E & H Railroad History

A light-hearted account of the adventures of a semi-serious model railroader.


…And ye shall be like children…


The author of the following epistle is a professional artist-potter and cabinetmaker, who has a degree in Fine Arts from Indiana University. He is generally well known as a flamboyant and very nice fellow who makes his living by the sweat of his brow flipping and waving his magic hands playing “in the mud” and “entertaining young and old with his mad antics on the potter’s wheel”.  “He’s a mean cabinetmaker too”, it was said.

Pushing 60, Rogier has been married to his beloved Ellen for more than thirty years. After very successful artistic careers in Indianapolis (he as a potter, she as a jewelry designer and goldsmith) they left the city scene when their son Elias was born and moved to the country, to devote most of their time to raise the future National Merit Scholar.

Model railroading is something that Rogier sort of fell into and it proved to be a hobby where he could apply all his talents, and then some, and have a lot of fun at the same time.

The Beginning…

 “…So, what does “AT&SF” stand for?”  ” Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe “, said the man in the hobby shop with a patient smile.

Thus began the involvement in this hobby we call model railroading. Our four year old son had just received a basic Bachman oval of steel track, a very small controller and a Santa Fe F 7 (or was it an F 5?) plus some silly cars. It didn’t take long or the steel track was rusty and corroded, the connectors worn out and the bottom of the locomotive resembled Sadie, our Golden Retriever, filled as it was with dog hairs and general “floor crud”.

So off to the hobby shop father and son went to get an education. Hobby shop owners have to be a special breed of human beings! What with having to put up with all the “silly” questions the novice throws at them! Joe, the friendly proprietor of the “Hobby Barn”, gently explained the difference in “toy” sets and “good” sets, steel track versus brass track, this controller versus that controller. Oh my! More choices than Carter had pills.

And then along came the building kits! Look at that one and that one, oh my, gotta have it all! 🙂 Armed with the Walther’s “Wish Book” we went home to dream of that large lay out in the sky.

The first lay out consisted of a 4×8 sheet of plywood that had more hills and hollers (yeah! Sculptamold!) and more track than one could shake a stick at. Oh how that cleaned up F 7 raced through it all. Just like the Indy 500! There was an inside oval, an outside oval, crossovers; X marks the spot in the middle! A more powerful toy controller, TWO trains, whoa, did you see that! 🙂 Are we having fun yet?

Head on father and son dove into this new activity, but, as is often the case, the son (now five years old) lost interest (trains were replaced by turtles, snakes and lizards) and Dad?  Well…:-), he was bit by the railroad bug and decided to approach this hobby with a slightly more serious approach.

By now Model Railroader Magazine had become a staple in the household, the Walthers’ wish-book and Joe are providing all kinds of inspiration and, being self employed, free and over twenty one, it is decided to construct a whole new lay out.

By now we have learned that steel track is for the birds, brass track is “alright”, but one really should go with this new stuff: nickel silver flex-track, on this newfangled cork roadbed. “Toy” engines are out  (except for salvaging the shells) and Athearn loco’s are taking over.

An article in MR tells how to upgrade the engines to make them perform better and pretty soon a “Service and Testing Facility” is created to service all the rolling stock that seems to come out of the woodwork. We attend train and hobby shows and learn more about this hobby every time we leave one with yet another armload of “stuff”. This is fun! Expensive, but fun! 🙂

The second lay out consists of two sheets of 4×8 plywood that are suspended from the ceiling of the pottery studio by means of steel cables and an old boat trailer winch. Elias once again displays an interest in “Dad’s ” trains and is delighted when Dad offers the operation to Elias and his classmates on Saturday mornings. Living in an economically deprived rural area (as we do) is not exactly conducive to the proper development of young children. What with both parents working, broken homes and less and less parental guidance, the “Rail Road” quickly became a place where the youngsters could come and spend some quality time with a “grown-up”.

As time goes by, the lay out is growing ever larger and the two sheets of plywood, when lowered, are now connected to the “Service and Testing Facility” by means of simple “connector ways”.  Eight-foot long bare 2×4’s held in place by simple “eye & pin” connectors of home made design, with track spiked to them can bridge quite some open space!

Electrically the lay out is divided into blocks, has three MRC controllers and five trains can be run at the same time. There’s no particular theme to the railroad, just having fun running trains and building the lay out. A curved wooden trestle takes up 62 hours of time, a compressed version of an “ABBA” unit another six and on it goes…

More and more people are becoming aware of the Rail Road and it doesn’t take long or boxes and boxes of HO “stuff” are donated to the cause.  Overnight, it seemed, the railroad became twice its size…

Fun Continued!

