Saturday essay: Coal dust magic
Much to the chagrin of the folks at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the proof now must be considered incontrovertible that coal dust has remarkable powers of preservative. Why else would the old man's HO-scale trains and rolling stock be in such pristine shape?
Two elder brothers from Ohio fetched the boxes of train stuff from Dad's last HO platform and brought them to baby brother in Pennsylvania two Sundays ago. They'd been stored in a high closet in a bedroom of the old Colerain homestead pretty much undisturbed for 45 years. The last run of the last platform — an L-shaped beast of three sections, each 4 feet by 4 feet that wrapped around the living room fireplace — was in 1968. It was replaced by a smaller N-scale cousin.
The boxes were covered in dust from the old stoker coal furnace. Inside, several dozen treasures were carefully wrapped in the finest paper towels of the era.
Fond memories abounded as the Santa Fe and Baltimore and Ohio diesel engines and passenger cars were unwrapped. We marveled at the sheer weight of the metal steam engines. Some of the freight cars looked as if they were factory-fresh. There was a surprise, too — a switcher engine that none of us could recall.
Other than rotten rubber-band drives on some of the engines, the collection remains in remarkable shape. And now, the real fun begins — some detective work to discern the origins of each piece and steps to make sure all are preserved for another 45 years.
Anybody know where I can buy some coal dust?
— Colin McNickle
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh Laurels & Lances
- Greensburg Laurels & Lances
- Alle-Kiski Laurels & Lances
- The House lawsuit: Necessary & proper
- The Thursday wrap
- Alle-Kiski Tuesday takes