What is TAMR?
Not sponsored by but heavily favored:
Melt: Bar and Grilled
"Amazing" - raves
the Milford Center Gazette, June 2006
"Awe-inspiring" - Outta
Times, February 2008
"It changed my life" - random
person we didn't ask for a name on a date we don't remember
"It's nearly but not really
V&O-cool" - some
guy named Zehner, mid-month last year
- Keanu Reeves, SNL, mid-Nineties
You've seen the reviews. You've watched us on
incredibly late night TV (or was it YouTube?). So what all goes into putting on a
world-class display? We'll let you into the world of the LEO and
all the behind-the-scenes action that goes on. This is reality
Internet at it's pinnacle. These reports are written on-site at
the shows, so you might just see Chris typing away during your visit to
the only show layout that will leave you breathless.
Select venue and date:
Hobby Show, Jan. 24 and 25, 2009
West Springfield, MA (AP) - This trip is the granddaddy
of all the trips we make any given year. My portion of the trip
starts a day early on Thursday with an evening arrival in
Cleveland. This year my wife Jamie would finally be able to make
the trip with us. Of course, this year we absolutely HAD to stop
at Melt for dinner. We didn't want to but felt it was our civic
duty to support local business. We feel very strongly about such
things even if we don't particularly enjoy the food or atmosphere.
Right. Who am I kidding? Melt. Awesome - no, glorious
as usual. The trip began on the right foot. After dinner, we
got the layout stacked and packed for the trip, everything for three
people in a Honda Fit.
morning dawned way too early but we were up and at 'em by 7:30
a.m. Peter packed sandwiches and drinks for the eight-hour journey
before we stopped by Uncle Bob's (also known as Bob Evans) for our
traditional breakfast. By 9:30 a.m. we were on the road en route
to Springfield, Massachusetts, via the frozen tundra and monotonous
wasteland also known as the Empire State. I'm sure upper New York is
beautiful during the summer, but in the middle of winter driving down
Interstate 90, it's awful. Frozen hell on earth. Pure
torture. You get the idea. It's like the drive between
Dayton and Chillicothe on U.S. 35 only that drive is described the same
year-round. To make the trip shorter and less
mundane, poof, it's now 6:00 p.m. and we're just getting out of the car
at our destination: the Residence Inn West Springfield.
After meeting up with others for the TAMR winter convention, we got our
badges and went to the Eastern States Exposition to set up the
LEO. While at the Big E, Andrew Matarazzo was busy working on the
adjacent HO TAMR layout, conducting an entertaining, self-professed
clinic on how not to build a layout. YouTube look out.
Following an incredibly easy (and possibly the record) setup time, we
went off to Longhorn Steakhouse off US 5 for a late dinner.
Nothing fancy, not Melt, but I believe the consensus on the burgers as
judged by us was about 2.2 Melts. Again, not great but not bad
either. And the poor waitress. Good grief. I feel
sorry for any waitress that has to meet one Gohmehr Pyle (the names have
been abruptly changed to protect the guilty; henceforth known as
The Army is screwed and Iraq is in peril if it wasn't already.
Anyway, the waitress did manage to successfully navigate through the
many failed pick-up attempts that GP senselessly blurted out. Back at the hotel, we watched a couple of recently
produced TAMR videos from GrayMedia also found for sample viewing on
YouTube. By 1:00 a.m., we thought it be best to call it a night
and get some sleep before awaking at the now-ungodly hour of 7:00
a.m. But not before finally tuning out roommates GP and Doug Engler from their incessant banter about railfanning Selkirk
and the operational differences between a B23-7 and an SD80MAC that
dragged on for another hour at least. For the love of all things
decent and good, at that hour, I don't give a you know what. Sleep
already! Good Lord, man.
morning. A new day. Oh great. Nevermind, the promise
of a new day has been crushed with a force like that of Old Testament
proportions. Doug is shirtless
wandering around and GP is MIA. Run now! Down in the
lobby of our awesome hotel, provided by Newton Vezina, we feasted upon a
grand breakfast that all hotels should offer as part of their
stays. Hampton Inn at least does so, which makes the few extra
bucks well worth it for the great accommodations and excellent
food. Finally off to the show, where we arrived mere minutes
before the opening announcement, "The show is now OPEN."
Throughout the day, we had several folks stop by the table. What's
great about this particular stop on our annual circuit is the amount of
other people around. It's not just us! The show's actually
go by rather quickly and much less monotonous. Though I will not
discount the folks who stop by viewing the layout and asking
questions. Of course, there's always GP. He just won't
shush. Anyway, not much to speak of otherwise for the
show, so we'll fast forward to the end of the day and our departure for
the hotel at 5:00 p.m., all the while wading through the sea of humanity
exiting at the same time.
meal would consist of pizza and lots of it. Perfect college food,
right? Oh yeah. I'm definitely in. There really wasn't
much else going on for the evening other than watching Mythbusters on
the tube and avoiding GP's slideshow. Oh and there was also the
suggestion to watch a train roll into West Springfield Yard.