 As we become more educated and experienced in this hobby, it is becoming very evident that the railroad is taking over the pottery studio. Especially so when one Friday night one of the steel cables broke and the whole shebang came tumbling down! There it was: down in the middle of the studio and the pottery order book showed that five hundred coffee mugs had to be made… Somehow we were able to fill the order of the 500 coffee mugs, but the railroad was in-operable, covered as it was with ware boards with drying mugs everywhere…

That’s when the love of my life came in and graciously offered up half of “her” garage. (We own several buildings that we refer to as “her’s”, “his’s” and “our’s”)  So, the railroad was dismantled and rebuild in it’s own space, in it’s own building, with it’s own heat and AC. Talk about being blessed :-)! The new environment is definitely more conducive to even more serious railroading as we now have the room we always dreamt of! Think of it: 12x 20 feet, all to be filled with toys!

There’s so much “stuff” that we must come up with a name for the here-to-fore unnamed Rail Road. Aha! “Elliana”, for my beloved Ellen and the state of Indiana and “Heritage”, since we’ve “inherited” so much from those who left the hobby. Thus the “Elliana & Heritage” was named!

Slightly set back by the Wabash River Flood of ’91, the new train room is transformed into a well running railroad, better engines and cars are “discovered”, track is laid much more carefully than on the previous lay outs and we actually spend some time thinking about what it is that we are doing! Saturday mornings the kids still have a ball, but Friday evenings are reserved for just “grown-ups”.

One to ten area adults, who also have an interest in the hobby, but lack the space or the time to have their own lay out, come over regularly. Some of them are “rivet counters”, some of them are “arm chair” modelers, some talk a lot, some don’t, but all of them share the childhood dream of having a well running model railroad. So, they bring their trains, thoughts and dreams and the Elliana & Heritage grows and grows. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a roundhouse”, says Jim…Wham! One roundhouse! “How about a tunnel over there”, says Pat…Wham! One tunnel!

All along we are learning more and more about this hobby and as the track work becomes more intricate, the wiring too demands a better understanding of all the different aspects of this hobby. One Friday night, as we are enjoying the camaraderie of this hobby and discussing plans for this, that and the other thing, we notice something quite pleasant: Every time the UP passenger train goes around the Southwest corner it produces this nifty “klickety-klackety” sound, just like the proto-type.

We quickly observe that it is the rolling action of the metal wheels across a “less-than-perfect” joint in two rail sections that cause the noise. Further observation reveals that the rail joint in question has a little gap between the two rail sections. “Hmm”. We think aloud, ”Wouldn’t it be nifty to have that “klickety-klack, klickety-klack” sound all over the lay out. So out comes the Dremel tool with the miniature saw blade and we cut through the rails at several places to make a similar gap… (Yeah, right! Are you thinking what we were NOT thinking about?) “OK. Done!”

Now let’s hear that klickety-klackety sound all over!” mutters the head engineer.  Here comes the train, through the Southwest corner, “klickety-klack, klickety-klack. Nifty this hobby! There goes the train, along the South side of the lay out, next gap coming up. Get ready for the klickety-klack sound. Screech – silence – train stops dead “in its tracks on the track”…What happened? Where is our klickety-klack sound?Such experienced model rail roaders we are…it took four hours to figure out that by cutting through the rails with the Dremel tool, we had just cut off the “go-juice”. Are we having fun yet? And so it goes. 🙂

Membership in the NMRA proved to be very informative, but after a few years, we became disillusioned with the seemingly “I-am-better-than-you-are-attitude” of that organization and let the membership expire. Ah, for being a lone wolf! We attend shows, meet interesting people and we befriend Gary, “the Brass Baron”, who makes his living travelling from train show to train show peddling his wares.

Gary’s van is “home” to a fortune in brass engines, both new and used and mouths water at the sight of these meticulously crafted engines. Oh, oh, :-(, me thinks the “brass bug” bites again! After a nearby train show, the Brass Baron comes to visit and to recuperate from his travels; we invite him to stay in the guesthouse for a few days. That Friday night the van is backed up to the train room and we run brass model after brass model. This is FUN!  “How much did you say that Shay is worth? “Hello! Sit down! 😉

Having connections to a fully equipped woodworking shop allowed the Elliana &Heritage Railroad to acquire some display cases for the ever-growing collection of rolling stock. (Looks nice on the wall too!)  “So”, the Brass Baron says, “what do you get for one of those display cabinets?” “So, what do you get for one of those brass engines?” …;-) and so it goes…. The art of the deal…:-)

Such a magnificent brass engine (the first: a 1978 PFM 2 Truck Shay) requires of course it’s very own testing facility. Thus a 48″ fully banked circular track containing its own controller was built: “The E&H RR Brass Testing Facility”…Hey! It fits around the Christmas tree too! Double duty! 😉  Like the owner of the E & H, Gary, the Brass Baron, appreciates the display cases enough to trade two more brass engines for the handiwork of the cabinet shop.

It is decided that we’ll just have to build another display cabinet just for the growing brass collection…The Shay is followed by a Heisler that is followed by a Climax that in turn is followed by a BL2…etc. Some bug, that Brass Bug…It wasn’t long or the E&H became somewhat of a regional happening and the local TV station decided to do a story on it.

