Jim's Railroad Hobby Show Scrapbook
Since the late 1980s, I've been attending the Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show - first as a visitor, then as an exhibitor with the Mohegan Pequot Model Railroad Club. Through the years I've been fortunate to display numerous modules and layouts at the show. Below is a year by year scrapbook.
2017 Railroad Hobby Show
2017 marked the 30th anniversary of the Mohegan Pequot Model Railroad club displaying at the Railroad Hobby Show. The club displayed four layouts - our usual HO and G scale layouts plus the Tribute to Springfield O scale layout and a new Kids Run Trains interactive O gauge layout.
2016 Railroad Hobby Show
After learning about the railroad spur which used to serve the Eastern States Exposition, I decided to build the O scale edition of the Tribute to Springfield theme. The layout was about 50% complete for the show with all of the track in place and all of the base scenery. A lot of detail still wasn't on the layout but the big features - like the Young Building were done. This website was born as a result of the project and a blog chronicled the early construction of the layout.
2015 Railroad Hobby Show
In 2015, the club displayed inside the Young Building for the 21st consecutive year and brought our largest layout ever. Several new members constructed modules for the show allowing us to bring a layout with over 300 linear feet of mainline. This year, I brought four modules including the Tribute to Springfield module project as well as the 2' Orange Tree Company module and the Amtrak MOW module. Overall, this years edition of the show was quite a bit of fun in spite of the fact we had a major snow storm on Saturday (dropping 8" of snow). By building a module of the Eastern States Exposition, I learned a few things which inspired 2016's Tribute to Springfield O scale project.
2014 Railroad Hobby Show
With the 20th anniversary of the club displaying inside the Young Building (and 27th overall), I decided it was time to build a tribute to the show module. The idea had been forming for several years and I had taken some pictures of the buildings a few years before and during the Big E fair the prior September. The club needed a corner module and I volunteered to build it. The building was set inside the corner module with a small 2' spacer added to make room for a turnout to a siding which ran alongside the model of the building. The model was a hit with a lot of the exhibitors - especially those of us who set up in the building every year.
2013 Railroad Hobby Show
In the spring of 2012, the club decided to convert its HO layout to DCC. We had been operating on DC control since our inception in the 1980s. It was a big project as close to 50 modules needed to be rewired in less than nine months. Since we were going to be doing a lot of work on the modules, it was decided that we would also proceed with a visual overhaul as well going from gray painted fascias with white skirting to green painted fascias with black skirting. This ended up being a huge project but the club was able to complete it in time for the 2013 edition of the Railroad Hobby Show. Since I dedicated so much time to helping out converting all these modules, this was the first year in many that I did not have my own module at the show.
2012 Railroad Hobby Show
For the first time, I decided to branch out and build my own layout for the 2012 show. The club had given me a enough leeway to allow me space inside the HO scale layout for a two rail O scale layout. The 12'x16' layout was built in 10 sections and featured a yard, golf hole, and stone arch bridge. Several members did help me during the show and several provided equipment to run as I had not acquired much by the time of the show. Unfortunately this turned out to be a one year layout as I lost the space to be able to store the ten module sections.
2011 Railroad Hobby Show
Since I hadn't built a new module for myself in a few years, I decided to build a new stone arch bridge. The 2'x4' Sherman's Creek bridge was loosely based on one of the stone arch bridges on Pennsy's Middle Division. The scene features the bridge, a railfan park, and a canoe rental business. As had become a tradition, I built the module the December and January leading up to the show.
2009 Railroad Hobby Show
The 2009 Railroad Hobby Show was the club's test run for the following summer's National Train Show to be held in our backyard in Hartford, CT. Many of the club members had their modules groomed for the show and we spent time working out any kinks that we had in the layout.
