by Daniel M. Bigda
The train show put on by the Amherst Railway Society is one of the biggest in the country. It isn't concentrated on one or two aspects of the railroading world but on all aspects. Many various railroad companies, both real and model, come to the Big E Conference Center in Springfield, Massachusetts every year to display their newest products to the public, which was estimated at 25,000 people this year and growing. This year the show was expanded into three buildings.
I've been in the railroading business for a long time, both real and model, and thought this time I'd get to the show in style--via Amtrak. This was my first train trip as a passenger and it was a good one--the train arrived on time.
At 8 am the show was already crowded as manufacturers and dealers were browsing over what everyone else had for sale. The show has a sort of a flea market feel.
In model railroading, all scales and gauges are represented, including local hobby shops from around New England and various manufacturers. You can find everything from z scale trains to Lionel and MTH trains to hand made wooden and knitted trains. People were selling videos of toy trains, scale model trains and real trains. There were plenty of operating layouts from all scales set as well. There were even chocolate steam engines to eat and what railroad aficionado could pass those up?
The real railroads were represented by historical societies dedicated to preserving old railroad equipment. Amtrak was there promoting the new Acela Express train service from Boston to Washington DC. They had an impressive display. A lot of people were lined up around the booth.
First, I visited Charlie Ro. They had their line of USA Trains for sale along with Lionel and MTH products. Charlie was excited about their new line of super scale detailed large scale cars. Those will be called Ultimate. "As good as it can get!" said Charlie.
Ultimate products include a 40' steel reefer, 50' modern Railbox-style boxcar, and Gunderson Maxi-Stack cars with containers. In the spring they'll release their SD40-2 in various road names. They had their F-3s and GP38s on display. Everything looked really good and
their booth was always packed.
I talked with Jim Weaver from Atlas O who was showing new items in all three scales that they manufacture. New in O-scale is the curved O-scale switch with wood ties. Very cool-looking. Jim and the gang did a good job on that one. Consumers are going to like it. This particular model was a mock-up. The radii is O-72 for the outside line and the turn-out is O-54. Jim was also showing the new airslide hopper and the wide-vision caboose. Both of these items looked great. The caboose has a fully detailed interior. Also on display were the 60' boxcar and the "whale-belly" tank car. Looking at their products for O scale it's easy to see that they've been creating scale models for a long time.
The US Postal Service was there promoting stamps and envelopes with depictions of old steam engines on them.
The 1205th Transportation Regiment was there showing pictures of their locomotives and what they have been doing throughout New England, especially how they're helping out local shortlines with track maintenance.
Kalmbach was selling all their magazines and how-to books. They also had a new book on making scenery for O-scale layouts which seemed to be selling the most.
I met with Ed Boyle and Gary Shriver from O-Gauge Railroading. We talked about the show and about the various manufactures and what exciting items are coming out. How MTH is really making news with their new train control system. It looks like MTH is going to put a dent in Lionel.
The general talk among those in the O gauge hobby was that Lionel is in trouble. The main consensus was that they had better get their act together to get themselves out of the hole that was dug by the last administration.
The show was great and I look forward to next year's show. I hope to see more manufacturers there to promote and sell their products. I believe if MTH and Lionel were there next year, the attendance of the show would reach 30,000-plus.
See you there next year!