Normally I may take up that offer, but in sub-zero temperatures, I'll
pass and stay inside this night. That's why train shows were
invented--a way to get people out during the winter without actually
being "out out" if that makes sense. No? Okay,
moving right along.
was more of the same really. Not much to mention about breakfast
or the show either. At the end of the day, though, we were
rewarded with the time-tested, reliable
voice-of-God-sounding-authoritative announcement as soon as the show was
announced as closed: "There will be no vehicles in the
building." Do not, under any circumstances, violate this
rule. Fire and brimstone will be the least of your worries.
Just don't do it. It's just not worth it. Anyway,
disassembly of the layout commenced all too soon, as it seems like the
shows go by way too fast. We got the Fit all re-packed (emphasis
on packed) thanks to my wife's excellent packing abilities. That
is an inborn trait passed down to her by her father. As Matt
Douglas of My Fellow Americans said, "I learned from the
master." 'Nuff said right there.
night found GP bidding us farewell and off he went further east toward
Boston. Pete and myself wanted to go to a blues-themed restaurant
in downtown Springfield called Theodores'. We saw this on a
episode of Ghost Hunters and the atmosphere seemed very Melt-like.
After many attempts to persuade Newton to go, we finally gave in and
went to Mexican restaurant by the hotel. According to Newton, we
were about to basically enter a war zone and should be fearing for our
very lives upon crossing the Memorial Bridge. Next year, though,
we are going no matter what. There's just no question about
it. As for the eating establishment we dined at instead, it was
very good. It has always seemed to be incredibly packed any given
year we've attended the show, so this was a good last-minute Plan
B. Good portions, reasonably priced. A good 3 Melts I would
have to say. Meanwhile, back at the hotel we said our goodnights
and off to bed.
morning came all too soon and the realization that we were heading back
today. Our annual breakfast was not to be at the hotel, but
instead, Cracker Barrel. We've eaten here for about four years
straight now I do believe it is. It is the only place in all of
New England, it seems, that serves biscuits and gravy. As a
result, Newton graciously escorts us to this oasis each year. Food
is great as always, deeming this particular Holyoke location 3.2
Melts. Awesome stuff. Not Tudor's Biscuit World but it'll do
the trick. Now the trek across back across the Empire State.
Ta-da! Magically we're back in Ohio and arriving in
Cleveland. Dog-gone that silly nuisance called a job, but I could
have feasted at Melt one more time before heading for Dayton.
Unfortunately, I didn't think far enough ahead in my time-off
request. So back to Dayton as soon as we arrived in Cleveland so
some sleep could be had.
fun trip that had to come to a close way too soon. See you all in
Berea if not before trackside!
of Model Railroading, Oct. 4 and 5, 2008
Berea, Ohio (AP) - Friday night around 9:20 found us
getting the layout and table setup prior to the show's opening
(following an electrical incident at Peter's home; don't worry, he's all
right). We spent the better part of an hour moving the stacked
layout from the car into the building, assembling the layout into
"show-mode," and getting the various signage and flyers in
usual, the initial runs around the layout with a single
locomotive found the worst spots on the track. So, while Peter
worked on the downtown, I was busy playing "MOW" cleaning
the rails. We also discovered that our stable-mates this year
would include the Cuyahoga Valley & West Shore Model Railroad Club
of Olmsted Falls (they probably feel much shame now for seeing their
name even mentioned on our site, let alone sitting next to us; I think
we heard the word "eek" or the like at first sight). After getting everything in order for the show about
10:15, we decided to head out to the official restaurant of the LEO:
Melt. Melt? Yes, Melt. Melt is awesome. There's
really nothing more to say about that. It's a utopian experience
one must experience for himself. Before lights out, a good show
was put on by the dynamic feline duo of Milo and Chessie. Scratch
that. Make it Chessie and Milo. Chessie, the quintessential
ultimate diva, must get first billing.
The alarm clocks did their job the next morning, and we were up and
about preparing the layout with the final touches for the show's opening
of 10:00 A.M. The train consist had it's usual problems, as it
invariably seems to take about an hour (give or take) to "warm
up." After about an hour of operating with minor glitches
such as stopping at two different points, the LEO comes to life and
operates just fine. "It runs just like a Swiss watch,"
states Peter, layout-building accomplice. During the show, we get
the obligatory, insanely ego-building comments that just make you want
to put a blue ribbon on the layout. "There's no doubt this is
the best-looking of the show," says one spectator, "so much
detail packed into such a small space." We also get a few
questions throughout the day asking what scale (N), how long did it take
to build (a year), will you take my kids (no), and the like. At
5:00 P.M., it was "lights out" for the show, as every dealer
near and far had been covering their tables for about fifteen minutes
Now here I must rant a tad. Why would one spend the money for
table space plus the distance traveled (some from Michigan and beyond)
only to start closing shop early? What has one lost by keeping
shop right up 'til the show's close for the day? There are still
people shopping (albeit few, but a customer is a customer). That
is the one aspect of the West Springfield show I admire greatly:
they come down hard on those that close early. In other words,
those dealers/clubs aren't invited back or pay fines/fees. I
refuse to purchase from such dealers once they commit such business
crime. All right, back to the show.
