Saturday, May 31, 2014

Zientek's Model Trains (and Formerly Tavern): Another Item Off the Bucket List!

Zientek's Model Trains

Like many people, I have a bucket listthings I want to see or do before I "kick the bucket."

Model railroad-wise, my bucket list includes visiting some signature model railroads like the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and the Greeley, CO Freight Station Museum. (among others).

With my daughter living in Chicago for the past year, I had a reason to go to that city more often. It allowed me to scratch two things off my list: The Great Train Story at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and Zientek's Model Trains and Tavern.

The bar is closed, unless you like to be served trains!

Unfortunately, the tavern has been closed for three years; the owner, John Zientek, found it too expensive and onerous to get and pay for all the licenses and insurance. So, no cold ones for me!

The tavern was started by John’s grandfather in 1900 in the Chicago neighbourhood of Pilsen.

The sight that greets you when you enter the
first of the second floor train rooms.

Back then, Pilsen was predominantly a Czech and Slovak area; today it is largely Mexican and Hispanic, featuring a lively cultural and food scene.

John’s father took over the tavern, also selling tobacco products. In 1973, John began helping out; since he was a model railroader, they introduced trains in 1985 as a way to diversify their offerings.

Looking from the turret window.

Back then, it was beer on the first floor and trains on the second. Today, trains have taken over both floors.

Why was Zientek’s on my bucket list? Not just because of the tavern-trains connection. It was on my list because it takes me back to the way hobby shops used to be.

What are those things? Oh, yeah: Kits.

You may remember those days, a time when manufacturers made large numbers of model railroad items, and hobby shops bought and stocked them. With today’s limited runs, those days are long gone.

But not a Zientek’s Model Trains! The store is filled, top-to-bottom and wall-to-wall, with model railroad items. This includes many things that have long been out of stock, or made by companies that are no longer in business.

You want stock? Zientek's has stock!

John also has a lot of items with a strange word on the box: “K-i-t.” Oh, yeah, “kit.” You don’t see many of those these days.

You name it, you can probably find it at Zientek’s (in HO scale—he doesn’t have much in the way of other scales). 

Not find them easily, mind you, but that’s part of the charm and fun. I spent a couple of enjoyable hours there searching through the shelves, never knowing what treasure I might find.

It's like a museum for old model railroad items . . .  

In addition to ages-old kits, John also stocks hard-to-find detail parts, decals, dry transfers and paint.

Need a detail part?

Compared to many of today’s clean and orderly hobby shops, with maybe one or two of anything, Zientek’s is a throwback to another era.

Speaking of throwbacks, Zientek’s is also cash-only—no credit cards. And he uses an ancient non-electric cash register to ring up your sale.

John at the controls of his layout.

John also has a layout in the basement. If you ask, he might take you downstairs to see it.

If you have a model railroad bucket list, I encourage you to add Zientek’s Model Trains to it. But don’t wait too long; John is now semi-retired, and may want to fully retire one of these days. 

Zientek’s Model Trains is located at 2001 W 18th St, Chicago. (On the corner of W. 18th and Damen.) Ph: 1.312.226.9720. It can easily be reached via the CTA Pink line.

There's newer stuff at Zientek's, too.

Read more about beer and trains in an earlier post on this blog. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

CN 2040: So Ugly, But I'm Not Going to Model It

Back in 2009, I wrote about how I found a CP unit so ugly I just had to model it.

During a recent trip to Fargo, ND, I came across CN Dash 8-40c 2040. It's also ugly, but I'm not going to model it.

Why? First off, it's CN, and I model CP Rail. Second, it's too modern for my 1990-1995 M & M Subdivision.

But it I did model modern CN, I think I'd want one of these on my roster. After all, I seem to have a thing for ugly and unusual units.

At least one person has modelled a couple of these unique units, albeit in a different "scheme." Ric Hamilton of Nova Scotia took a shot at modelling CN 2116 and 2121. I think he did a pretty good job. (Photos from the Diesel Detailer Forum.)

The units were part of a purchase by CN of 42 Dash 8-40c units from UP in 2013. A number of them entered service in spray paint, as in the photos above. Many have been repainted, as below--but not all, as my May, 2014 experience in Fargo shows.

Some background: The units were inherited from CNW by UP when it purchased that railroad and numbered from 9023-9064. When UP retired them in 2008 and 2009, they were sold to Citicorp Railmark and retained their UP livery and road number, with CREX on the cab sides.

