At this model train show, the visitors power the locomotives

There are about 9 mannequin practice golf equipment on Lengthy Island, however apparently solely the West Island Mannequin Railroad Membership in Hicksville permits guests to run its trains at open homes. And at this 12 months’s upcoming open-house weekends, those that go to could have much more observe to do it on.

Whereas some golf equipment have put in buttons that members of the general public can press to function equipment, guests at West Island open homes — even younger youngsters accompanied by a father or mother and supervised by a membership member — are given handheld distant controllers. They’re allowed to run one of many as much as 20 HO-scale trains across the enormous structure, which has about 900 ft of observe. (HO scale is 1/87 of the scale of an actual practice and is smaller than the O-scale trains popularized by Lionel.) A few third of the observe is on a brand new higher degree accomplished for operation this 12 months with newly created scenes in time for the three weekends starting Thanksgiving weekend. (See field)

West Island, which turns 75 subsequent 12 months, permits guests to see and run trains within the 5,600-square-foot basement of the Broadway Enterprise Middle solely on these three weekends.

“The general public has a possibility to return down and run a few of our trains,” mentioned membership president Ben Lederer, 21, of Brentwood. “With some younger individuals, they crank down on the throttle as a result of they need to see them go quick. However we all the time have a membership member with them.

“We’ve had no main points,” he mentioned.

Lederer added that being allowed to run a practice when he was 15 spurred him to affix the membership the place his father, Rick, 67, additionally of Brentwood and a former membership board member who serves as publicity chairman, had already signed up.

The membership sees the open homes, canceled final 12 months due to the pandemic, as its major recruiting software to draw new blood — like Ben Lederer — in addition to revenue that’s put again into the structure.

“The members get a terrific kick out of interacting with the general public. They’re proud to point out off what they’ve completed and their trains,” Rick Lederer mentioned. “It’s a great way to curiosity the general public in mannequin railroading and get to them to affix.”

When West Island meets on the second Friday night of the month, the two-room basement turns into a busy and noisy place. Members who aren’t operating trains in a single giant cavernous room collect in an adjoining workroom to tinker or simply to schmooze.

Consideration to element

The structure contains a number of S-curved sections. Two partitions are lined with containers full of miniature landscaping materials and multi-drawer rolling mechanics software cupboards stuffed with members’ trains.

The structure depicts the fictional Allegheny & Western Railroad operating from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to New York Harbor within the Fifties and ’60s. It’s primarily based on a mix of actual however defunct railroads, together with the Jersey Central and Lehigh Valley, that operated within the area, and the landscaping and buildings are modeled after actual scenes. Pictures are tacked to the partitions to assist the craftsmen replicate the photographs. A lot of the rolling inventory has been custom-painted, some within the black-and-yellow coloration scheme of the Allegheny & Western.

The membership has been constructing the structure in Hicksville since 2008, when it moved from Farmingdale due to constructing code points in its former area.

New on the decrease degree this 12 months are the station and surrounding buildings at Bayonne, New Jersey; a baseball area in Studying, Pennsylvania; and the Phillipsburg Mountain Tunnel in New Jersey.

Apart from the brand new upper-level observe, guests can see complete new cities on that degree similar to Allentown and Lehighton, Pennsylvania, and new scenes similar to a tunnel in Pattenburg, New Jersey.

The surroundings nonetheless must be accomplished on areas of the unique decrease part of the structure, similar to Hershey and Studying, Pennsylvania, and far of the brand new higher part, together with Scranton, Pennsylvania, and upstate Warwick and Maybrook.

Ben Lederer, who’s finding out mechanical engineering at Farmingdale State School whereas working full time at a powder-coating store, estimates the buildings and landscaping are barely greater than half accomplished.

“For me, I don’t need it to be completed,” he mentioned, explaining that constructing the structure is half the enjoyable and he doesn’t need to get to a scenario the place he has to say, “Now what?”

The double-track lower-level mainline is about 600 ft lengthy. The higher degree of about 300 ft of observe, which represents a north-south department line off the principle decrease east-west line, was accomplished in July after the membership resumed assembly following the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

The structure runs like an actual railroad with “blocks,” or separate observe sections, managed by working alerts.

“When a practice goes via a block, the alerts will robotically change to purple, inflicting the practice behind it to cease,” defined Rick Lederer, who works for a window producer in Brentwood. The system, as in the actual world, is designed to forestall collisions.

Although, Rick admitted, “We have now collisions.”

Mimicking actual life

Pockets on the sting of the structure at each rail storage yard include a “waybill” card for every of the roughly 500 freight automobiles pulled by greater than 100 engines in order that membership members can assemble trains, sending every automobile to the right vacation spot decided prematurely by a committee, mimicking the operation of an actual freight railroad. It takes greater than 20 members to run all the pieces on the structure this manner.

Many of the surroundings is constructed from sheets of plastic foam which might be reduce and formed, then lined with custom-mixed landscaping “goop,” Rick defined. The “goop” is a combination of white glue, potting soil, papier-mâché membrane and Lysol — to kill micro organism within the potting soil. It creates a “mud” that’s slathered over the plastic foam to simulate filth.

“We make all of our personal bushes,” he added.