Just before Christmas 1991 the story of the Elliana & Heritage is aired on the local station and, because it  “is the season”, the story goes out on the “national wire” and is picked up by CBS affiliates all over the country, then by CNN and PBS…more notoriety and more boxes of HO “stuff” arrive at our address…

“Friday nights” are still “Friday nights”, and the E&H is expanding ever more: there’s track work above, track work below, controls here, controls there. The roundhouse is fully operational, the staging yard works and the main line runs along the outside wall all around. Plans for a second yard quickly materialize and we can now handle four operators at the same time and run trains “all over the place” There’s an operating windmill, bells and whistles at the crossings, a helix and a “sky bridge” connecting one of the electrified wall tracks to an electrified track in one of the display cases.

Up to now the E&H had just a collection of  “non descript “ rolling stock. The inventory is approaching five hundred cars, seventy-five some locomotives and untold scale buildings, people and cars. Some of the locomotives run really good, some not so good. Some cars and locomotives are made up into imaginary freight trains simply because they “look good”, some are made up in semi-good looking passenger trains.

There’s the “Daylight”, the Dixie”, the “Crescent Limited”, etc, etc. “Bachman”, “Lima”, “Rivarossi”, “Athearn”, “LifeLike”, “Modelpower”, “Mehano” and MDC are but some of the brands that fill the thirty six some feet of seven shelf display cases along the walls of the train room. The next eight years find us enjoying this hobby evermore, we’re scratch building this, modifying that and generally having a ball with a hobby that suddenly is not that expensive anymore! Seems like all we are doing is re-locating and shuffling parts! One of the nicest things about all of this is that the Train

Room is an entity all by itself and we can walk away or enter it at our leisure, in that department too, we are blessed indeed!

And then, as the saga continues: along came the Internet, or rather, we came along to it!  “Discovered” this one web site operated by this nice guy in England. John Oxlade was the “nice guy” and the site was http://www.Worldrailfans.org .The site is not only full of fantastic information about all sorts of rail road related topics, it also has a discussion forum where just about anybody could ask and answer just about anything having to do with model railroads…Hey! This is fun!

So we joined the crowd from all over the world, more fun than a barrel of monkeys! Relatively new to computers, we quickly became adept at surfing the net, looking especially for model railroad “stuff”. One night we stumbled onto this Slovenian web site and fell in love with the “Thalys”, a High-Speed passenger train. The HO scale model of the “Thalys” resembles a beautiful four feet long reddish-purple and silver colored snake. The prototype runs between Paris, France and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The web site was Mehano’s and they were just starting their site. Unfortunately the English used on the site was “of the most atrocious kind”… so to “translate” the contents of the site into “proper” English some help was offered. Fun!

Through the local hobby shop the E&H acquired Mehano’s new “Thalys”, the Premier Set .Via the Internet and thanks to the “translating” efforts, intermediate cars for the Thalys were procured from Mehano. With the addition of the intermediate coaches, the Thalys is eight feet long and now requires some definite “running space”…That kind of space the train room did not have. 🙁

The dealings with Mehano in Slovenia blossomed into a friendship with one of Mehano’s managers, “Emil”. When the Service and Testing Facility of the E&H was busy illuminating the “Thalys” and found it in need of some extra parts, Emil came to the rescue and provided the Service &Testing Facility with whatever it needed to make the project a success! What a guy! What a hobby! Are we having fun yet?

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Time went by, and a fondness for those long passenger trains manifested itself. At one point the contributors on the WRF web site were discussing the availability of a HO scale model of the “Eurostar”, the High-Speed Passenger train that runs through the “Chunnel “, between London England and Paris, France. Seems that only one manufacturer, Joueff ever made a HO model of that train, but the model had long since been discontinued. Further investigation revealed that Mehano had produced that Joueff model for Joueff…


“About that Eurostar you guys used to make for Joueff. Got any left?”

Sure enough Emil found a long since forgotten model back on a dusty shelf way back in the warehouse…He promptly shipped it to the E&H Service and Testing Facility. . The refurbishing crew was anxiously awaiting going to work on making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The original Joueff  “Eurostar” model consisted of only four units: a powered locomotive, a first class coach, a second class coach and another dummy locomotive bringing up the rear.  Intermediate coaches had never been available. Since we now are in definitive “need” of long, snake-like passenger trains what are we to do?

“Emil! …”

”Got any more “Eurostar” coaches?”

“Yeah, but they are the same length and configuration as the ones the E&H already owns.”

“Never mind that, the E&H will take a few more! Re-fabricated and refurbished as needed, they will work just fine to resemble the prototype’s intermediate coaches.”

Shortly after that E-mail exchange, the “soon-to-be-authentic-intermediate-coaches-that-never-were” arrived and with a few deft moves of the Dremel tool, some body putty, paint and loads of patience, the extra coaches were transformed into intermediate coaches Joueff would have been proud to market!  Since the “Eurostar” drive locomotive was not exactly anything to write home about, it too was in need of a major overhaul.

