Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rail A Rama Charlestowne Mall 1/26 Photo revue

Scene from the movie Cars
  Saturday afternoon I found myself at Charlestowne mall to see the remnants of the group formerly known as Explorer Post 9911. Now known as Venture Crew 9911, they need to be commended on keeping Rail A Rama going. Tom Leverenz and Dave Maxfield were involved as adults during my days there and sadly everything that happens now is largely their doing. I only hope this group clings on long enough to see my kids in it. Groups in attendance were of course Post 9911, my other old friends Kane County Model Railroad Club of Elgin, Venture Crew 57 A.K.A. Baden Powell Model Railroad club from Downers Grove and the Northwest N-Trak club of Palatine. Enjoy the Highlights.
Look Mom!!! A carnival!!!
 Baden Powell had some interesting stuff put together by their crew. First time I've seen a plane in flight on a module. My daughter was the one who noticed the "Cows" tipped on end after being startled by the tow truck.

 Next we had Venture Crew 9911 of Elgin. If you have any aspiring model railroaders between the ages of 14-19, 9911 needs you. This was the very first group I ever joined. I was one of the original crew and its first President. I inplore you to get your kids involved in this group.
Tom Leverenz
 I am going to visit these guys some Thursday. According to the group's present adult advisor Tom Leverenz, much of the stuff I worked on survives in their building off McLean Blvd. At the time I was involved in 9911, we had no shortage of model builders and hands available to set things up. It breaks my heart to see the present state of affairs. In a world of Xbox, online games Ipods and countless other distractions, groups like 9911 suffer. Do you want your kids learning how to push buttons to blow things up or learning how to create things others can appreciate? There is no substitute for hands on learning of new crafts, that without future generations involved will fall by the wayside as lost arts.


 Next, we have Kane County Model Railroad Club. A very talented group that hails from Elgin, these guys are a true class act. There has been a big change in membership since the days I knew these guys, and from the looks of things they are doing great.

A scratchbuilt diesel facility, a barn with a lift off roof and detailed interior and the trackside shanties are just a sampling of the neat stuff this group has. Interested parties should have a look at their site in the link above, hats off to a talented club that has something new every time you see them.
 The Northwest N-Trak club of Palatine , really blew me away in terms of what you can do with minimal space. Credit where credit is due, these guys models were every bit as detailed as the HO groups. The boxcar bridge was a nice touch.

While this event has shrunk in the number of participating groups, it still attracts quality and innovation for one weekend a year. Without fresh blood in Venture Crew 9911, its a death race between 9911 and Charlestowne Mall. I only hope they both hang in long enough to get my kids involved. Thanks for reading, and happy modeling!!!!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Operating night @ VMRR pt.2

As a tribute to my friends at IRM, I found it appropriate to let the Indiana car run the line with its pole spun around the same way Indiana Railroad 65 run on its westbound trip. Its enought to bause a double take.

The photo below was borrowed from and is a photo of the building the club resides in. On the left is the model of Clintonville substation, the interurban line runs beside it just as the CA&E did before the days of the prarie path. The red and silver car in the photo is a Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee (North Shore Line) Silverliner. Longtime friend Jeff Obarek is keeper of the Silverliner. Henry Cordell, the longtime master mechanic of the NSL would be proud of the condition of this car. I wish mine all ran as well as this one.

 Special thanks to Jeff Obarek and Bob Opal for helping me get my feet planted back in the hobby. Stay tuned for my upcoming posts. A pictorial report of Rail A Rama @ Charlestowne Mall and An Evening in the Inspection Pit will be up in the next day or two. Thanks for reading.

Operating Night@VMRR

 Last Friday night entailed a visit to Valley Model Railroad Club to let a few pieces of equipment run the cobwebs out and see a few old friends. Some of the best overhead wire work I've ever seen in HO scale is the handywork of Mr. Bob Opal. Some of you will recognize this name, Bob has been an influence at Illinois Railway Museum for many many years. I know a thing or two, but Bob is a walking model railroad encyclopedia.

 He gave me an idea to fix the sketchy drive in FVT&L 34. This electric loco is painted for my fictional Fox Valley Traction & Light Co. Painted out of spray cans at age 14 and kitbashed from a Roundhouse diesel, this is what I did before I had the kind of scratch to buy brass models. In these pics you will see some of Bob's wire work.

FVT&L 34 and 28.  28 is a Fairfield Models Pittsburgh Railways Jones car. This was my very first brass model. Painted as the FVT&L's training car, the story behind it was Pittsburgh actually had its own designated training car, x10, so I didnt see it as that far fetched of an adaptation.
 The one on the right is in Pittsburgh colors, same model.

  The Indiana Railroad Highspeed car saw some run time too. This is an ancient Bowser/ Penn Scale. Still debating a repaint before details and decals. Its getting repowered too. Watching it go at a scale 100mph might be interesting for the kiddies, but it drives me nuts.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Coming Full Circle

Greetings and salutations!!  My name is Ben Rohling, and I'm an addict..... I'm addicted to 600 Volts DC. For years growing up, I was an avid traction modeler.  What is traction? Have you ever seen the movie " Who Framed Roger Rabbit "? You'll remember the subplot of the movie was the plan to purchase and kill the Red Car, A.K.A Pacific Electric. There's your traction. " Oh, you mean trolleys." Traction includes trolleys, but let's not neglect the CTA with its third rail power, or the system that was in place in Washington DC where power was carried in a slot between the rails.

 So how is it a grizzled biker with several motorcycles and a 1964 Merc in the garage find themself wrapped up in model trains? The seeds were planted early....on my fourth birthday, my Mother arranged for me to take the controller of Chicago Aurora and Elgin (CA&E) car 20 at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, IL. Motorman and longtime FRTM volunteer, Don MacCorquodale patiently supervised me behind the controller. One of my earliest memories, pulling the controller handle into the first power point and feeling the earth move under my feet is something I never quite got over. My father put together my first layout at age 6, consisting of a oval of track with a passing siding and two AHM trolleys, one of which had the motor leads reversed. Many hours were spent with the trolleys playing a game of chicken, waiting for the next "cornfield meet". As the years marched on, time saw me build a bigger layout and spend  a stint involved in the Illinois Railway Museum's electric car dept. as well as play a good part in starting a railroad explorer post that's still hanging on by a thread. By the time I was 19, I had a nice collection of stuff, but decided I wanted to be a teenage delinquent, and the hobby went into mothballs.
 Fast forward to Christmas day 2012. I presented my children, Gabriel age 7 and Sonya age 12 with one heck of an HO layout.

 Three tiers connected with 3 seperate controllers, automated switches and the whole nine yards. In addition to their stuff, I felt it was time for a few of my trolleys to come out of hibernation. After a Saturday night with a soldering iron, old memories of just how much gratification I got from these came flooding back. After a trip to see some old friends at Valley Model Railroad Club in South Elgin, I realized it was time to start work on a few more pieces of equipment and begin to rebuild my empire.

 Follow me as I resurrect what was once an impressive collection of cars for a kid, build a few new ones and rekindle my interest in traction modeling.