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ModerN Structures

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

"Eleventy-billion"  - 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:

Railroad Hobby Show, Jan. 24 and 25, 2009
-Chris Burchett

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.


Friday 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 "GP").  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.


Ah, 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.


Tonight's 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.


Sunday 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.


Sunday 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.


Monday 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.


Another fun trip that had to come to a close way too soon.  See you all in Berea if not before trackside!

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Carnival of Model Railroading, Oct. 4 and 5, 2008
-Chris Burchett

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 place.  As Adding the plexi-glas to the sides. 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.Chris at the show table.  Peter Maurath photo.

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 prior.

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 The official vehicle of the Berea showing at Rocky River Depot.  Peter Maurath photo. 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 Railroading 2008!


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Copyright 2005-2008, Chris Burchett and Peter Maurath.  All rights reserved.
Please note that the Web site you are viewing is regarding a model railroad based on no real railroad.  All place names, companies, etc. are fictional.  Any resemblance to actual entities past or present is purely coincidence...or is it?
02/07/2009 19:57:17