The parts box yielded a superfluous motorized chassis from a Mehano Thalys. “Hmm… wonder if it will fit?”  “Of course it will fit!”  The old adage of: “…if it doesn’t fit, MAKE it fit” proved to be true once more as the Dremel tool with various cutting and grinding attachments proved in no time at all. The train’s interior was illuminated, passengers took their seats and the “Eurostar”, in all its five foot beautiful “snaky” length, took its place in the rolling stock inventory of the E&H.

We dream of a larger train room…

“Hey, Ellen…:), you know that extra room in your garage, behind the train room?”….

Ah, what love can do!

So, in September 1999 the back wall of the train room was demolished, along with most of the railroad and remodeling and rebuilding of the new and improved E&H commenced in a space that is now 12×28 feet. Although operational, the E&H is still not completely done to the level of where it was prior to September 1999, but we’re making progress! Little by little …All because of that “Thalys” …and then the “Eurostar” and then… and then…will it ever end?

Gosh, I hope not! We’re still a kid! 🙂 Are we having fun yet?

The Acela


 Being fond of European High-Speed passenger trains, the owner and operator of the E&H was elated to learn of the existence of the Acela Express, the first American HS passenger train. To learn more and see if a HO model was available, we went to the Internet and stopped by on the Bachmann homepage, http://www.bachmanntrains.com from where we connected to a very interesting link about the “Acela”.

The proverbial mouth watered! Via, via, via we arrived at the web site of the Model Railroad Newsmagazine (http://www.modelrailroadnews.com). Their February 2001 issue features a  well-researched and wonderful article about the “Acela” by Michael J. Pratt.

So, an E-mail was fired off to MRN to request a copy of the February 2001 issue.  It arrived: more mouth watering! 🙂  Bachmann’s “Acela” set, HO scale, now on sale at dealers everywhere for a mere 300 some bucks…”gottahaveone”, nay: “need one”!   Three hundred some bucks, eh?

And then it hit us 🙂

“Ye have not, because ye asked not” and  “Knock, and the door will be opened “,

So, a phone call was made… Asked the Bachmann person on the other end of the line, very nicely, if she would please send us an “Acela”, so we could review and test it and write an evaluation for the WebMag of this international rail road hobby web site http://www.worldrailfans.com…

Hello…the nerve! :-)…

A few days later the Service and Testing Facility of the Elliana &Heritage Railroad received the new Acela model and immediately put it to the test on the less than perfect high iron of the E&H. What a sight! That long silver and blue set of locomotives and coaches slithering along the test track at a high rate of speed. Now to fill the train with passengers!

With kind permission of the manager of MRN, Mr.Michael W. Lindsay, the following review of the Acela is based somewhat on Michael Pratt’s article. We are especially indebted to Mr. Lindsay for allowing me to loosely paraphrase the very well researched “Acela” prototype information.

In need of faster passenger service in the North East Corridor Amtrak, America’s train system, in 1993, turned to several consortia to develop a high speed, tilting passenger train that would serve the needs of thousands of commuters in the densely populated North East Corridor. The Northeast Corridor is the heavily populated area around Boston at the northern end and Washington D.C at the southern end, with cities like New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia in between.   While under development the train was called  “the American Flyer”.

Several makers sent trains to the US in hopes of winning the contract for this, the first tilting, High-speed passenger train in the US. Among those sending prototypes to be tested on the rails of the Northeast Corridor were Siemens (maker of the German “ICE” or Inter City Express, ABB (maker of the Swedish X2000) and Bombardier of Canada and Alstom (maker of the French TGV). Bombardier&Alstrom, who delivered the first Acela Express to the Pueblo, Colorado Transportation Test Center in mid 1999, won the ultimate bid.

The Acela Express, typically, consists of two power units (locomotives, duh:-)) with six cars in between: four Business Class coaches, a Bistro/Cafe coach, and a First Class coach. Built of stainless steel, the cars and locomotives are semi-permanently coupled together. The locomotives have a starting tractive effort of 50.000 lbs. and each locomotive’s traction power is rated at 6250 HP. The First Class coach seats 44 passengers and features audio and video entertainment. Two food galleys on board serve the culinary needs of the passengers. The Business Class coaches have seating for 71 passengers each, but only have audio entertainment available.

There are phone booths, enclosed luggage racks, two restrooms and a 115 V outlet at each seat. The Bistro/Cafe coach features seating for 34,a lounge area, dining area, a fax, copier and printing business area and audio entertainment. All six passenger coaches have active tilt systems that compensates a maximum of 75% of the lateral force felt by the passengers when the train runs through a curve. Each truck’s tilting system operates independently, increasing the comfort level of the passengers. Plagued by several start up problems the Acela Express finally started revenue service in December 2000. All twenty trains are to be delivered and running by the summer of 2001.

So much for the prototype, the testing crew of the E&H is more interested in the running qualities of the HO scale model! As the largest and leading manufacturer of model trains in the US, Bachmann has the exclusive rights to manufacture the HO model of the Acela Express. Announced at the 1999 NMRA show in St.Paul, Minnesota, the model is now available from dealers everywhere.

