Our pictures runneth over. The July batch was posted - over 130 pics of NJ Transit, Hoboken's Lackawanna Terminal, Newark's Penn Station, The old Erie Station and turntable in Port Jervis, Metro North's Port Jervis facilities, Otisville Station, the Long Island Railroad and Jamaica Station. Also included were close-ups of Green Mountain Railway's GP9s and the LIRR's GP 38s and MP15. That's a lot of work, because each picture has to be selected, cleaned up, converted and prepared for placement on the website.
One merry coup was catching NJ Transit's GG1 right off Observer Highway by the old freight house. Though lighting was poor, we got you great shots of GG1 #4877 in its original Pennsy livery in maroon and buff. Modelers, we got close ups for you!
Added to our in-house inventory (and reviewed for you) are the K-Line MP15 diesels, KCC Golden State passenger cars, Lionel GP38 in NJT colors, a few more freight cars PLUS that great, prototypically accurate railcar of all time, the Marvin the Martian Rocket Launcher.
Coming this week - Sal at Island Trains gave us pics of another cat who loves Lionels. (Yeah, we may sell HO and N, but O is too big, so we buy our Lionels and K-Lines from a really good bunch of guys: Island Trains of Staten Island. If you want O gauge, service and some SUPER deals, these are the guys to see!)
Some of you might have orders waiting. On a personal note, our summer sales have been a bit chaotic. My mother died at the beginning of Summer, and there has been some estate business that's gotten me away from the station. Things are stable now, however, so expect better service.
On another front, we have started working on organizing Train Runners. There have been several responses to this novel, practical concept of the railroad hobby. I am personally working on a basic manual for the club. We are involved in developing more layouts with more great rail operations. Train Runners works! We're doing what we can to make it more accessible to you.
In an attempt to get materials so we can illustrate our Train Runner operations photographically, we are seeking materials from manufacturers and vendors. It's a simple proposition: if they send us the goods, we use them in our Train Running photos. Of course, we credit them, set up links to their websites, and review what they send us. Links are important. You might want some of the trains showcased here. A link makes it easy for you to get to the folks who provided them for us.
What better way to sell a good product, but to have it used and photographed in action? And how much better to have it seen on a site that has increased traffic through ongoing updates and an aggressive program to expand our usefulness to visitors?
(If you're a manufacturer or vendor interested in having your products reviewed and used here, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
We just finished shooting a roll of film that illustrates some of the challenges one might have using our Train Runner layouts. That includes incidents like near misses, traffic jams and the added fun of running the little crew car. Yes, we have had some fun with our layouts, especially since adding a few new faces to our O Gauge inventory.
Also, our new Army Men Homepage will sport a small section of photos showing plastic soldiers defending a rail junction. Maybe the idea of it rankles you. After all, toy soldiers are 1/32 scale and trains are 1/48. Think about this: the Army Men Homepage is strictly nostalgia and fun. Didn't you ever play with trains and army men at the same time? A lot of us did, and the scale problem didn't impede our fun.
Our next runs have been delayed, but we intend to make a photo shoot in New Haven soon. I am also considering a run to Philly for shots of Septa and Amtrak. That's going to be wild, as we really want to get some of the more unusual trains and color schemes. New Haven allows us to snap Metro North and a few of the oddball New England lines. We might even make an end run to the Trolley Museum.
Folks, one big thing a lot of folks mention is the lack of steam on the site. I'd like to make a run to Steamtown soon. Though I'm primarily a diesel fan, I'm not "anti-steam". The run would cover Steamtown's locos and some of the yard facilities. A second run to New Jersey's Allaire State Park might be possible to get their narrow-gauge locos.
We are working on a passenger page on the site so visiting railfans can get to our local train and try them. While the site will cover NJ Transit, Metro North and the Long Island RailRoad very well, I want to add links to passenger service in other regions in North America. The page is going to be a veritable passenger exchange where railfans across the continent can plan to include a visit to regional passenger roads while vacationing. We need links, so any help is appreciated.