2008 Railroad Hobby Show
By 2008, many of the module benchwork sections built in the summers of 2005 and 2006 for the club, were finally getting some much needed scenery and the layout was starting to look complete again. I had spent some time helping my friend Stu build the mountains on his Pennsy Yard module. His modules were designed to flow into the Rockville Bridge module and with some scenery, it was really quite the sight to see train snake around the mountains and out over Rockville at the show.
2007 Railroad Hobby Show
With my first visit to Rockville Bridge in 2004, I knew I wanted to build a module of the scene. It was just perfect as it had three tracks and featured a stone arch bridge - a personal favorite. Due to my schedule, I didn't have a chance to start the project until 90 days before the show would open to the public! However, I carved out time in my schedule and had the module complete in time for the 2007 Railroad Hobby Show. The journal of the construction of the module was compiled into a book called 90 Days to Rockville.
2006 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
I think 2005 will go down in my personal record books for the most module benchwork sections constructed in one year. For a few years, a number of members had wanted to build module sections and some of the members with modules were ready for replacements. In the summer of 2005, the club embarked on building 42 (!) module sections over the course of three weekends. About 15 members helped in the effort which completely transformed the HO layout. At the show in 2006, many of these new modules, featuring just track, were already replacing the older modules. In just a few years, all of these modules built in the summer of 2005 would be on display.
2005 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
As part of the Passenger Station Complex, several members had decided that they wanted to add a sawmill and logging railroad. This module set was to be built on a corner module, an eight foot module, and four foot module. This was the most complex module which I have built. I built the benchwork during the summer of 2004 and several other club members completed the scenery work while I returned to school in the fall. By the time Springfield rolled around in 2005, the module was starting to look complete. This also proved to be the end of the first generation of the HO scale Mohegan Pequot modular layout. The summer of 2005 brought big changes.
2004 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
A few years into the construction of the Passenger Module Complex, many of the club members had become painfully aware of just how heavy the construction of the modules had been. These modules made from 3/4" birch plywood and some sections were as large as 39"x8'! Over the summer of 2003, myself and fellow club member Stu Dom had a design contest to see how light of a module we could construct from stable and strong materials. Stu built a test module which would eventually be used in his Pennsy Yard set and I would build the Prairie Peddler module. While technically mine was a few pounds lighter, Stu had a much more compact design. Within 5 years, almost all the club modules would be rebuilt into this new defacto club standard.
2003 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
For another year, the focus of the module building activity in the club was on the Passenger Station Complex. The club diligently worked every Wednesday night for almost a full year wiring this huge module set. At the time, all of our modules were controlled by DC block control - a simple system but one that required a large amount of wiring. The control panel to handle all of the controls was sizable - rounding out at 2'x6' - almost the size of another module. The control panel included rotary switches for track power to change between the four module cabs and the two mainline cabs and also included switches for turnout control. LED's were included with all of these switches to provide feedback to the operator as to how each block and turnout was set.
2002 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
The biggest module project I have ever been involved with was the 42' long Passenger Module Complex, which the club began construction of in the spring of 2001. During the spring and summer of 2001, the club spent many Saturdays at my shop cutting plywood and assembling all the parts needed to build the modules. By the time the show rolled around in 2002, the benchwork was complete and track was nailed down and ready for trains.
2001 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
In 2001, I brought the same module set - the Connecticut River Drawbridge - as I did in 2000. In addition, as I had for the previous two years, I also was responsible for transporting the TAMR's 4'x6' display layout to the show. I had been given custody of the layout a few years earlier with my appointment to the Northeast Region Representative and had to help with the setup of the organization's table at the show. The layout had been built by Ole Bye and inspired by his many trips out west. It was a really nice layout with code 70 track, a waterfall, a small mine scene, and painted backdrop. I did a little clean up work to the overall layout during the few years I had possession of it but otherwise it was mostly Ole's work. The layout was moved on to the next Northeast Region rep after the show as my tenure had come to an end.
