Monthly Archives: October 2012

Back On Track: Model Citizens’ Annual Train Show October 13 & 14

By Brian M. Howle

The Grand Strand Model Railroad Club will bring the tradition-steeped hobby to the public, as they have announced their second annual Model Railroad Show and Sale. The event will be held on Oct. 13 and 14 at the Lakewood Conference Center, 5837 S. Kings Highway (on the frontage road) beside Lakewood Campground, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The show will run Saturday, Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 adults;  children 12;and under FREE. The Conference Center’s phone is 843-447-7383.

Modular layouts on display will include Lionel (O-gauge), HO-gauge and N-gauge sizes. There will also be Free Modeling Clinics conducted throughout the day, so you can learn now to make mountains, trees, rivers, rocks, and more. Woodland scenery – pre-made miniature grasses, rocks, shrubs and trees are available from manufacturers, but more and more modelers are going the extra step of creating their own flora and fauna. Plus, there will be door prizes, and a Kid’s Engine Simulator.

Last year there were 1,600 attendees, 75 tables with 25 vendors, and all types of trains. This year features 80 tables with 29 vendors.

The club was formed over 25 years ago in Myrtle Beach by Nick Nicholas, who moved to Florida (and sadly, has since passed away). Ed Sharrett was stationed at the M.B. Air Force Base when he joined the group 24 years ago, and the love he developed for model railroading – as for so many of all generations – had its roots in the glorious heyday of Christmas mornings that featured the coveted Lionel train set underneath the Christmas tree.

There are currently 40 avid members, ranging from 18 to 92 years young. All types of people from all backgrounds belong, from chiefs (ret. USAF) to high school student, to former railroad engineer who worked for the railroad in Japan after WWII and then worked on the PL&E in Pittsburg, Pa. Always looking for new members that are interested in the hobby and would like to share their knowledge with others, they have operating sessions and in-house clinics to teach each other about all types of subjects: electrical, scenery, track laying, weathering and painting cars.

Their headquarters has recently moved to a new home after 25 years in downtown Myrtle Beach. The new location is at Myrtle Beach Mall on Hwy. 17 next to Bass Pro Shop, just off the Hwy. 22 interchange. The hours of operation are Saturdaya 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Mondaya 4 to 7 p.m.

Before or after the show, stop by and see the three layouts: The Lionel, the N-gauge and the HO-gauge are operational.

Their transportable N-Scale modular layouts meet National Standard specifications, which means they can be attached to other layouts with the same specs. The club can take their layout to national shows or conventions and literally “plug in” to other layouts.

According to Sharrett, the train sets and layouts of today have advanced by leaps and bounds from those earlier forerunners. The world of model railroading use to be overwhelmingly Lionel (O-gauge), with one train and one track. Placing a second train would reduce voltage and slow the performance of both trains. Those “little engineers” now over the age of 40 have fond memories of this larger gauge format of trains and accompanying accessories, which were almost always located in more expanisive attic or basement locations.

Old layouts required huge amounts of wiring for each and every function of trains, tracks and accessories. Electronics now allow layouts to utilize computer chip technology that gives today’s enthusiasts far more control with a fraction of the time to build.

But today, the sets are controlled by Digital Command Control (DCC), which allows you to run 99 trains on one track at the same time, traversing in different directions and at different speeds, complete with sound systems that reproduce those snorting gases, air pumps, pistons and steam hissing – along with that amazing sensory delight, the billowing smoke from the old steam engines – that make the illusion ever stronger.

The engines have small electronic chips that receive the signals from the DCC controller, similar to your TV’s remote control. These are dedicated signals for all of the different commands you might wish to program into your layout.

HO-gauge is currently the most popular in today’s model railroading world, because of its size and relatively lower costs. The larger Lionel scale is still popular, but requires a lot of space (and money) to build a working layout.

And the advent of N-gauge opens up the ability to have a great layout in a much smaller space, giving them the nickname of “Coffee Table Layouts.”

But if you really want to go small, the incredible “Postage Stamp” Z-gauge has to be seen to be truly appreciated.

Size Matters

As mentioned above, model railroaders have several scale sizes to consider when building a train layout:

Z Gauge – 220:1 Scale – Smaller than a penny, about the height of the top of Lincoln’s head. (Requires almost sterile operating environment, though; a speck of dust can bring your railway to a screeching halt!).

N Gauge – 1:160 Scale – This scale has exploded in popularity, due to the fact that you can build a huge scenario on a simple 4’ x 8’ layout, and buildings, scenery and accessories are plentiful.

HO Gauge – 1:87 Scale – The most popular scale, not as big as “O” Gauge, but big enough to provide great layouts and detail work. Again, huge variety of accessories.

S Gauge – 1:64 Scale – Most likely your Grandfather’s train set!

Standard “O” Gauge – 1:48: Scale – The one that went *BOOM* after WWII and graced millions of Christmas morning floors.  Consisting mostly of Lionel and American Flyer sets; layout complementing Corgi die-cast vehicles are also scaled this size.  Accessories are varied and may be harder to find (where you live), but worth every penny.

G Gauge – 1:29 Scale – A much larger scale, this scale is used in outdoor layouts that have become the darling of retirees across the country. Combines track planning and outdoor landscaping, which begs for a scale trestle over water somewhere!

On Site At The Show

The club will feature these layouts at the Lakewood Conference Center show:

N Scale – 6 ft. x 20 ft. layout – 8 Trains, 4 Tracks.

HO Scale – 10 ft. x 18 ft. layout.

Lionel (O-gauge) layout – 5 ft. x 6 ft. – Kids will love to operate these, which feature the some of Lionel’s legendary accessories, including the operating Log Loader, and an Electro-Magnetic Crane that picks up washers and puts them in a gondola car.

The club has constructed some interesting ways to show off model railroading to the kids (and not-so-little kids!).

The club uses a trailer to take the N-Gauge layouts to train shows, and the trailer has been painted to look like a real train caboose, complete with ladders, the smokestack from the old wood stove, and the iconic cupola on top!  Look for the Little Red Caboose to guide you in when arriving at the show’s site.

All proceeds from the sale go to the club building fund, so that the permanent home layouts will remain on the strand for all model railroading enthusiasts to enjoy for many more generations to come.

For further information, contact Edward Sharrett at 843-293-4386; Joe Corsetti at 843-297-7162; or Bill Smith at 843-602-2420.

This article was originally published at


Tags: , ,

%d bloggers like this: