Saturday, February 2, 2013

Foreign Detour

I mentioned in an earlier post the challenges around securing the Metra-RTA former C&NW Kato Bi-level commuter coaches, having been out-of-production a few years. While I was successful in securing both the RTA and Metra range of numbers I've had less success with the original C&NW green-yellow as-delivered cars. Like many modelers I have issues sticking with one era or timeframe – the discipline required quite strict, and what is a guy to do when he not only has a historical interest in the former C&NW suburban lines but also present-day? Now I had left a Chicago-land LHS with two C&NW cab-coaches in hand, but what about the rest of the "Route of the 400s" consist?

I have been surfing eBay and just Google-ing the 'net in general to see if I could get any hits on the elusive 4-window P-S coaches and 6-window cars to fill out the rest of my early RTA consist. For many months I would get either zero hits or find auctions that had already closed – Doh! I had just about given up when some idle surfing turned up a hit to a UK dealer that showed all the C&NW cars "in-stock" as well as a second six-window car in RTA paint. I dropped an email to Jason at The Sidings Tamworth and crossed my fingers, fully expecting the usual "we haven't updated our web site in quite some time… sorry" response. I had a planned business outing to the English Midlands coming up on my calendar, so I hoped I could bring a package home with me – duty free.

I had read online on a couple of UK modeler forums that Jason might take some time to respond – due to his day job, in line-haul trucking – but after a few weeks without a response had gone by I had pretty much given up. Lo and behold I receive an email back out of the blue – stating that not only both sought after C&NW coaches were in-stock but also the 6-window RTA cars. I could barely contain my enthusiasm when I ordered two of each stock number for a total of six cars. At £51.95 each plus 20% VAT I had to swallow hard, but at the same time knew this was about the last place on earth that had these cars factory-new.

Later after a hard day of meetings I had a package at the hotel in Sheffield waiting for me and I really wanted to open the package but felt it would make the transcontinental journey safer sealed. It was a bit of a challenge traversing UK airport security, US Customs and rechecking through the TSA checkpoint – thank goodness railway modeling is a noted UK pastime, and my TSA screener's husband was a Lionel collector – but nevertheless the cars made their journey back to the States no worse for wear. Finally I had enough cars for a proper RTA-transition era pair of consists behind both RTA F40s – just what was needed for passenger service on my railroad.

Off topic a bit, my handyman friend Tom stopped by the other day to pick up all my "engineered" birch plywood 1x4s to start assembling the box frames for my layout benchwork. He has created a jig to ensure they're not only square but also to standard dimensions so they'll just drop into the layout room. I'm getting rather excited at the thought of having the lumber up and subroadbed down, so the gandy dancer crew can soon start putting down the cork roadbed and Atlas code 83 track necessary to start running scale tonnage across the room. It's getting difficult to not get caught up daydreaming about having a layout again, especially during these long, dark and cold winter days.

Oh, well… back to updating the program's project schedules, meeting agendas and A3's – and on a Saturday morning at that. Glad I have a hobby.

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