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Saturday essay: First things first

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

The model train platform is down for another year. But that doesn't mean it's out of mind.

The brand-new, eight-line N-gauge platform performed flawlessly this past Christmas season. Two light-rail vehicles traversed the city; there was a switcher engine that ferried freight cars around its periphery. A full freight line wended its way up and down the mountainside; below, a coal line and another freight line ran in the mountain's shadow and beneath it through two tunnels. And two long-haul passenger lines were, at least for this model railroader, the large platform's pi è ce de r é sistance.

But as any engineer in miniature will tell you, no train platform ever really is “completed.” And almost from the day it went up for its month-long run, new ideas — improvements here, additions there — were being calculated for their practicality and aesthetics.

More realistic tunnel portals will be easy and fun to design and build. But a long, curved and very high trestle for one of the freight lines will be a junior engineering challenge and take scores of hours to build.

That said, sitting all boxed up and begging to be run for the next eight or so months is a just-obtained Southern Pacific diesel that will pull a consist of 10 passenger cars. Its red, orange and black paint scheme will be striking next to the blue and gray of the Baltimore & Ohio line that will run alongside it.

Of course, all of this will have to wait a bit. After all, I've a greenhouse to get ready for spring.

— Colin McNickle

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