howard zane
my life with model trains
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Howard Zane's My Life with Model Trains railroad book
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piermont division scale model railroad and trains
Chapter 1: The Gates of Hell Open on Heaven
Chapter 2: Pilgrimage to My Mecca
Chapter 3: And The Bride Wore Brass
Chapter 4: Training the Army Way
Chapter 5: In Search of Paradise
Chapter 6: Wild, Wonderful West Virginia
Chapter 7: Planting The Seeds For My Love Affair With Trains
Chapter 8: Lionel Scale Hudson and Home-Grown Scenery
Chapter 9: The Great Masters: Michelangelo, Picasso, and Allen
Chapter 10: Let The Fun Begin: Creating Your Own Little World
Chapter 11: Get the Height Right: Keep It Eye-Level
Chapter 12: Size, Colors, Textures: Keep Them All in Scale
Chapter 13: My Private World Meets The Public Eye
Chapter 14: Moving Heaven and Earth for My Big Train Set
Chapter 15: Love Me, Love My Trains
Chapter 16: A New Way of Mastering Plastering
Chapter 17: Scratch building and Kit bashing
Chapter 18: Honors Can Be Bittersweet
Chapter 19: Dragging This Dinosaur into the 21st Century
Chapter 20: Getting Paid To Play With Trains
Chapter 21: Twenty-Five Years and Still Going Full-Steam Ahead
Chapter 22: Have Brass, Will Travel
Chapter 23: An Appraisal: For What It’s Worth
Chapter 24: The Past Ensures a Bright Future
Chapter 25: The Lifeblood of The Hobby: It’s Still Bricks and Mortar
Chapter 26: Dropping In and Out Of The Retail Rat-Race
Chapter 27: Inspiration: It’s Everywhere You Look
Chapter 28: Telling A Story With Themes and Scenes
Chapter 29: Going Digital with Some Help From My Friends
Chapter 30: What Works For Me Can Work For You
Chapter 31: Y’all Come
Chapter 32: Things To Remember For Happy Modeling
  Gallery of Full Page Photos


From toddler to today, I've always been involved with some kind of art.  I started painting murals as a preteen and took up sketching, sculpture, and oil painting, around the same time.  Then, as a teenager, I started doing live figure sketching after convincing the pretty 14 -year-old girl next door to be my model.  But being chased down the road by her father with a Louisville Slugger temporarily cooled my interest for this type of art.
Having been brought up in an upper-middle-class Jewish family, I was allowed three choices for a career: medicine, medicine, and possibly medicine.  A few semesters of premed and organic chemistry convinced me that I should explore the wonderful and exciting world of fast food or art in some form.
Many folks who know me believe that I'm an architect.  My son, Jonathan, is.  I washed out of architecture after a semester and eventually earned a fine arts degree in industrial design from Parson's School of Design and New York University.
Soon after I graduated, I won a position with a very fine and well known industrial firm in New York City:  "Oh you are the new kid from Parsons.  Follow me."  Wow, thought I as I followed my new boss down several well lit corridors decorated with beautiful renderings and photos of projects they had designed.  Everyone there was almost too perfect in both looks and attire.  We went into the main design room where I thought I was to be assigned a work area, but continued on.  Oh boy!  My own office!  I was led to a door, which, when opened, revealed many of the utensils for keeping order in the design and drafting room, but I was in the industrial design world!  After a few days, I did receive my first promotion -- cutting presentation boards.  I could see starting at the bottom, but in a deep hole?  I put up with this for about two weeks, until I was offered a junior design position with a very fine restaurant design firm on Union Square.  I loved this job and did quite well, earning my first raise and promotion within two months.
Then Uncle Sam got me in the late fall of that year, and I wound up with an 18-year break from art and design, spending most of that time in the aviation world -- U.S. Army, commercial pilot, and as the owner of a general aviation business.  After almost two decades, I had to get back to my first loves, which were any kind of art and old-time string-band music.  In 1977, I quit flying altogether and began an industrial design and architectural illustrating business.
The point of all this is simple.  Nothing in the art world, or at least what I have seen of it, offers as much of an artistic challenge as model railroading.  And nothing else is as comprehensive and rewarding, at least for me.
From Chapter 20: Getting Paid to Play With Trains
Our interest in train shows began in the early 1970s.  Ken, our friend Bob Hess, and I would go to model railroad shows as often as they appeared.  Our wives were usually glad to rid themselves of us, unless there were chores to be done.  All three of us loved model trains and the shows, which, at that time, were called "swap meets."
All shows then were rather small, usually in a firehouse hall, church basement, school gym, and once in a Masonic temple with huge photos of grown men in suits on every wall.  This was hardly a conducive setting for model-train buying and selling.  Rarely would a show exceed 125 tables, and most could be seen in their entirety in under an hour.  They would usually begin at 9 a.m. and start wrapping up around 1 p.m.  Just about all of the shows were 90 percent tinplate models -- mostly Lionel and American Flyer.  The food usually consisted of under-cooked steamed hot dogs on soggy or stale buns, and terrible coffee that tasted like someone had washed their feet in it.  There was hardly ever a place to sit down to eat, never mind rest.  The aisles were between four and six feet wide and many shows had the vendor sitting in the narrow aisle in front of his table  I lost out on several neat items just in view, because I couldn't reach them.  There was always some huge mastodon in front who would not budge.
Bob Hess is tall and slim with a long reach that easily stretches across any island of tables to snag his prey.  He was conceived, designed, and bred specifically for these shows, as he usually went where none of us normal-sized folks could ever dream of going.  Bob could have made millions just buying for the many hippopotamus-sized model railroaders at these shows.  He acquired the most choo choos among the three of us due to these obvious reasons and attributes.

From Chapter 12: Size, Colors, Textures: Keep Them All in Scale

Scenery textures may be used in a similar fashion as are paint colors on a pallet.  A visit to the local hobby shop will usually put you in touch with Woodland Scenics and Smith and Sons products.  These firms offer many textures in many realistic colors or, better put, shades of earth tones, greens, browns, sand, and various types of ballast.  Also offered are various sizes of ground foam from fine to coarse to large foam clusters, available in quite realistic colors.  All of the simulated trees and bushes are made from these clusters which I rip to various sizes.  You may also want to contact the fine folks at Scenic Express or visit them at one of our Great Scale Model Train Shows in Maryland.  If it is scenery, be it product or answers, these are the folks to speak with.  Do stay away from commercial lichen and the Christmas ‘grass mats’ offered during this season.  Plainly put, they are horrible!  The colors offered are unrealistic and the quality is usually poor.  A small 8 oz. bag of lichen may cost several dollars and the only useable stuff represents around 10% of the content.

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