As marketed by Bachmann, the set comes ready to run and is packed in an impressively decorated storage box. The box features a carrying handle and very nicely done pictures of the Acela. If the box weren’t so beautiful and handy, we’d be tempted to tear it apart and use the pictures as wall decorations in the train room!  Nah! 🙂 The set is packed in a solid Styrofoam block that has spaces “carved” out in which the individual component fit tightly. The set contains: A heavy duty Spectrum power pack with transistor potentiometer speed control (one of the best units available), a 22”(unlike the usual 18”) radius 63”x45” oval of nickel silver E-Z track with gray roadbed, dual locomotives (one powered, one not), a Bistro/Cafe car, a First Class coach and a Business Class coach The set also contains Bachmann’s lubrication and assembly instruction VHF video.

The set is made for Bachmann in China and the total appearance of the set is just superb. Compared to other RTR sets this Acela set has to be right up there with the best available! Assembly of the set is a matter of minutes and  “running trains” is as close as the nearest 115V outlet and a piece of floor! The E-Z track pieces are very easily fitted together and hold together very well, while running the train.  The radius of 22” is definitely needed, as the wheelbase of the locos and coaches is so long that 18” curves could not be accommodated. Besides, the long coaches look better on a larger radius curve!

The powered locomotive weighs in at a whopping 772 grams that’s more than a pound and a half! That makes the Acela’s driving locomotive heavier than the recently released  “Blue Tiger” from Mehano! Talk about tractive effort! The paint job on the set is downright superb, the silver color is “just right” to resemble stainless steel and the various signs, logos and emblems are reproduced sharp as a tack, down to the minute reproduction of the  “handicap accessible” sign next to the doors.

The set is, of course, a couple of business cars short to be really prototypical, but Bachmann has announced that additional cars will be available soon, to complete a prototypically correct complete Acela Express. Bachmann’s Spectrum line will also come out with individual locomotive sets, for those who want to model a really long train…Not only does the driving locomotive weigh a TON, it is also DCC ready, features directional lightning and can be operated from track power or, by the flick of a hidden switch, from overhead catenary via the superbly rendered pantographs.

The micro switch that switches power pick up from wheels to pantographs is hidden under a roof hatch towards the rear of the locomotive. The roof hatch looks rather unobtrusive but once located, opening it and switching power pick up is a piece of cake! The dummy locomotive also sports the same switch so that the head/tail lights, that get their power from wheelwipers, still get power should one switch to catenary/pantograph pick up. Roof detail is colorful and really nicely done.

Removal of the body shell is a little tricky, mainly due to recent innovations in body shell design. Whereas most diesel bodies, simply are spread apart at the bottom and then slipped off the chassis, the Acela body has some “connecting “ pieces that need to be removed first, similar to LifeLike’s BL 2, where the buffer beam has to be removed, prior to the body shell proper. On the Acela, things are somewhat of a Chinese puzzle the first time. Be patient and don’t force anything! Study the thing first and THINK before you do anything!

The nose piece is removed first, it has two tiny little “clips” on its inside, wiggle the piece sideways just a little and removal is, literally, a “snap”.Once the nosepiece is removed, turn the locomotive over (preferable in a foam cradle!) and slide the bottom front piece away from the front truck and forward towards the front. Don’t force anything! The diaphragm and rear end panel is removed next, again two little snaps.

Next remove the bottom panel (between the trucks). That bottom panel has no visual means of attachment, it clips over the chassis by means of six little “dimples” on the inside, three on each side. With a little side ways pressure one side is loosened and then the cover falls right off. Now for the shell removal: it is held onto the chassis by a series of “dimples” along the bottom over the entire length. The easiest way to remove it, is to insert small strips of plastic (like 1 1/4”x5”, Plastruct) between the body shell and the chassis. Since the locomotive is rather long, wiggling that piece of plastic between shell and chassis is NOT easy, take your time!

Once the Plastruct strips are in place, the shell can  “easily” be slipped off the chassis. The chassis consists of a very heavy zinc casting that fully encloses the motor and the tops of the trucks. The PC board for the DCC connection is located on top of the chassis casting. The model is so well made that the parts fit together tightly and only fit the right way, re-assembly is the reverse of the dismantling procedure, although a word of caution to would be engineers: the entry doors on the side of this model open inward and are held closed by a tiny, tiny spring…in the process of removing the shell, the author (who had no way of knowing those tiny buggers were even there) popped one off…what a job to put it back! Talk about Gremlins… 🙁 Ah the joys of being a weekend engineer! Are we having fun yet?

All the coaches of the set have interiors; quick, get some passengers! The coaches also have interior lightening. The coaches are very long; they measure 12+ inches, the broader your curves the nicer these cars will look! The interior lights get their juice from wheel wipers on the trucks, the additional drag that that creates doesn’t seem to bother the powerful locomotive in the least.

