If you are new to this blog welcome! I will want you to know that I am a babe in this hobby, having just taken the plunge at the beginning of this year. One of my first purchases was a MKT diesel locomotive, without realizing it stood for Missouri-Kansas-Texas. Anyone who has done this past one week quickly gets the idea that each region of the country has its particular train lines that frequent your nearby rail lines. For me it is predominantly Norfolk Southern. While I will likely add either a Norfolk-Southern, Southern or Norfolk & Western locomotive to my collection next, I have grown very partial to the “Mary Kate”.
By the time I was able to attend my first train show in the nearby state of North Carolina I had begun to get a sense of things. I also had gained some perspective about brands and the expected cost. From hobby shops I was able to learn there was more of a premium on the prices, so I hoped at the train show I could swing a few deals. As part of my preparation I viewed a few YouTube videos from guys intending to share their experience in the way of pointers.
But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer scale of possibility when I walked into the North Carolina Agricultural Center in Asheville, North Carolina, on March 5th. One of the tips I got from the aforementioned videos was to take cash because you could haggle easier. The second reason was to set a limit to how much you could spend. One of the solid truths about the hobby is that it is NOT cheap!
There was a model train cornucopia that unfolded before me as I walked through the space. Locomotives, rolling stock, track, buildings and accessories of every gauge and flavor! What immediately caught my attention was some small Southern coal cars witha coal load. By the time I got to the train show I had an understanding of the quality difference between metal and plastic wheels, as well as the significance of truck mounted couplers versus body mounted. Also I had Kadee couplers as part of my required to buy qualifications.
I listened to others talk about the vendors and quickly learned by good ol’ word of mouth which vendors had been there before and had a good reputation for their items for sale. The vendor I had identified with the Southern cars was held in pretty high regard, so I bought a few items from him. I am happy with the coal cars I bought, and have enough along with three Southern box cars to make a pretty decent sized train to run around my layout when I get it built.
As another part of my research I have searched within eBay for buildings to place in my train layout design. There is all manner of types of structure, from industry to business to homes and churches. Some are on the low end of the quality and intricacy gradient, while others, especially some made by Faller of Germany, I think, are top of the line and carry a corresponding price tag. Here is an example of a Faller product, which is a house under construction.
At this train show there was tons of these buildings for sale. So many in fact that it would make you dizzy. Some of the kits even on the lower scale can run you $40-80 or more. But, if you buy them already built and reclaimed from a layout redesign the price is significantly less. I was not prepared for this possibility and since I had not really given much thought to my layout I didn’t just go buying for the sake of saving a few bucks.
I hope to attend my second train show the weekend of June 3rd & 4th at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. It is about half the distance from my home as the Asheville show, so much more convenient. Even though I have not posted about it yet my train tables for my layout are about 60% done and I am getting an image in my mind about what I want to buy building wise for it, so I hope to find some bargains at ETSU during their train show. It will be hosted by the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders club, which operates the George L. Carter Railroad Museum, also housed on the campus of ETSU.
My son is in his third year at my alma mater and my daughter will begin her college career there in about 4 months, so I expect to get many trips in to see their still developing layouts. A man’s gotta get the most out of his education investments doesn’t he?