“A whole lot of the buildings are scratch-built,” or totally handmade, “and loads of it’s kit-bashing” — combining items from varied kits right into a {custom} construction — Rick defined.

Pausing by the realm the place downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania, is being re-created, Rick mentioned, “That is going to be a showpiece. The buildings are very true to the period.

“Take a superb shut look contained in the station,” he urged, to see the place a practice announcement board in miniature lists departures and arrivals.

The extremely detailed station constructing was began by a former member and accomplished by Alan Alcabes, 80, a retired auto salesman from Port Washington who’s the membership’s buildings and surroundings knowledgeable. As a result of he didn’t need to smash the preliminary work, he added particulars to the inside via the underside “so it was like constructing a ship in a bottle.” He constructed modular vignettes (such because the waiting-room seating space) and put in them individually.

The remainder of downtown Allentown was scratch-built or kit-bashed by Alcabes and different members. Alcabes spent greater than six months kit-bashing the spectacular five-story Hess division retailer to the left of the station. Al Winter, the membership’s surroundings chairman, made the streets and bridges; lighting was completed by Wealthy Valente; and Frank Dellamura 3D-printed town’s Troopers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

There are particulars all through the structure that reward the cautious observer. For instance, one scene alongside the canal in Allentown depicts thugs eradicating a physique from a trunk for underwater disposal.

Most automobiles, buses and vans on the roads have working LED headlights, whereas buildings and cabooses have LED illumination put in by membership lighting knowledgeable Valente of Locust Valley, 79, a retired LIU Publish psychology professor who has been a membership member for 35 years.

“It was one thing I appreciated to do by myself HO structure — after I had one till I moved,” Valente mentioned. “That is all I want. It retains me fairly busy.”

‘It is an artwork kind’

The membership has greater than 65 members and welcomes new ones. Like Valente, most had mannequin trains as a toddler and bought again into the interest once more later; some are retired Lengthy Island Rail Street workers. The membership had a number of feminine members earlier than the coronavirus pandemic, however they haven’t returned.

“I used to be launched to trains by my father, who had a Lionel set within the basement,” Rick Lederer mentioned. He bought his personal HO set when he was about 7. Then when the smaller N-scale emerged within the late Sixties, “that caught my eye.” When his oldest son was born, he switched again to HO as a result of the N trains have been too small for the kid to run. He nonetheless has an HO structure at residence.

What attracts members to the membership?

“For me, it’s decompressing,” Lederer mentioned. “You come down right here and enter your individual world, engaged on issues by hand and determining how one can do one thing. I get pleasure from doing the wiring. And I simply discover operating the trains very stress-free.”

For his son Ben, the first attraction is being a part of a gaggle.

“It’s good to know that you just’re a part of one thing, a corporation the place you’re all working in direction of an identical aim,” he mentioned. “It’s not simply operating trains. It’s carpentry, wiring, electronics, coding. It’s an artwork kind.”

Alcabes mentioned his father purchased him a postwar S-scale (greater than HO and smaller than O-scale) American Flyer set for the vacations when he was 5.

“And I nonetheless have the set,” Alcabes mentioned.

He grew up close to the LIRR tracks in Forest Hills, Queens, “and that was my present every single day, together with the top of steam.” He drifted away from the trains due to the calls for of profession and household, however then bought into critical modeling within the early Nineties.

Al Kaiser, 78, of Wantagh, a former membership president and LIRR conductor, mentioned “After I retired in 1993, my spouse mentioned, ‘Discover one thing to do.’ I joined two years later.

“I actually have loads of enjoyable down right here,” mentioned Kaiser.

His specialty is making buildings and creating surroundings. “I’m not loopy on operating trains,” Kaiser mentioned.

Joe Lynch, 74, of East Meadow, a retired LIRR locomotive engineer, has been a membership member for a few dozen years after having been recruited by Alcabes.

“I mentioned ‘I labored for the railroad for 33 years and I’m going to affix a mannequin railroad membership?’ However in the future I got here down and bought hooked,” he mentioned.

Lynch by no means had trains at residence however now he has about 85 engines and automobiles. “I don’t have the endurance to do surroundings,” he mentioned.

On the membership, “I similar to to run my trains and get yelled at for going too quick and never abiding by the principles. You actually can’t do this on the actual deal [LIRR].”

Mark Sullivan, 65, of West Hempstead, a retired transportation marketing consultant and former chief mechanical officer for the LIRR, joined about 15 years in the past when he was recruited by longtime good friend Victor Grappone, 65, the membership’s alerts and control-panel knowledgeable. Sullivan grew up with Lionel after which HO trains and nonetheless has a set of the smaller-scale trains however no structure at residence.

“I don’t do a lot right here besides run trains,” he mentioned.

Sullivan volunteered that he owns “rather a lot” of trains.

Requested what number of, he replied that “I need to keep married so I’m not going to inform you.”

WHAT West Island Mannequin Railroad Membership Open Home

WHEN Nov. 26-28 and Dec. 3-5 and 10-12; 7-9:30 p.m. Friday and 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, besides Nov. 26, when hours are 2-9:30 p.m.

WHERE Basement of 485 S. Broadway, Unit 22A, Hicksville

INFO Urged donation, $5 per particular person, $12 per household; membership membership is $40 a 12 months; westislandmodelrailroadclub.com, 516-433-6600

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