BTW - the film and negatives from Seattle Filmworks are recycled movie film - it tends to deteriorate with time. Use film from a well-know maker. We currently use Kodak Royal Gold.
With the new stuff that came in, we have some reviews for you. Here's what landed and what we think of it. (Photos coming soon)
K-Line Rock Island Train Set: includes Rock Island MP15 and lighted caboose, three freight cars, billboards, track and transformer. We got a good deal from Sal at Island Trains and couldn't pass it up. The MP15 is excellent - nice, black with red Rock Island markings, and the caboose lights up nicely. Three train-set grade cars are included. Not bad. I bought this one for two reasons: the loco would make a great prime mover for our Train Runner commuter shuttles, and the gondola was just right for our barrel loader. Everything else was icing on the cake. And it is, too! The diesel runs well. We used it for a few of our more difficult tricks and liked the results. Power is good, and it looks great. The freight cars are generic train set grade. Nice enough, but my biggest complain are the K-Line couplers. Lionel couplers have much smoother action. The K-Line transformer has advantages for some types of layouts, and was comfortable enough. My main complaint was the lack of a whistle tooter.
K- Line Collector's Club Kenncott Copper MP15 - another good diesel, compatible with the Rock Island version. We liked how it runs and we especially like the color scheme. I played "MU set" with both switchers and found the performance good. Having seen the real thing only a week before on Long Island, I appreciate the good detail of K-Line's MP15 switchers. They are excellent and at the price, a real bargain.
Lionel NYC Crew car: a Bronco-type vehicle that runs on the tracks. It lights, it goes only one direction and it's fun. We found that inclusion of this wild card car in a Train Run added to the confusion and the challenge. Kids love it. Plastic body, DC motor, to paraphrase Wakko Warner. "nice train thingie". The old ones had stamped metal bodies and weren't as smooth.
Lionel NYC Pacemaker Operating Boxcar - a really nice model of the Pacemaker, and the little man throws out a mailbag. Okay, the car looks good on its own merits, without the operating feature. Adding the mailbag-throwing, door-opening little man is just icing on the cake. We like this boxcar a LOT and run it all the time.
Lionel GP38 in NJT colors - has 2 DC motors, a cat-chasing horn, NJT colors (Yippeee) and we love it. Sal gave us a great deal on it and we took it. (In fact, we can get one for you for a mere $150 - order through us!)
K-Line Railbox Operating bOxcar - cute little boxcar with a brakeman that open the door. Not as posh as Lionel, but its very affordable and it looks good. My wife thinks it's funny. She loves it!
K-Line KCC Kenncott Copper searchlight caboose - in green with yellow trim, it has a powerful searchlight and is great for use o nan MOW train. I LOVE it - sturdy, heavy construction - well worth ordering.
K-Line KCC Golden State Passenger cars - we love them - detailed O gauge plastic-body cars with interiors and super lighting. WELL worth having, and they look so cool. The detail on them is just plain super! Golden State cars look wonderful whether pulled by steam or diesel. Highly recommended!
Unfortunately, our website at http://www.web4free.com/alcodiesel is no more. The web host has shut down, so that URL is no longer valid. Likewise, we no longer use the site at http://www.earthonline.net/ The web4Free site, Another Erie Railroad Station, has been moved to http://members.tripod.com/~alcothor/ The former Earthonline site, Another Old railroad Station, has been moved to http://www.maxcafe.com/a/l/alcothor/ Note that some sites have been down temporarily but are up again. Xoom's ongoing upgrade closed Asgard Station Express Trains sporadically, and Maxcafe's upgrade had shut down the Old Railroad Station for about two weeks in July. These sites are pretty reliable, but if they go out, it is only temporary.
A new website, The Army Men Homepage, is available at http://members.aol.com/trollwise/armymen1.htm This is a site about the old plastic toy soldiers, cowboys and Indians, spacemen, Pirates, etc. There's a little about trains, but mainly it's for "over 40" kids who like to remember their toys. We even added four games that can be played outdoors using toy soldiers. The rules are very simple - a good diversion for the under-18 kids. But hey, friends, I wouldn't leave you unattended. You can get some soldiers and spacemen at the site, too. I have those old plastic spacemen with separate plastic helmets like they made in the late 40s and 50s. Someone remade them, I got them.