Keep in mind that we at the LEO adhere to very strict scheduling
standards. Everything is planned out months in advance right to
the nanosecond. Need I say obsessive compulsive? Need I say
I'm full of it? At any rate, the choice was a pizza place called
Angelo's or Melt. This, dear reader, you must realize is an
agonizing decision to make. On one hand, you have Melt.
Glorious Melt. Then there is one of the finest pizza places I've
dined. To make matters worse, they are incredibly close to each
other. So after intense debating of the pros and cons and the sage
wisdom of the almighty coin flip, we were off to Angelo's. On a
scale of one to five Melts, it's definitely 4.8 Melts. You must go
at least once. But not before visiting Melt if you haven't
already. And not in the same day for crying out loud. The
stomach could not stand such a volume of food. System overload I
believe is the phrase to use in this case. Following dinner, we
went off in search of more train stuff (yes, stuff; so I used a vague,
generic word). Under Peter's wise navigation through Cuyahoga
County, we stopped by the Rocky River and Bay Village/Dover stations
once owned by the Nickel Plate Road. After the last bit of light
left, we went back to Peter's home to watch an episode of the Film Crew
and Ghost Hunters on Hulu. Hey, cheap TV is awesome TV. Who
needs cable? The order for lights out came at 12:30 A.M. and
daylight followed all too soon.
After an 8:00 A.M. wake-up, we were off to one of Berea's most refined
and posh restaurants currently in business: Burger King. Oh
come on. If you're a railfan like us, you know exactly what I
mean. BK is only part of the railfan's basic diet plan when on
trips: quick and cheap. Following our
pick-up of breakfast, we went trackside at a site formerly known as The
Station Restaurant formerly known as the Pufferbelly formerly known as
the Big Four Berea depot. Numerous trains passed by in a short
time, easily satisfying any train enthusiast. We also made a quick
stop by the Olmsted Falls depot (watching an eastbound pass lead by two
BNSF units) before uncovering the layout back at the show.
During the show, we had our share of folks stop by as usual. And
of course all of the comments that make us proud of the work we've done
(see above, Saturday's commentary). One incredible moment was when
a gentleman stopped by who has visited our Web site numerous
times. It was great talking with him (hello!), but I regret not
catching his name. It was probably about Noonish I would say (no,
Noon-ish is not a real word but I'll use it any way - so there), so if
you're reading this, please drop us a line. You know who you
are. As I mentioned earlier, it's always awesome hearing from
someone who has actually seen the site. The cyber people (like us)
are real! The BurNing River club also had a representative,
stating how much admiration for the layout he has and how much he enjoys
seeing it every year. That be awesome!
We also got our annual invitation to the RailFest show. Now, not
to be disrepectful or ungrateful for such things, we have concluded that
this invitation is pointless. For three years now we've received
this and for three years we still don't have a spot at said show.
"It's guaranteed space," the messenger hails.
Right. Thanks, but no thanks. We'll go to shows that
accommodate the LEO (which isn't much; one eight-foot table with
electric for the power pack is all), not some empty, scatter-gun
approach to get as many folks as possible to sign up for space.
Springfield and Berea are our stand-bys thank you. All
right. I believe I have thoroughly beat that to death at this
point, so let's continue.
The guys next door at the CV&WS Club were definitely getting a
little "punchy." Someone managed to find a monkey
mask. No, you did not read that wrong. He had a monkey-face
mask. I'm not losing it here. The show can cause distortions
to be true, but I have witnesses. He was randomly going to other
club members making monkey sounds. Okay, I just re-read that
statement, and will now continue on seeing as how ridiculous that whole
scenario seems. I am indeed crazy. Have to be. I need
Melt. Oh Melt, where art thou? Why hast thou kept thy
distance from me this day, O Melt.
By 4:00 P.M., every dealer and club were in the process of putting the
merchandise and equipment away, ready for the drive home. We had
the layout all packed away and stacked for transport by 4:45 P.M., and
off we went to Peter's parents' home for dinner. Might I say that
these dinners are rivaled only by Melt and could quite possibly have a
good edge over Melt. That's saying something right there.
Dinner consisted of lasagna, beef stew and dumplins, and rolls.
Oh, and dessert! Dessert was a choice of peanut butter and
chocolate chip rice krispie treats and apple squares. Awesome is
simply not a good enough word to describe this setting. Following
dinner, we were off to Peter's church for band practice and evening
service. For those who may not know, we may indeed have a rock
star in the making. We'll be posting the countdown as soon as
possible. We returned to Peter's home for the night, only to awake
early Monday morning to part ways - Peter to work at 8:00 A.M. and
myself back to Dayton to get to work myself later in the day.
All in all, another excellent show if we may so ourselves. Thanks
to everyone who stopped by this year at the Carnival of Model
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