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Z Odyssey

2-19-2005 Long Beach Show

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February 19th, 2005

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I had planned to meet Bill from the Z Scale Forum down at the Long Beach Train Show. However, torrential rain, thunderstorms and flash flood warnings conspired against our meeting. Undeterred, I decided to go to the show anyway. Since Marklin was one of the sponsors, I figured I might at least be able to see a little bit of Z on display.

The rain clouds broke up just as I arrived in Long Beach, and very soon the crowds were arriving at the convention center in full force. I headed straight for the Marklin booth. After all, as the pioneer of Z Scale, I figured they would be proudly showing off their baby. I was wrong. The booth was dominated by a couple of HO loop tracks - very nice, but it wasn't what I was looking for. Finally I spotted a couple of Z sets on their back table, still packed away in the boxes. Not a particularly auspicious beginning.

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On to plan B. Map in hand, I found my way to the annex where it appeared there was to be a Z display. Bill had previously mentioned someone might be showing a 2-foot by 4-foot layout. Since those are the dimensions I am currently planning for, I was anxious to see what could be done with the space. I soon found the room and a big empty space where the map showed the elusive Z to be - strike two! (Since the show runs for 2 days, I guess it's possible they may show up later).

Finally, back in the main hall I ran across Bob's Trains amongst the vendors. Yes, some kind of Z presence at last! I lovingly handled the perfect engine shed for the scene that's still locked in my head. And I drooled over a selection of tiny people, coming this close to buying the shepherd and his minuscule flock of sheep, until I remembered that I need to focus on planning at this point. I chatted briefly to Bob and purchased a Marklin Track Layout book, along with some oil for my very first loco cleaning session (as soon as I can figure out how to get the shell off the chassis). Apart from the various layouts, vendors and a large play area for the many kids in attendance, the show also offered a number of workshops. I had hoped to at least sit in on one or two scenery-building demonstrations, but the timing just didn't work out. Such is life!

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While the Long Beach show wasn't quite what I had hoped for in some ways, it was still a very enjoyable experience. Just about every other scale was well represented, from the humongous garden railroads to N gauge. I confess, I gave the small scale most of my attention and found that N scalers seemed to have a great imagination when it comes to their layouts. One of the most original modules depicts a Kansas twister touching down to create havoc right by the mainline (The photo just doesn't do it justice).

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But the highlight of the show for me was a self-contained N layout with a similar track plan to the folded dog bone design I've been considering. At about the same scale dimensions, the modelers had managed to incorporate many of the scenery features I'd love to include - bridges, tunnels and a river. I made sure to take some photos, and got a track diagram to play with later on.

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