Prior to being purchased by CN last year, they had been leased to CSX. (Thanks to Canadian Railway Observations for that information.)

As for my so-ugly-I-had-to-model-it unit, here it is, in all it's glory. And, yes, there is a prototype.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Amazing Diorama & Backdrop Photography

When it comes to model railroad photography, this is about as real as it gets.

The photo and modelling was done by Joey Ricard of West Virginia. And since he also manufactures backdrops for model railroaders, this means you can make a scene as realistic as this, too.

Behind the scenes . . . .

To learn more, and read his tips about backdrop installation, visit his website at Trackside Scenery.

Joey also has a Facebook page with many more photos, including of his Spruce Coal & Timber On30 layout.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Canadian-Style GP9 Slug Being Produced

Lately, it's been the big companies making all the news about new Canadian Products.

There's InterMountain with its HO scale CP Rail SD40-2 units; Bowser, also with its HO SD40-2 units; Athearn with its new HO CP Rail and CN GP9s; and Rapido Trains with, well, everything Canadian in HO and N.

So it's nice to see a small manufacturer also making a (smaller) wave with a new Canadian product. That would be Maple Leaf Trains, which is producing a resin kit of a Canadian-style GP9 slug.

The kit, which sells for $84.95, includes the shell, frame, two air tanks, air filters, MU power cable connectors, electrical components and brake wheel, plus various metal etched parts.

I have no vested interest in the company, nor can I vouch for the product. I'm simply glad to see another company produce a product many modellers of Canadian railways can use.

Now if someone would just bring out a chop-nose GP9 to mate that slug with . . . .

Friday, May 9, 2014

How to Derail a Train (World War II Edition)

"Have you any ideas on how to wreck a train? Sounds easy, doesn't it?"

That's the question asked by the narrator in this World War II video about how to sabotage a moving train.

As the video shows, it's not as easy as it sounds. It took the "saboteurs" six attempts.

This movie was made in 1944 by the U.S. National Defense Resources Committee & Office of Strategic Services on the Claiborne-Polk military railroad. 

The goal was to learn the best way to derail trains in wartime using "subversive warfare.

You can watch the movie here on YouTube.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Model Railroad in a Swimming Pool?

Could you put a layout here?

Model railroads can be found in many different places—basements, attics, garages, living rooms, even a long-distance truck cab. But this is the first time I’ve heard of one in a swimming pool.

Well, a swimming pool room, to be exact, although the pool itself is used in the design.

The unique layout belongs to Andy Panko, who lives in the Niagara region of Ontario. For a long time he has wanted to build an HO scale layout that faithfully duplicates mainline operations in the Niagara region in the transition era.

Following negotiations with his wife, he has converted his indoor swimming pool to a layout room. Andy was kind enough to share photos with me; the pictures on this page show progress so far.

As for the pool itself, the deep end provides access to parts of the layout—stairs down from the aisles allow operators to walk under the layout. (Talk about eliminating duck-unders!)

Andy’s layout was open for the May, 2014 Grapevine Express, the annual convention of the Niagara Frontier Region of the NMRA. He’s going to take a break now for the summer, then resume construction in fall. That’s when I hope I can show more photos of this unique model railroad.

A track plan for the layout is at the bottom of the page.

In addition to his modelling, Andy is a fan of the old Niagara, St, Catharines & Toronto Railway. He has published two books on that railway: The Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Electric Railway in Pictures (with Peter Bowen) and NS&T: Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway (also with Peter Bowen).

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Open House Signs

I held an open house today. It's something I like to do periodically--a way to share my layout with others, but also to give me a deadline to get things done. Like clean up the layout room, in this case.

The purpose of this open house was to show the changes to the layout. The last time many members of the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club saw the layout was in 2010, during the last NMRA regional convention in the city.

Back then, the layout still had the three-level centre peninsula. Today, it is one-level, with a prairie town.

As with previous open houses, I posted signs around the layout. When five or ten people are in the room, it's hard to talk to everyone, and answer questions.

The signs help explain various features of the layout--which takes a burden off me, as host. They explain how I made scenery, how I switch the paper mill, what the staging yards represent, etc.

In addition to the usual signs, I also posted a series of photos to show how the peninsula had changed over the past few years. (See above.)

Anyway, click here to read an earlier post to see examples of signs for open houses (in this case, during that 2010 NMRA regional convention).