Spacemen and electric trains - wow - have we gotten off-topic!
You can tell a lot about people by how they react to an unusual situation. I like to create such a thing occasionally just to see the kind of people out there. A little unexpected humor, a little unexpected conflict, and watch the feathers fly. I had a lot of fun on the AOL railroad/Railfanning boards this year. Our old rumor about the C&O railroad and shoes took off, caught a few people off-guard, and ended up with a flurry of Yankee jokes being sent my way by Southern railfans. That's the nice thing about kidding the Southern boys: they always take the joke in the spirit in which it is given, and respond in kind.
A dispute on another message board evoked our mischievous spirit and we had fun at the expense of a few loud "one trick ponies." You know the type - they're a whiz at trains and big heroes on the message boards, but they left the rest of their lives unmanned. You see, unlike most railfans out there - folks like you and me who do this for the enjoyment and satisfaction it brings - some folks do it to for odd reasons. Some see it as a place to prove themselves, others a realm where they can act like they're important, etc. The term for it is "compensation."
The good news about all this is that as endeavors go, Railfanning and Model Railroading tend to have fewer "compensators." The average railfan, from my observations, is a decent individual who's usually got an interesting handful of non-railroad accomplishments - to put it colloquially, he or she "has a life." The average railfan is far more generous with his time and assistance, generally more knowledgeable about many things - not just railroading - and tends to have a healthy attitude towards life, people and the world in general. By rooting out a few of the more obnoxious (and infrequent) hooples, it puts the average railfan in perspective.
A chance meeting of railfans has a 95% chance of turning out good. Compare that with other hobbies or pursuits. I've run across railfans when I go out to Hoboken, Penn Station, Port Jervis and other places - accidental meetings with folks who happen to be there at the same time, doing the same thing - and the cooperation is instantaneous. Here you have people who never met before, are from totally different backgrounds, but they're helping each other with shutter speeds and general info as if they were a team. Always, the one who knows the area best informs his new friend as to where the best stuff is! If you wonder how an out-of-town railfan managed to get great shots of the little-known gems in your area, odds are that he ran into local railfans.
One of my more interesting adventures involved an arranged meeting with Henry, Bill (Alcoman) and Mary at Hoboken. They had made the run down from Buffalo for a meet of the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society. By sheer luck, I had gotten there early and spotted an old switcher at work. (Hoboken is home turf, so to speak - been riding trains out of there since....forever) Well, it's always more fun when there's something special for visitors. We had a great day.
Railfanning is the kind of hobby that attracts a more intelligent, more cooperative and more perceptive individual. Though there's an occasional knucklehead, hothead or show-oaf in the wings, he's a rare looney-bird. In this hobby / pastime / pursuit , you're far more likely to run across a good natured, helpful and friendly person than anywhere else.
It takes an occasional kookooburra to remind us of how good we have it here.
If you're going to hit NJ Transit for a ride, avoid rush hour trains to and from Port Jervis. Try the off hours. The last train can also be crowded whether it's a weekday or not. Port Jervis is good shooting territory if you like passenger trains and a classic station.
For great shots of an operating bascule bridge, try Belmar, NJ. Take the Shore train from Newark's Penn Station.
If coming from New York City, you can get NJ Transit Trains to Newark's Penn Station at Penn Station, NY, under Madison Square Garden. You can also take a PATH Train to Hoboken from 33rd, 23rd, 14th, 9th, and Christopher streets and the World Trade Center (Path runs generally along 7th avenue) A Path train is available to Newark. You can take the Path from 33rd, 23rd, 14th, 9th and Christopher Streets to Journal Square, where you change to the Newark Train. From the World Trade center, Path runs direct to Newark. Note that from 33rd Street, you have the option of a Hoboken or Journal Square train. 33rd is not far from Madison Square Garden.
