Sunday, March 19, 2006

1000th Visitor to my Model Railroad

Over the years a number of interesting people have visited my layout, many with a story to tell about their lives both inside and outside the hobby of model railroading. Guests have come alone or in small groups of three or four and I've managed to host larger crowds at times as my crew lounge is able to handle a dozen people with ease. Some folks who have come by were not necessarily involved in the hobby and it is my hope that somehow I managed to "kickstart"the model railroad gene in their DNA.

Some of my interesting visitors have included Rod Johnston, the husband of Lyne who created the well-known comic strip "For Better or Worse" where she often makes fun of his interest in trains. Walter Gretzky, the father of Wayne Gretzky of NHL fame telephoned to come over one time when he was visiting friends in the Ottawa area. Unfortunately, my wife had to give him the message that I was out of town giving a scenery clinic on model railroading! It was also a thrill hosting Tony Koester and Jim Hediger from Model Railroader Magazine in my home. The well-known modelling team of Bill and Mary Miller dropped in as did a crew of Master Model Railroaders from all over Ontario and other parts of the continent during a convention a few years back. I still get a big kick out of opening the pages of my guest book and reading all the comments people leave. I must say, every continent of the world is accounted for! This past week, in particular, was a milestone one for the layout. Read on...

Thursday evening, I was teasing my good friend, Derek Debeer, that he came up "one" short when he signed my guestbook after bringing his son and a friend over to see the trains. "What do you, short, Mike?" he queried me. "Simple,"I responded, "you are the 999th visitor who has come to see my model railroad!"

Derek didn't mind as numbers mean little to him. He is a "free spirit" who has already made a remarkable difference on the planet. You see, Derek was the drummer for the world class musical group "Johnny Clegg and Juluka" later
known as Zavuka. The music from this inter-racial band influenced those whose ambition it was to bring down the walls of Apertheid...and what an influence they were...and continue to be. In fact, Nelson Mandela asked Derek and Johnny to play at his inauguration as President of South Africa upon his release from prison. That's Derek on the left with other members of the band.

While visiting my layout, Derek mentioned that before he became heavily involved in the music industry, he worked for two years on the railroad in South Africa. He was a fireman whose primary job was to stoke the fires on the Garrats...those rather interesting locomotives prevalent in the southern parts of that continent.

Derek certainly had many a tale to tell about life as a stoker aboard these behemoth locomotives, but that's for another day.

So, who became the 1oooth visitor? Well, the following day, a little three-year old lad came over with his parents to see the trains. This was a couple Lisa had wanted to introduce me to...a wonderful family she had met through the nursery school where she volunteers. The young lad's name is Justin and he was thrilled to learn that he was a very special visitor.

I ran a lengthy freight train and he counted 38 cars being pulled by four engines. I then ran the short local you see pictured here behind B&M RS2 #1503. As a gift, I gave Justin and his parents a number of "black and whites" of the layout (I prefer them to colour images as they seem to suit the 1950's era better) and Justin was presented with a handful of Thomas the Tank colouring pages which thrilled him immensely!

Yes, model railroading is not only spans the ages and the globe!
Cheers, Mike

PS. The image of the Garrat was taken in 1964 by E. Marggraf

Check out my other weblog which details my train operating round robin group at


Marty on Vancouver Island said...

Excellent Mike. The honours couldn't have gone to a better lad. Congratulations to 3 year old Justin. Nice story about Derek as well. (I'll have to go and count the names in my guest book now.) Marty on Vancouver Island

Mike Sherbak said...

I am really impressed at the innovative way you have shared your layout and your love for the hobby and the two best railroads in New England! Thanks for sharing with us
Mike Sherbak
Fellow MEC/B&M modeler
deployed to Baghdad Iraq

Sean Skerritt said...

Thats a lot of traffic over the years. I bumped into some of your crew at the 07 Kingston Rail show and they gave a brief explanation of the FNG. Does the group receive visitors?

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