WILMINGTON, MA — The Boston Metro Hi-Railers Model Train Club will host its spring Open House on Saturday, April 14, from 10am to 4pm, at its clubhouse at 5 Waltham Street in Wilmington.
Like previous events, this open house will feature attractions for families, train enthusiasts and hobbyists alike. The three children’s layouts are especially interesting as boys and girls of all sizes can have hands on experience running trains, operating trackside accessories or just watching others enjoy a hobby that dates back over 118 years.
This open house will offer a few different themes. In a tribute to the bygone era of big steam engines, a member will run his Boston and Maine T-1, a class of 2-8-4 “Berkshire” steam locomotives built by the Lima Locomotive Works as part of their “Super Power” range of locomotives. The “Berkshires” were so named after the mountain range through which they passed in Western Massachusetts.
The B&M purchased 20 of these Super Power locomotives in 1928 (T1-a), and five more in 1929 (T1-b). While very powerful, design problems with these engines made the B&M dislike the class so much that by the Second World War, the railroad finally had to get rid of them. Ten were sold to the Southern Pacific and seven to the Santa Fe. Those which stayed on the B&M were withdrawn and scrapped between 1946 and 1955. None were preserved here in the Northeast, but one survives in Texas. In contrast, as a model train, this prototypical steam engine has been made by various manufactures, and one has found its way to a club member who will run it at the open house.
Another theme of this spring’s open house will be the early days of intermodal transportation in railroading. Trailer on FlatCar (TOFC) is one of the most basic forms of intermodal transportation. The concept of loading trailers, or wagons, onto flatcars dates to the mid-1800s and several railroads pioneered new TOFC services in the 1950s. The concept allowed trucks to handle the door-to-door deliveries with railroads taking the load for the long haul. Early operations often relied on standard 40- and 50-foot flatcars to haul trailers. Longer cars designed for TOFC operation in the 1950s were 75 feet.
Piggyback began with trailers because the basic trailer design had become accepted in the marketplace and “circus loading” of trailers required minimal investment in terminals. In the 1950s, though, trucker Malcolm McLean developed the concept of the intermodal container: a steel box that could be moved from ship to rail to truck without unloading. Double-stack cars, or well cars, for container shipments were introduced by the Southern Pacific also in the late 1970s. American President Lines developed a network of stack trains spanning the continent, beginning in 1984. See a variety of early piggyback cars in operation on the layout.
One of the newer features of the spring open house will be the benefits of becoming a member of the Boston Metro Hi-Railers. The club is always looking for new members to join and participate. Members share their diverse expertise in everything from making old trains work, creating layout scenery or running modern engines that contain ever more complex technology.
The club holds run nights where everyone picks a major railroad, region of the country or style of engine, and then operates trains with that theme on the club layout, ending the night with food and beverages related to the theme.
Members have been on outings to railroad related points of interest. There are a variety of club-owned cars to run for members who do not have their own equipment. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Hi-Railers have hosted a variety of different groups for a private showing of the layout in operation, appeared at community events from Christmas tree lightings to Fourth of July picnics, as well as well as done a major project for a local hospital.
The club’s common theme is “Have Fun Fast.”
Since the Boston Metro-Hi Railers began hosting open houses twice a year, returning visitors have seen progress on the layout with the addition of a mountain backdrop, the Scranton train station, Luna amusement park, a time saver switching yard, and numerous other points of interest. The club has ambitious plans for the future with the massive curved trestle bridge nearing completion, a representation of the canals in Lowell in progress, plans for Portland Harbor being drawn up, and many small trackside scenes contemplated to add color to the massive layout.
It is said that a hobbyist’s layout is never finished, as changes large and small take hold in a basement or spare room setup. That truism holds equally well for the 40-by-60-foot club layout as the buildout continues on top that is visible to visitors and below table level with the intricate wiring required for powering up trains, track and accessories. Members often take skills learned working on the club layout and ideas gathered “talking shop” with knowledgeable railroad enthusiasts and put them to use at home.
(NOTE: The above press release is from the Boston Metro Hi-Railers.)
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