In Hoboken, if you have time and want a good meal, go straight out the Waiting Room door (the one between the ticket booths and men's room) and cross the plaza to the old boat slip. Turn left, walk about a block and a half, and you'll see the Clam Broth House - good seafood. If you keep going, however, stop at Washington Street - you will see City hall across the street. Make a hard left and you're a few feet from the Italian Bakery - great coffee and pastry. A ride to Suffern is enhanced by having cannolis and coffee on the train.
Newark is rather "heads up" - stay in the station at night. It's that kind of town. Better to eat before or after hitting Newark.
Port Jervis: get to Route 209 and head north about a mile or so. Leaving Port Jervis, you'll pass a school and farmer's stand on the right. A little ways down the road, in the trees, you will see a long dark, log-type building - the Cornucopia Restaurant. Excellent German food, casual attire is okay. Classy place, so you get all the benefits without the fuss of dressing up.
Want to see scenery? From Port, walk over to the bridge to Pennsylvania. Halfway across, stop and look out over the Delaware. Wow! When you get to Pennsy, cross the road and come back on the other side. Halfway, look outward again. WOW! Two great views, one great bridge.
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More layouts and operations have been posted this week, bringing us to to 16! We will be posting highlites of a Train Running session soon. Unfortunately, we don't have all the goodies we'd like at this time. Here at Trollwise, we have a diecast 4-4-2 Atlantic loco & tender with caboose (NYC), an MP15 switcher with caboose (RI), 027 track, several freight cars, one passenger car, two small transformers and a barrel loader. We need more to improve photo descriptions of the Train Runs. We need the following:
Trolleys, shuttles or interurbans
Another Atlantic 4-4-2 (they are cool and work well for train running!)
More Switches / turnouts
At least two more diesel switchers
Cab units (Alco FA or PA, Emd F or E units)
One crane and boom tender
I am buying what I can piecemeal. In the meantime, the sound of O gauge hi-rail has made this house a merry place, indeed!
(Manufacturers, shops and vendors who would like to participate - and get recognition and links on this site - can email us for details. Thanks!)
Though I am not pleased with change, I have to admit that NJ Transit and Metro North are doing a better job than their predecessors. The trains are better, cleaner, more comfortable and more frequent. The ride is smoother, and travel time is shorter. Though not as fancy as the Lackawanna in its heyday, the new transit lines are better than the Central New Jersey, Erie-Lackawanna, Penn Central and Conrail of the `60s and `70s.
First of all, the predecessors' rolling stock was old and in need of replacement or refurbishing. However, as passenger services were not profitable during the final years, nothing was done to improve passenger service. NJ Transit and Metro North have replaced all the old Stillwells, Heavyweights and Smoothsides with modern coaches from Budd and Bombardier. The newer coaches are an improvement.
Second, NJ Transit and Metro North offer more service that the predecessors had offered in the previous 20 years! There are more trains running, and more destinations covered. Better scheduling and on-time performance are notable.
Finally, the ride is smoother. Especially in the final years, the Erie-Lackawanna, CNJ and PC were not doing their all to maintain track. Likewise, welded track was rare on those lines. Today, better track maintenance and more welded track means a smoother, faster ride.
Frankly, the only commuter line recently visited that I didn't like was the Long Island Railroad. Cars were not as clean, trains moved slowly, stations were a mess, and some of the cars looked like cast-offs and antiques. Their mainline diesel were old Geeps in need of paint and maintenance. The only exception was an MP15 at the back of a "scoot" train. The Staten Island Railroad's 50+ year old switchers look better than the Long Island Railroads Geeps.
Our own "railroad" on Staten Island is pretty efficient, especially when you consider ongoing programs of track maintenance. Cars are clean and reliable (in eight years here, I have only known of one breakdown). Stations are well-kept, and the MOW is always on the move. Though SIRT transit trains are actually commuter cars with motormen (not REAL trains with locomotives), it's a nice little railroad. As the NY Islands go, Staten Island once again trounces Long Island!