About the only “negative” that should be reported is the way in which the locomotives and coaches are connected. Rather than conventional couplers, like KD’s,  the consist is held together by ingeniously designed drawbars. They work absolutely beautiful, but to couple cars together is a real pain in the proverbial neck as the couplers cannot be seen from above.

To properly couple the locomotives and cars it is best to lay the consist on it’s side (on a piece of foam or terrycloth, dummy!) thus exposing the draw bars to full view and then couple the cars. This of course makes putting all the wheels on the track rather difficult. Once on the track though, zooming past at the prototypical speed of a hundred and fifty scale miles per hour, the model is a joy to behold and is almost dazzling to the eyes! The consist runs equally well, whether the power locomotive is pulling or pushing and, while running on the supplied oval, only derailed once, but that was the engineer’s fault !

Bachmann has done a superb job of developing, producing packaging and marketing this model ,the Acela is definitely right up there with the very best the model railroad industry has to offer!

The beginning, continued…

“… “Hey, Ellen…:), you know that extra room in your garage, behind the train room?”….

Ah, what love can do!

So, in September 1999 the back wall of the train room was demolished, along with most of the railroad and remodeling and rebuilding of the new and improved E&H commenced in a space that is now 12×28 feet…”

Thus ended the story of the E&H in a previous chapter. It is now December 2001 and the E&H is “back in business”, as the saying goes. A month earlier, “Brock”, the now eleven year old “number one resident engineer”, threw the master switch, energized the system and took the refurbished “Eurostar” for it’s maiden run on the high iron of the new and improved E &H…. The new Amtrak “Acela” soon followed, as did the eight feet long “Thalys”. Are we having fun, or what?

It sure took some doing and re-education before we arrived at the above point in our hobby history though. It is truly amazing how one has a tendency to get “stuck in a groove” when it comes to model railroading. The Elliana & Heritage was for many years the envy of fellow model railroaders. They would come with suggestions; the owner, main stockholder and operator would build accordingly. Being self-employed time seemed to be easier to come by and as a result the E&H took on a personality all it’s own.  Mainly because of it’s size and the well running qualities of its track work the railroad was a joy to operate.

Fellow modelers would bring their coal drags, mixed freights and locals and run them to their hearts content up and down, in and around the maze that was the original E & H. Even the third lay out had been laid out with the minimal of skill attributable to most beginners and since we were having so much fun running fifty car freight trains, we paid little or no attention to the proper right of way, radii, elevation or other mundane things like that…As long as we were having fun, as long as the locomotives could pull the trains without derailing,  we thought we were model railroaders……And then came the interest in the long passenger trains, the Thalys, the Eurostar and the Acela……..(For the uninitiated: keep in mind that these newfangled high speed passenger trains have coaches that are very long when compared to 40ft box cars…)

OK, so we became involved in illuminating the interior of the Thalys’ coaches, installed passengers and before one could say “Put it on the track”, it derailed…:(   “We know”, we said to ourselves, the train room just is not long enough to accommodate this beautiful train and do it justice. So we approached the better half and presto! Out came that back wall…Now keep in mind that all of the operators of the E&H had been perfectly happy with the train room’s performance. “Why change anything?” it was said, “Let’s just make it ten feet longer and put everything back the way it was. After all, everything had worked just fine for over fifteen years”…

Thus it came to pass, that in the spring of 2000, the E&H was open for business once again. The old back wall had been removed, a new ceiling was installed, walls were semi-finished, storage and display cabinets were relocated and re-hung and the high iron had been placed just like it used to be in the smaller train room. Everything should work just fine, as nothing had really changed; only the straight runs were longer now.

What a sight to see that eight foot long “Thalys” going down the straight…into the curve…and…. onto the right of way…Rats!  Now what?  George! Paul! Bob! Pat! Where did “we” go wrong? The “Thalys”, the “Eurostar”, The “Acela” all looked great on that twenty foot straight, but as soon as they’d go into the curves (any of ‘em) “Wham!” Onto the right of way, forty people died… every time…It was a sad time for the E&H, all that work to make the HS passengers happy and all they got was a head ache…Disillusioned we temporarily walked away from this, the world’s most fascinating hobby.

Weeks passed and not much happened in the “new & enlarged” train room. Until George, the head engineer and best friend of the owner of the joint came over. “Let’s talk railroading “. “What radii are the curves of the old E&H that worked so well for forty foot box cars?”  “Uh, oh, never even gave it much thought.”  Now we had better give it some thought…so off through the snow we trudged to the rail road room with very little hope of being able to run trains and a rather defeatist attitude as to what we would find in terms of radii…

Out came the oversized calipers and the tape measure.  Would you believe, a 14” radius in one corner, a 16 1/2” in another, a 15” in the third and a helix that sported an 18” radius? Passenger coaches that were more than twice the length of a forty-foot boxcar didn’t have a chance… “So”, said the head engineer “All the curves need to be redone and that helix has got to go!”…”Thanks a lot, fella”, said the owner of the joint and main stockholder of the E&H. ”Thanks a lot”…

So out came the crow bar and the sledgehammer and the rebirth of the new and IMPROVED E&H was started. What a mess! Oh, but what a prospect though! Thoughts of those long passenger trains going around those long sweeping curves were enough to spur us on! So the entry door could not be fully opened, so people would just have to “suck it in” temporarily. Ah but for the price of progress!

