Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

London Festival The London Festival of Railway Modelling

Report #4

Let me start this episode off with a hint of things to come. Overnight, the back of my throat had begun to tingle, a sure sign of having forced my vocal cords as a result of chatting with hundreds of folks during the first day of the convention. This was a familiar scenario and I was hoping that I would be able to avoid losing my voice during Sunday's show. All I could do was to try to speak calmly, drink plenty of fluids and keep my fingers crossed. Now back to our regular program already in progress...

Wonder of wonders, there he was, Peter Ibbotson, arriving with a Märklin transformer, two lengths of hook-up wire and a UK power bar, just the items needed to hopefully get the trains running and eliminating those embarassing questions from the rug rats. True to form, Peter also had come along with a great big smile, plus coffee and all the fixins. I was beginning to really like this guy.

I plugged the power bar into the single electrical outlet provided by the show management, plugged the M throttle into the power bar, plugged the 85 watt (not 1850 watt) power transfo into the power bar and plugged the halogen light into the power transfo. The light worked, now it was time to test my theory as to how to get the trains operational.

Just as I was about to pop open my tool box to get some cutters in order to strip the ends of the hook-up wire, Ann Silby, creator of the other Z layout at the show, the "Loosely Warren", which will soon grace the pages of Ztrack Magazine, came by with her Märklin throttle. Talk about generosity and hospitality to a fellow Zedster in distress. I thanked Ann profusely and mentioned that it was a good thing to have a backup throttle just in case Peter's unit gave us problems. Both Peter and Ann stuck around, coffees in hand to see what the result of my patch job would be.

Using a pair of alligator clip-equiped jumper wires from my tool box, I attached the M throttle wires to the rails of the upper level track that would normally connect to Centre Val Ease, you know the track I'm talking about. Since there were trees blocking the view of the clips from shorter visitors to the layout, I was pretty sure that I wouldn't get pestered with "what are those wires for?" questions all day.

Time to test my repair job. I turned the control dial and...nothing! Wait a minute, I hadn't plugged in the VEW control box. I crossed my fingers hoping that the short didn't involve the block control circuitry. A quick turn of the dial and off sped the "Rocket". A roar errupted from the gathered observers. Success! I throttled back until the "Rocket" was purring around the layout just like in the good ol' dayZ.

I did some housekeeping, tucking the throttle into a spot where I hoped nobody would take notice and let the train run happy circles around the layout. Just a note about the "Rocket". This tourist train is pulled by a M railbus wearing Union Pacific colors. The first car (called a truck for some reason in the UK) is almost always an Aztec track cleaning car to keep dust buildup under control. Then comes my scratch-bashed UP tourist gondola complete with seated passengers, and pulling up the rear is a M "Golden Spike" caboose in UP colors. The "Rocket" is a colorful and useful train for exhibition purposes. The kids love the tiny passengers and I get to explain why there are dinosaurs on the layout.

Speaking of dinosaurs, there are a total of 8 dinosaus in the woods just above "Bablin Brook" trestle bridge. It is amazing how many kids can actually name all 8 of the beasts. Let me see: T-Rex is the most recognizable, then stegasaurus, pleodon, Mr. and Mrs. brontosaurus and my favorites, momma triceratops and her two babies. T-Rex is looking for a nice light snack and the two triceratops tykes fit the bill nicely. Unfortunately for Mr. T, Momma Triceratops has other ideas and is blocking the way to the food bar.

Note: the pewter dinosaurs are all to scale. I custom painted them in, what I consider to be, authentic colors. Hey, who can contradict me on that score? I'd say that about 80% of the kids spot the Jurassic park residents without prompting although the younger ones sometimes need encouragement. The dinos are always a hit with visitors. Why are they there? Well, as the story goes, there was a downturn in the local economy (lumber mill closed and the mine was having problems). The Chamber of Commerce of Val Ease West came up with a scheme to attract tourists to the area which, after all, had a lot to offer: hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, a lodge with spa but no suitable attraction to get the attention of foreign visitors. Hey, how about inviting sculpters to design and build a series of life-size dinosaurs and offer a prize to the winning proposal? Sounded good to the members of the C of C, too.

So the dinosaurs came to inhabit the woods along the upper right edge of the layout and the "Rocket" was put into service to ferry the ever-growing number of tourists up the grade to CVE lodge and spa, stopping along the way for a relaxing half-hour at the dino park for a moment to stretch legs, have a smoke (heaven forbid) and to have a Kodak moment with the Jusassic friends. All of the above justifies a twice-daily return run of the "Rocket" on the VECRR timetable.

Now trains were moving, no more excuses, time to greet the eager visitors who were starting to stream into the Palace.

At noon, or thereabouts, Peter came by to give me a potty break and to let me visit the show. He had pretty much picked up my spiel and was happily entertaining the kids and parents with his version of my dinosaur tale and handing out Exporail brochures. He looked so much at home as my newest VEC crewmember that I decided to wander around a bit.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode where I tell you of all the wonderous things on display at the London Festival of Railway Modelling. And yes, I did pay for coffees for Peter and me all day Sunday.

Respectfully submitted by
Jeffrey MacHan
Chief Imagineer - VECRR
International Ambassador - Exporail

VECRR London Festival of Railway Modelling Sponsors

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