit them by email by December 20th.
Picture courtesy of Mike Kelly
2019 is almost here, and the new year promises to bring with it lots of activities for the train enthusiasts within the Mid-South region of the country. Be sure to occasionally check our Events page for the latest information on upcoming events and activities in the area. Most of the events are within a day's drive of Memphis. A few more distant events are listed due to their prominence.
If there is a model or toy train event scheduled in the next few months that you think we missed or that you would like posted, please email us the details.
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.