Friday, December 24, 2010


By the time I finish typing this blog it will be officially Christmas, so Merry Christmas to all.  We returned a few hours ago from spending some time in Westchester County, New York, with my inlaws and a portion, of my wife's huge extended family.  I'm still stuffed from the traditional italian dinner.  I scored a neat little Kibri Excavator model from my mother and father in-law that you can see in the photo.  It will fit right in on the cement plant module.  I'd recommend these kits highly to both model railroaders and  non-railroaders alike.  They are about an intermediate level as far as models go, but the fit is excellent and the finished product is very presentable without any paint.  I lightly rusted the treads for now but will be doing some more painting and weathering.  I'm on the fence right now about painting the hydraulic pistons silver like they would be as that will probably prevent them from actually operating.  
Riding along the roads of home also brought back memories of my childhood Christmases.  We took the Eastview exit off the Saw Mill River Parkway - I'd hoped that the old bridge that carried the New York Central's Putnam Division still showed it's New York Central paintjob has it had as late as the early 90's, but rust finally claimed the bridge in totality.  There aren't too many New York Central relics left and I'd hoped to show this one to Jimmy.  A bit of my affinity for New York Central equipment has rubbed off on him, despite our present residence in the heart of Pennsy territory.    A mile or so up the road from the old railroad bridge we visited the final resting place of my father, the massive Kensico Cemetery.  This cemetery once had it's own station stop on the New York Central's Harlem Division where the dead and the mourners could disembark from the New York City train.  Eventually, the name of the hamlet was changed from Kensico Station to Valhalla, reflective of the large necropolis that had developed there.   My wife pointed out that it has been 32 years since my father died.
Childhood Christmases where idyllic.  Both my mother and father made the holiday special.  My dad would outline our two story house with lights - those big large green and red bulbs, at least until it became politically incorrect to do so during the energy crisis of the 70's.  He also lit a number of trees, which we had many, and had a large plywood Santa and a plywood train that were lit by spotlights.   We always had the best set up in the neighborhood.    Inside my mom must have had 30 boxes of decorations, actually I think she still has the same 30 plus more.  Every square inch of the house was fully decorated.  To get us in the spirit she started us off promptly on December 1st with advent calenders filled with notes leading us to small and large presents daily.  The month was filled with visits to and from relatives,  friends and neighbors for holiday dinners or parties - the annual silver bells dinner at the Pleasantville Presbyterian Church - even our neighbor that would dress as Santa Claus and bring presents (dropped off earlier at his house by our parents) around Christmas Eve, of course having a drink at each stop - we were the last  stop so Santa was barely standing at that point.   It was a very special time thanks to my parents and from what I recall even after the death of my father when I was 11, my mom carried on tradition seamlessly.    
Trains were of course a large part of the holiday.  We had the large basement layout year round, but my dad would set up a 4x8 layout in the family room for the month of december and into january.  Although the track was permanently fastened to the board, my brother and me were free to configure the layout as we saw fit in terms of structures, roads, scenery,...etc.   One of the memories I have of my dad's last Christmas with me was a lesson on wiring lighting on a layout and the differences between parallel and series wiring.   As we were using 12v I had to wire the street lights and house lights in groups of series so as not to burn them out.  I can't remember if we ever pulled out that layout after that year, I don't think we did.   I think my dad would find it comforting to know that the grandson he never met set up a similar little layout this year on a similar, but a little smaller piece of plywood.  In a sign of how times have changed, Jimmy wired this layout with DCC - a Bachmann Dynamis system.   I forgot how relaxing it was sitting there watching the trains circle around and around - of course a New York Central F-7 with four lightweight passenger cars in tow.


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