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Saturday essay: The missing piece

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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, Jan. 3, 2014, 8:57 p.m.
 

For the N-scale model railroader, it is something of a holy grail. And after a more than 25-year search, “it” has been had.

Back in the 1960s, the old man ran, as part of his massive HO train platform, a rubber-wheeled trolley bus that took its power from overhead lines. When, as an adult, I decided to model in the next smaller size, N-scale, I began to search for the same kind of bus.

A local hobby shop thought it might have one — in storage — but never could locate it. But my oldest brother, Scott, did manage to find one. And for Christmas, he delivered a wonderful surprise: in its original packaging, a never-used Eheim/Brawa trolley-minibus, model “Nr. 5102” — complete with 10 power standards and power/guide wire — manufactured in West Germany. It's a lime-ish green job. And from the styling of the Brawa logo on the chassis bottom — square instead of round — a company history confirms it was manufactured in 1963.

In a word, it is exquisite. But another word comes to mind, too — conundrum. The search began for the trolley bus all those years ago with the premise of mimicking my dad's last HO platform in N-scale; it was the sole missing piece. It will be difficult to decide whether to tackle the platform of homage or incorporate it into my current platform, replacing a modern light-rail vehicle.

But as any model railroader will attest, as conundrums go, this one is not necessarily a bad one to have.

— Colin McNickle

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