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Saturday essay: The find

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Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
 

The great American hobby shop is an endangered species. Here's why that's such a sad thing:

Forty-three years ago, and after decades of model railroading in HO scale, the old man began buying engines and rolling stock for his first, smaller-scale N-gauge train platform.

One of the engines was a classic F7 diesel model of the then-new but ill-fated Penn Central railroad, formed the year before, in 1968, with the merger of the iconic Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads. Painted pure black, with the railroad logo and name in white lettering on its sides, it pulled five silver Penn Central passenger cars.

The locomotive wore out years ago. But the cars, featuring a wide aqua stripe along the window line, have continued to run on my platforms, pulled by other engines.

Then, this week, by pure happenstance on a visit to A.B. Charles, the iconic Mt. Lebanon hobby shop, a pristine 43-year-old Minitrix-brand German-built Penn Central diesel engine found me from the display case.

It was the exact same brand, model and engine number as the old man's and in the original packaging. It came from the voluminous “old stock” that late owner Ed Charles (“Mr. Charles” to all) had squirreled away. Son and current owner Scott priced it to move. But it was a priceless find for the history and memories involved.

Which is the magic of the great American hobby shop that can't be replicated by Internet sites — you're never sure if you found what you found or if it found you.

— Colin McNickle

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