2000 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
With the Niantic River Drawbridge down for the count after the 1999 show, I decided to build a larger module set - this time of the Connecticut River Drawbridge. This module set was 12' long consisting of three four foot modules. The bridge was kitbashed out of Walthers Double Track Truss Bridge kits and was actually constructed to operate. Most of the show was spent showing the bridge operating to a delighted audience. On Saturday afternoon, the crowds were three deep and stretched several modules in either direction!
1999 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
In 1999, I began my tradition of exhibiting bridge modules. The first of which was a rough kitbashed version of the Niantic River Drawbridge on the Northeast Corridor. This module also taught a few lessons about the importance of material choice in module construction. While not visible in the photos, the water for the river was made from a resin style material. The module was transported in the back of a covered pickup truck. Unfortunately, the weather was right around zero degrees which caused the module to shrink. When it was set up inside the heated Young Building, everything began to expand and the water cracked. This shows that picking the right materials to withstands both the move and the temperature of the move is critical for module construction.
1998 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
After retiring my first module a year earlier, I was back in 1998 with a new creation. This time, one of my friends also built a module which we designed to connect. My 2'x4' module featured a junction scene with a train station, tower, interchange track, and heating oil distributor. It was simple but it was a big visual improvement over the first module attempt.
1997 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
Around 1997, one of the club members was a commercial truck driver. He happened to work for a moving company and the winter months were a little slow. For a little press, the company he worked for allowed the club to transport its HO and G scale layouts in a 53' tractor trailer over the weekend to the show. This was quite the sight pulling into the Young Building. I brought along my video camera that year and posted a video of loading the tractor trailer to the club's YouTube channel here.
1996 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
My first time at the show as an exhibitor came in 1996. The year before had been the first year of the expansion of the show into the Young Building but due to a massive snow storm, I was unable to attend. The first module I had built was rough by any standards, but it was mechanically and electrically sound if visually unimpressive. I remember staying busy switching cars in the yard and taking breaks to find deals on old magazine back issues. These were cheap and with little money to my name at the time, I could come back with bags and bags of purchases without having spent much money. The highlight for my module was when some of the club members decided to run a 220 car coal train around the layout. The train made it over my module section without a hitch - a bet most people probably wouldn't have taken!
1994 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
About a month before the show, I received my first issue of Model Railroader magazine at Christmas - the December 1993 issue. The cover story was building an N scale layout on a door of Conrail's Mohawk Division through upstate New York. I was fascinated and had read the magazine cover to cover multiple times and wouldn't you know it, but Lou Sassi had the layout operating at the show. That was exciting. In addition, I had become aware of a local model railroad club - the Mohegan Pequot Model Railroad club - although it would be another year before I joined the group. The club had all four scales at the show including an L-shaped HO scale layout, oval N and O scale layouts, along with a switching layout in G scale. This would be last show as a spectator before the beginning of exhibiting modules at the show.
1991 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
The family's second trip to the show was two years later in 1991. I do remember during these early years my first viewing of the New Haven Society of Engineers massive scratchbuilt O scale drawbridge from the late 1930s. This model is just amazing and has been coming to the show for as long as I remember. It inspired me to build several models of drawbridges including the Connecticut River Drawbridge and Niantic River Drawbridge. I still enjoy going over to see the bridge operate each year I've been to the show.
1989 BIG Railroad Hobby Show
My first visit to the Big Railroad Hobby Show was way back when it was still able to be contained inside the Better Living Center at the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield, MA. I was still very young at the time but I have some vague memories of the show. Besides being enthralled with the overwhelming amount of trains (a feeling that admittedly still hasn't gone away after 25 years), I do remember some of the layouts. My family only took two photos (remember film cost money back in the day) from our trip to the show that year. I think I was already starting to develop a good eye for great modules as the lone photo I must have asked my parent's to take was of well known modeler Mike Tylick's F&S Junction module. I wouldn't discover until many years later that this module was featured in a How-To series in Model Railroader.