By Paul Lodge
Sometimes it’s a small world! On Friday, March 15, Operation Lifesaver held their monthly meeting at The Great Falls Model Railroad Club. Operation Lifesaver presenter Gordon Riordon brought in an N-scale layout and donated it to the club.
At the club’s monthly meeting on March 21, it was explained how the Nscale layout was acquired. It was observed that it was too heavy to use as a raffle layout, but might be convert into cash for the club if someone wanted it. To everyone’s surprise, when a locomotive was put on the tracks and the power pack turned on, it worked beautifully! Wow! Considering it was headed for the dump, we were all surprised.
After the meeting, Ken Nettleship told some of the club members that he had built the layout when he was in upstate New York. He gave it to the owner of Rainy Day Trains as an N-scale display. He asked the owner to pass it along to a family with children who could appreciate it after he was through with it. The layout ends up at our club with the man who built it 25 years ago. What a story.
THE REST OF THE STORY
By Ken Nettleship
The story begins in 1988 in Schenectady, NY. I had married my wife Daphne in May and we were renting an apartment just up the hill from the GE Locomotive plant. After seeing all of the activity at the bottom of the hill, I discovered that the dormant railroad gene in me had been awakened. I found a couple of local hobby stores and began to accumulate used track, switches and a few cars.
Next came a career change and a move to Falmouth, Maine, to a REALLY small apartment. I bought a couple of how-to books, one of which was the Atlas book on how to wire a model railroad. I wanted to be able to run two trains on a small layout and this book enlightened me to block control. I was excited and shared my vision of the new railroad with my new bride, who by now was wondering what “I do” really meant. I assured her that by modeling in N scale, which is only 1:160 of an inch, she would hardly notice it in our less than large apartment. To make a long story short, a track plan was finalized, lumber was purchased and the used track that made its way from Schenectady, NY was finally laid.
Next, another move to our first house in Waterboro, Maine. The layout was carefully moved and progress resumed. It was time for scenery now, which meant the purchase of another book. This one was written by Dave Frary. To me, he is the scenery guru because he could teach a “ten-thumbed” guy like me how to get satisfactory results right out of the gate! I learned how to ballast, make rock molds from real rocks and latex rubber, lay ground foam as grass and make realistic looking trees. Thank you, Dave! As time permitted, I finally finished the layout and had a lot of fun with it.
As any model railroader will attest, bigger is better, right? My wife and I were looking for more room in our ranch so we discussed finishing the basement. She had her wish list and boy did I have mine. Although she got 75% of the available space, I got my “train room.” In my head, I won!
I started going to train shows and adding to my N gauge collection. My little pike started to get in the way as my collection grew and the new layout started to come to fruition. I became acquainted with John Sholtiss, who owned Rainy Day Trains in Scarborough, Maine. I had recently been to the Springfield show and had seen G-scale trains. John at Rainy Day Trains pointed me in the right direction to get started in G-scale. I was working for the Family Patch Nursery in Scarborough, and John procured track for our display at the Portland Flower Show. Need-less to say, with much help from John, our display was a success and very popular.
I asked John if he could use my little pike as a display or if he knew an interested little railroader that might not have the funds to put his/her own pike together. The last I saw my little railroad was in John’s showroom. The year was 1996.
Fast forward to the March 21st GFMRRC meeting. It was brought to the club’s attention that a heavy N Scale layout which was “dump bound” had been donated by a member of Operation Lifesaver to the club. As the meeting went on, I kept staring at that layout. Something was familiar about it. After the meeting I walked over to the layout and, much to my surprise, there was my little pike! The layout was lacking the buildings and trees, and some of the plaster mountains had seen better days; but there it was. It’s amazing that a quarter of a century after I started this layout it is still in once piece. I hope that someone adopts the layout and has as much fun with it as I did.