Our Rail Cats pics were a matter of opportunity. We were having fun with our O gauge stuff when the felines decided to get involved. Having a small camera ready, it was only a matter of clicking whenever a cat did something notable. Next time, we'll be using our Nikon!
The original pics of O gauge in action - the set without the cats - was done with an older, small camera. Future pics of O gauge will be done with our better camera.
BTW - Sal over at Island Trains lent us some pics of another train-loving cat.. Pics will appear here soon!
The Super Loco Award is given to railroad, railfan and model railroad websites that offer good content and graphic appearance. We have given out over 20 so far, to sites from the US, Canada, Britain and Australia. Why not yours? Winners get a free link on the awards page. If you want to check out our winners, the awards page can be reached through our Alligashins Wild and Wacky Free pages and Awards at http://members.aol.com/anelsonshe/ . While you're there, check out the awesome assortment of free help: graphics, animations, URL submitters, free sites, web hosting, free email and more! We try to maintain links to the best free website goodies on the net!
Those hi-rail equipped automobiles known colloquially as "crew cars" need not be relegated to the "cutesie" box. Crew cars can add to the challenge of running multiple trains. Because they can only run in one direction, they present a tactical problem whenever they appear during a good train run.
We recently started running a crew car out to the scene of action prior to sending the MOW train. The problem for the crew car is that it isn't accounted for in schedules or signals. Therefore, it has to avoid trains altogether! Once the car is at the scene, it can be removed from the tracks. (It can also be moved off track at any grade crossing) Until then, it's "heads up!" for both trains and car.
You have to admit - use of the crew car is an imaginative twist!
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The Lionel 4-4-2 Atlantic locomotive
Hey, didn't I have one of these back in `57????
The whole O gauge thing here was kicked off by Lionel's "New York Central Flyer" set - my wife bought it for me a few months back. I liked the set, and was re-introduced to a very old friend, the diecast 4-4-2 'Atlantic' steam locomotive with whistling tender. I have to give the Atlantic a lot of respect. The little engine has endured for decades. It's not a powermeister like the F3s or a super-steamer like the 6-8-6 Pennsy turbine, but the 4-4-2 holds its ground as a very good locomotive at an affordable price. This is Lionel's "cheap" locomotive (though not the cheapest - a small 0-4-0 switcher holds that title....) included in myriad "starter" trainsets since ....forever. I don't notice any changes in the body or the motor. The whistle sounds the same. It will hurtle around the track with 8 or 9 cars, struggle a bit on the curves with 10 or 12, and crawl like a turtle with 14 or more. (We used a mix of cars - some had diescast trucks and others had plastic).
Our admiration is for a tough, sturdy, reliable model locomotive that has withstood the text of 40+ years with no visible changes. Lionel's smoke thing is improved, so the instructions say, and a rubber tire is slipped on a couple of wheels for better traction these days.
If there was a single engine that's the "catch-all" for Train Running, the 4-4-2 is a worthy candidate. It makes for a great steam switcher or local hauler. Once you get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with the way it stops and starts, you can get it to stop on a dime. Put a coach or two behind it and you have the ultimate steam-era commuter. Line up a gondola, flat, small crane and caboose and it's the MOW of choice.
Don't expect modern miracles from the 4-4-2. It's not intended to be a technological marvel. Used as a good, all-purpose light - to - medium- duty loco, the 4-4-2 performs reliably. In these days when folks tout the latest and the greatest, we can't forget a simple, basic, dependable staple of O gauge train running.
MTH Crossing Gate and Signal
MTH's crossing gate and signal is a big, heavy piece with diecast body and plastic gate. It comes with a pressure plate to put under the rails and adequate instructions. We gave it a spin and liked the overall performance. However, when connected to track power, its gate won't come down all the way for slow-moving trains. (Hook it up to the accessories transformer!) We found the crossing signal a good value overall. It's oversize for "O scale", but the traditional size for toy train operations. A nice accessory for train running, if you like having some operating items whose purpose is mainly show. (We do!)
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