California Dreamin’ | PE 985

Danger! Danger! Whoop-whoop-whoop!

PE 985 in O scale

I had a great time in southern California earlier this month. A great time. I’ll write more about it as time allows, but my travels included a stop at The Original Whistle Stop model railway emporium in Pasadena. Which is where I saw the above, O scale, Pacific Electric wood car.

What a beauty.

I have a soft spot (right between the ears) for traction. I attribute it to growing up in Toronto – a city where streetcars survived and thrive. The TTC was a part of my daily life. My parents did not have a car – in a big city, you don’t really need one. My father took the subway to work, and my mother and I would go on all manner of trips through the city – all involving a ride on public transit. Unlike many hobbyists I know, these were my first exposure to the phenomenon of flanged wheels on steel rails.

That influenced my tastes in the hobby for many years. While others my age were devouring the work of Al McClelland and Tony Koester – and building “tribute layouts” around the theme of Appalachian coal hauling – I was absorbing everything I could about Bob Hegge and his Crooked Mountain Lines. I can still remember the month/year of issues with Hegge articles in them and at one time planned my own tribute layout in my parents’ basement. (I started one, but never got as far as stringing overhead, so I don’t know if that’s something I enjoy – or whether I’m even capable of doing it.)

My interest extended beyond the CML, of course. My copies of the traction books from Kalmbach and Carstens are definitely dog-eared. And I have a number of models of equipment from interurban lines, in several scales.

No need to worry: Port Rowan is safe. I have a boxcar painted in the Crooked Mountain Lines scheme – an NMRA heritage car, and the only freelanced railway represented on my layout.

But models like the Pacific Electric car above make my heart skip a beat. I’m fortunate it was not for sale.

As I noted earlier, I’ll have more to report on my trip – to an NMRA convention, and seeing the sights – as time allows. Stay tuned…

12 thoughts on “California Dreamin’ | PE 985

  1. Larger scales do seem to suit traction layouts, though my traction equipment consists of a Bachmann Peter Witt, Bowser PCC and Miniatures by Eric CLRV all in TTC and in HO Scale!! Though i have no traction layout or plans for one.

    Having had the opportunity to operate a layout which uses live overhead catenary for power, it certainly changes the game in terms of the level of skill needed in construction. I don’t think it’s for me, though I could see me someday trying to do a minimal size traction layout to just run streetcar models on.

  2. I just took a peek at that again yesterday, Trevor, and Fred Hill tells me the model is not for sale at any price. He further told me he that it was an NMRA contest winner back in the day, and was from an estate. I told him you would pay hime “thousands of dollars” for it, but he wouldn’t bite. It never hurts to ask. :0)

  3. Occasionally I’ll run into a O scale or On3 shay at a show, and like you, it makes my heart jump and gives me thoughts of abandoning my work of over a decade on my HO scale plans to go just model some logging….. or read an article about an interesting prototype that could be easily modeled and would be fun. It reminds me that I am interested in more than just one railroad, and that there is always more to learn about, read about, and dream about, which keeps me going with my ongoing projects.

  4. I too, have always had a soft spot for traction. There is just something about their looks that is irresistible! This was recently strengthened by Tom Bailey’s article “Adding Traction to a Steam Railroad” in the 2017 issue of “Model Railroad Planning” . It got me to wondering how I might add traction to my railroad, the Dyer Junction & Eureka (Model Railroader, May 2016 “A Steam Era Switching Layout”) if I expand it. On the other hand, if I need to downsize because of my retirement (which is a real possibility), I think traction would be the way to go because you can fit more into a limited space. Either way, I think there is some traction in my future.

  5. “… my mother and I would go on all manner of trips through the city – all involving a ride on public transit.”

    I had a similar situation growing up in New Orleans. Street car rides were a common thing for me in those days. I even rode them to school and back for a couple years.


  6. I still remember my shock at reading the article in which Bob H described converting from catenary to third-rail operation. I don’t think that I was a teenager, yet.

    It was a revelation to me that having spent a lot of time, effort, and in some cases money on an aspect of a project should not keep one from making drastic changes if something is not working out aesthetically or operationally.

    It made me change my previous view about treating my own past work as being in some way precious. I have been much more willing to tear things out and start over, since then. I’m glad to have learned that early on.

    • “What Brought the Catenary Down?” in the June 1978 MR was my first exposure to Bob Hegge’s work. I loved the look of those big red cars, plus the open-air car barn and massive station/head office at Gina.

  7. Hah! It’s great to see so many traction fans coming out of the closet. 🙂

    I’ve dabbled with traction layout designs a few times. One of my favourite subjects – one I think would be excellent for an achievable model railway – is the Sacramento Northern between Concord and Walnut Creek in California.

    At the other end of the country, the Aroostook Valley RR in Maine is an excellent subject.

    Follow the links and enjoy if you do…

  8. My all time favorite modeler was Bob Hegge (and John Allen, Earl Smallshaw, Mike Tylick, Bob Brown and Dave Frary – Bob Hayden). My first exposure to his work Close Up Crooked Mountain Lines December 1976. I have been slowly rereading the few magazines I have of his. I often wish that Model Railroader and RMC would publish books compiling the articles of these legendary modelers (starting with Bob Hegge, then Frary Hayden).

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