The Val Ease Central Railroad ©
Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos © Copyright Jeffrey MacHan)
Last Spike: The Forklift Incident / Level Crossing Rerailers
VECRR Police Incident report number A0000012
Reporting officer: Constable Duncan Beigne
Date: October 31, 1954
Goods valued over 500$ damaged by forklift operator while on VEPA property.
At approximately 6pm of October 30th last, a witness (Yardmaster Curly
Whiskers) observed an unidentified male driving the VEPA forklift at a reckless
speed over the level crossing and through the gates of the VEPA quai. The
driver then made an attempt to cross the dock rail lead at a 45 degree angle
which rocked the forklift resulting in the loss of the load. The driver of the
forklift was seen running from the scene and has not been apprehended at this
The forklift was undamaged in this incident however the load was completely
destroyed when it rolled from the forks, breaking open on the dock apron.
According to the shipping manifest, the contents were six 15" color television
sets valued at $500 a piece. Witnesses on the dock declared unanimously that
it was impossible to recover the contents since they rolled off the apron and
into the river.
The investigation is ongoing.
The Forklift involved in the "incident".
At train shows, it is amazing how many times visitors to the VECRR ask how I
get the tiny trains on the track. It is understandable how people unfamiliar
with "Z" may wonder how the little gems stay on the rails considering how small
our rolling stock looks compared to the "giant" HO, O and G scale trains
nearby. At least one can actually see the rails on the bigger trains, they say!
What is really surprising is the number of active Z scale modelers who ask the
same question. It appears that many of our Z colleagues have not yet
discovered the simple technique of installing or converting level crossings to
serve as rerailers. Level crossings act to disguise the utilitarian goal of
helping us big-fingered types put the trains on the track and to keep them
Of course, first one must have level crossings on the layout. These are the
roadways and trails that traverse the railroad trackage. They can be highways
that are protected by flashing crossbucks and barriers, simple roadways with a
level-crossing sign on both sides of the track to warn motorists and
pedestrians of the potential danger, or a path used by livestock to move from
one pasture to another across the railway. So, the key to railing and
rerailing our rolling stock is to have some form of level crossings suitably
placed within easy reach around the layout.
Making the rerailer is a matter of choosing a flat piece of styrene or thin
wood strip (long thin wood coffee stir sticks are wonderful for this) and
cutting them to fit the length of the crossing. Make sure that the height of
the material does not pass beyond the level of the rail head otherwise coupler
trip pins may run afoul of the crossing and cause derailments instead of
preventing them. The width of the strip should be just wide enough to fit
nicely centered between the plastic track spike heads molded onto the sleepers
When selecting the longer strips of wood, pick sections that are straight and
do not have any twists or bows. Team tracks and dock loading leads are good
candidates for long lengths of rail head level rerailers as vehicles would
normally have to cross the tracks the entire length of the leads. Make sure
that there is also material covering the ties on the outside of the rails
otherwise your delivery trucks would have a hard time getting up and over the
The styrene or wood strip can be easily glued in place with a thin bead of
acrylic based glue, CA or even rubber cement. Be careful to avoid putting too
much cement on the area to be glued and immediately wipe off any excess from
the rail heads and inside edges if you happen to find it has migrated there.
It may be helpful to place a weight on the level crossing to keep the strips
nice and flat while the glue cures.
Once the glue has set you'll be pleasantly surprised how easily rolling stock
slips onto the rails with a little rocking and side-to-side jiggling over the
rerailer. If you find that the rerailer needs adjusting to allow the wheels to
roll through unhindered, try timming with a hobby knife. All that is left to
do is to apply paint or stain, rub in some black chalk or apply india ink
diluted with rubbing alcohol to simulate wear-and-tear and clean the rails one
last time to remove any glue, paint, stain or debris from the construction.
Using level crossing rerailers, it becomes easy to put cars back on the track
at arm's length and wow the crowds to no end! Next time someone asks what
superhuman powers are needed to rerail the rolling stock, you can either admit
to having "bionic" fingertips or you can reveal our secret and point to the
Not only do the rerailers make short work of putting cars on the track, they do
help (although not as much as you would think) rerail cars travelling around
the layout. And don't forget, level crossings are a normal feature of
railroading geography. They add texture and interest to a layout. As
rerailers, they make our hobby just a little bit more FUN!
The Forklift is a Gold Medal Models N kit that has undergone some improvementZ".
Oh, for those of you who might be wondering, the forklift is a white metal kit
from Gold Medal Models (N scale) and you should always cross rails at a 90
Enjoy your trainZ.