Just as we were ready to put the finishing touches on the bench work and the rails and proclaim the rail road at least “workable” again, a “minor” set back…an acute case of pancreatitis landed this rail road tycoon in the hospital. Almost ran out of track…nine days (the first five on the critical list) and months of recuperation at home, set things back a bit.

On November 15th 2001, “Brock”, the now eleven year old “number one resident engineer” threw the master switch, energized the system and took the refurbished “Eurostar” for it’s maiden run on the high iron of the new and improved E &H…. Amtrak’s new  “Acela” soon followed, as did the eight feet long “Thalys”.  Are we having fun, or what?

Although operational, theE&H is still not completely done to the level of where it was prior to September 1999,but we’re making progress! Little by little …as health is improving, more scenery is being added, more buildings are being built and installation of the fascia board gives at least the illusion that the E&H is somewhat “finished”.

Now that the train room is twenty eight feet long, we are dreaming of being able to walk along with the train…an advertisement for a Radio Controller strikes our fancy and after some investigation we now have the option of operating the E&H manually or, with the flick of a switch, having Radio Control. All because of that “Thalys” …and then the “Eurostar” and then the “Acela” … and then…will it ever end?

Gosh, we hope not! We’re still a kid! 🙂

Being able now to run long high-speed passenger trains safely on the high iron of the E&H, our interests are shifting a bit. In order to find out what is new and exciting in the rail road hobby market place we surf the net and check out several railroad web sites.  Mehano’s web site announces the arrival of a brand new model: the European “Blue Tiger”.

Designed as both a freight and passenger locomotive the real thing is made by two of the most important world rail traffic systems suppliers, Adtranz and General Electric Transportation Systems (GETS). The companies joined forces to pursue the development, production and sale of a series of  “light-weight” diesel-electric locomotives; they are to have an axle weight of less than 25 metric tons. The most representative of this series is the DE-AC33C “Blue Tiger”, a mainline locomotive with GE three phase power and transmission equipment for hauling freight or passenger trains.

The locomotive’s main features are: one air-cooled inverter per axle, an integrated function computer with digital displays, dynamic braking, a computer-controlled air brake system, microprocessor controls and AC motor-driven auxiliaries. The locomotive has its own characteristic design emphasized by a very low profile and a length of just over 22 meters. The locomotive is powered with a GE 7FDL Series Diesel engine with a power range of up to 3280 kW. Normal speed is 120 km/h (optional 160 km/h) with serviced weight between 108 and 132 ton.

Bogies under the locomotive are simple but effective Henschel Flexi-Floats that are linked to the under frame with the characteristic HFF traction bar. The Blue Tiger as mentioned above, was designed for use in freight as well as passenger service. The prototype runs around on the European Continent and is in use by several railroad companies.  Mehano’s HO scale model is offered in various versions and comes with a multitude of tiny add- on parts. The model is a superb rendering of the real thing.



A month later the Elliana & Heritage Rail Road has the distinction of owning the very first HO scale model of the Blue Tiger on the North American continent. What a superb piece of machinery! To install  all of the small additional pieces took hours…but oh what fun to see the model run! Extremely quiet, the Blue Tiger runs like the proverbial sewing machine. Wanna run an eighty three-car freight train on those long stretches of the new and improved E&H.  Are we having fun yet?

The Thalys, The Eurostar and the TGV’s

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Un-beknowst to this railroad tycoon the “Thalys” and the “Eurostar” were but the beginning of the “Long High-Speed-Passenger-train” bug bite. Having suffered from a bite of the initial rail road hobby bug, followed by a bite from “the long freight train” bug and then having to endure a bite from the “Brass Bug”, the owner and operator of the E&H now finds that he has come down with a definitive case of the “Long, High-Speed Passenger train” Bug.

Owning a Ho model of the Thalys and the Eurostar causes us to delve into the history of the European High-Speed passenger trains with renewed interest. This is FUN! We learn that both the Thalys and the Eurostar are but the latest and, to date the fastest, in a long line of High Speed passenger trains that are running all over Europe. We learn that the French first saw the need for high speed rail service and developed the TGV which, in French stands for: “Train a Grand Vitesse” – “Train having high speed” or  “TGV” for short. There’s the “TGV Postale” (the mail train) The “TGV Atlantique” , the “TGV Reseau”, the “TGV Pendulaire” and the “TGV Sud-Est.

All the “TGV’s” are finished in typical colors representing the regions of France in which they run. They all resemble and remind one of speedy, quick moving “lizards”, yellow for the mail train, orange-gray or blue-gray for the others. “Hmm…gottahaveone!” the “Long, High-Speed Passenger train” Bug demands…The E &H Procurement Division is broke, there is no money to speak of in the till and the Bursar’s Office is still trying to pay off the most recent remodeling. Ah, but for the Internet…E-Bay can be a source for the most wanted items at sometimes-reasonable prices.

