Everyone in model railroading, from those just getting started with the first circle of track to those seasoned folks with several layouts under their belts know how easy it is to quickly spend a lot of money.
Swap meets can be a model railroader’s best friend.
I love going to model railroad swap meets. It can be overwhelming with so much to see and choices to make. The good meets have rows and rows of tables with a wide variety of gauges from N scale to G and everything in between.
Just because it’s a swap meet does not mean prices are going to be rock bottom. You have to patiently search to find those great deals. There are many displays with folks who regularly do train shows. Some prices are no different than can be found in local hobby shops.
Yesterday, I attended the Railroad Days Train Show in Durand, Michigan. This is an annual event, but this was the first time for me, so I didn’t know what to expect. The show was held at the Durand Middle School. I couldn’t believe the number of cars in the parking lot!
We paid the five dollar entrance fee and started hunting. I already have plenty of locomotives and rolling stock. (I know that sounds like blasphemy, but my shelf-style 21 x 4 feet layout just won’t realistically hold any more.) I have more buildings than I can use. What I need most is junk. It’s the stuff lying around that makes scenes look realistic. Old tires, rusted bicycles, piles of broken pallets, window frames, and paint cans. Junk.
As I was about to enter the second large room of vendors, I spotted the treasure I was looking for. A box of junk for $5.00. I couldn’t believe it! I could see right away this was the find of the day. I thought it would be rude to dig through it, so I handed the owner a five dollar bill and thanked him before he could change his mind.
The first chance I had, I carefully searched through the items and everything convinced me I had struck gold!
I don’t run long passenger cars on my layout, so the four packages of car diaphragms will probably not be used, at least not for their intended purpose. Piled against the side of a building they will look terrific. I’ll improvise a spot for the elevated conveyor system. The little caboose-shed will look great with a little bit of weathering.
The small stationary crane is fantastic! Hidden down in the box were eleven small sheds including two outhouses! Scenery treasures!
A sandwich bag was packed with wheels, trucks, couplers and other junk. Some of the trucks are spring loaded. This load of stuff will be perfect for the engine house yard.
I have been making my own windows for the cabins I’m scratch-building. I found several packages of HO scale windows!
The barrels, tanks, and other items are metal. Just the stack of barrels is $12 at the hobby shop! The box of stuff got better with each item I pulled out.
One of the things I was looking for at the model railroad swap meet was vintage automobiles and trucks. I’m modeling the 50’s era, so finding the right vehicles at a good price requires some diligent searching. Once again, I uncovered a treasure!
I was a little kid on Christmas morning! A ’56 Ford T-Bird, a ’59 Chevy El Camino, a 40’s delivery truck, a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air, a 40’s Buick police car, and a ’55 Chevy Bel-Air Sport Coupe. The T-Bird, El Camino, and the ’55 Bel-Air are metal. Beautiful! (These were not in the junk box. The vehicles were purchased from a retired middle school teacher/assistant principal. It was great fun talking with him and he gave me a fantastic deal!)
The police car is especially important. Pete Terkinberry, the Sheriff of Kertok County, who lives in Maple Valley, has been using his own car for county duties. The police car was purchased from the Chicago Police Department when they ordered all new vehicles. Sheriff Terkinberry is looking forward to using a real police car to patrol Maple Valley and the surrounding area. The Maple Valley town council voted unanimously to purchase the used patrol car. They also approved the purchase of plane tickets for Sheriff Terkinberry and Mayor Alvin Thrashborn to fly to Chicago to retrieve the car and drive it back to Maple Valley.
Probably the discovery that was the most fun was this Maple Valley box car. My layout is the Maple Valley Short Line Model Railroad.
I plan to make Durand Railroad Days and the Model Railroad Swap Meet an annual event on my calendar!