So in we punch “TGV”. No dice today, may be tomorrow! A few weeks of trying and finally at long last a TGV is available on E-Bay!  It’s a Lima “TGV Atlantique” (orange/gray paint job) it is a rather old model, but it is very affordable. We always did like to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse!  This thing is CHEAP!

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Arrangements are made and a few weeks later an old tattered  “TGV Atlantique” arrives in the shops of the Elliana & Heritage Rail Road. The crew immediately sets out to refurbish the model and it doesn’t take long or this train too becomes an operational addition to the E&H. It looks pretty good too!   Are we having fun yet?   You betcha!

All because of that “Thalys” …and then the “Eurostar” and then the “Acela” and then the “TGV” …will it ever end?

Gosh, we hope not! We’re still a kid! 🙂

The E &H in 2003

The track has been laid where it needed to be installed, curves are relocated and the long passenger trains can go at high speed and look good! The latest addition to the rolling stock is an “ICE” (Inter City Express) of the German Federal Railways, procured via the Internet and E-Bay. Zipping along at prototypical scale speed the passenger trains as well as long freight drags continue to bring joy and satisfaction to those who operate the railroad.

Not a lot of scenery was completed on the E&H during its eighteen-year history. Small scenes “here and there” on the lay out were established over the years, but the total “finished look” is somewhere in the future. Plans are now underway to tie the various scenes together into a homogenous whole. Each corner of the railroad room has its own theme and efforts are being made to “connect” the corners with appropriate scenery that makes sense in the overall “program” of the lay out.

A naturalized American, who emigrated from the Netherlands at age eighteen, it is only natural that the owner of the E&H would have a nostalgic interest in modeling part of  “the old country”. Thus there is at least the “flavor” of the Lowlands, as portrayed by a Dutch “polder” with a working windmill, an old abandoned brick factory on the bank of the Yssel River and a Lima Mat’46 of the Dutch National Railways (the “NS”) running through it all. The scene is pictured on the cover of this epistle. “Holland Corner” in the Southwest corner of the lay out depicts a typically Dutch urban area including a model of the house where the author was born and spent his very early childhood.

The original house was built in the sixteenth century and still exists on the corner of the Amstel River and the Groenburgwal. An HO replica of the 1620 “Munt Tower”, a famous land mark in Amsterdam’s “Centrum” (Center) forms the middle of the Dutch setting which boasts many a bicyclist as would be seen in downtown Amsterdam. Ingenious use of mirrors makes the area seem twice as large and twice as deep. Along the southern width of the train room, between the  industrialized  Southeast Corner and the Southwest “Holland Corner” is a three track staging yard. A so-called “dead-man” switch controls each track so collisions are nearly impossible. In this yard, which is directly in front of the main control panel, trains can be assembled and set out to run onto the main line.

The Southeast corner features industrial and railroad maintenance structures including an operating roundhouse. The roundhouse has five stalls and the tracks within, as well as the roundhouse turntable, have their own control panel. Some switching of the industry spurs can also be done here. So while one operator is busy running trains on the mainline, another can be setting out trains at the staging yard and yet another operator can do some industrial switching and operate the roundhouse.

Years ago the enormous “Elliana & Heritage Rail Road Works” building was scratch built from plywood, HO scale brick paper, Grandt windows and many other details. Obstructed by other structures, one does not immediately notice that the main line runs through the edifice thus lending poetic justice to the name of the building that is prominently displayed on the roof of the structure. North of the “E&H RR Works” building, two giant bridges span a wide river reminiscent of the “Moerdijk” Bridges South of Rotterdam, Holland. The Northeast corner of the layout features a scratch built curved wooden trestle, a waterfall and a mining complex.

Adjacent to the mining complex a small town with a typical “Old West” flavor has developed. The small station of the as yet unnamed little town is a stop over for the tourist line that runs automatically back and forth between the mining complex and its originating station, just North of the river. The area between the river and its imposing bridges and the mining complex in the Northeast corner is as yet “un-scenicked”. Other than ground cover and a mountainous picture backdrop, the area may very well remain so as it provides a   “twelve-foot-plus” long vista for those long passenger trains coming across either one of the large river bridges.

The fictional Mid-America town of “Elliana” occupies the Northwest corner of the lay out. The 1999 re-design of this particular corner sort of played havoc with the original town that was totally destroyed when the helix made way for the new 24”radius curve. The town is now being laid out anew and will be rebuild in a space that is more than twice the size of the original town. The Yssel River forms the Southern edge of Elliana. South of the river is a Dutch polder, complete with operating windmill, cows and an HO scale replica of the owner’s 1974 restored VW bug, named “Dolcenea”.

To the question: “Are we having fun yet?” One can only answer a resounding YES! Model railroading, the world’s most fascinating hobby has certainly proven to be just that to this railroad tycoon!

On the banks of the swollen Wabash, July 2003

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