Toys for grownups come in all shapes and sizes – boats, cars, trucks, and airplanes all qualify. Trains do, too, although it’s harder to own a real train than some of the others. I think the closest most people come to owning a real train is having their own railcar – there’s even an association of railcar owners. But that’s not what I’m writing about today.
This past weekend, two events in Tucson catered to the children in all of us. One, the Tucson Garden Railway Society‘s (TGRS) annual Rails In The Garden Tour, was a two-day extravaganza of garden-size railroads in and around Tucson. The other, Fords on 4th Avenue, was (duh) a Fords-only (or Ford-powered specialty cars) show along Fourth Avenue.
This year, the TGRS tour included 16 railroads. Normally, eight or nine families open their homes and railroads (they’re seldom called “layouts” at this scale) to the public each spring, and they charge $5 per person to go on the tour. This year, though, they dispensed with the tour fee, which meant that they needed fewer TGRS members at each open house, which meant that they could have more open railroads. It also meant that you needed both days to see them all – locations ranged from the far east side (near Agua Caliente Park) all the way up to Saddlebrooke on the northwest, and as far southwest as the Tucson Rodeo Museum. I didn’t get to see all 16 this year, but it wasn’t for lack of trying!
One of the first RRs I visited on Saturday is part of a bed-and-breakfast operation. One of their rooms is a refurbished Southern Pacific caboose:
They also have a ride-on train (the rails are 7 1/2 inches apart – for more on that, see below) which, unfortunately, wasn’t running. However, they also have an extensive garden-scale RR which had several operating trains. A sample picture:
And another, showing one of the trains:
My friend, Tony, and I visited 6 RRs on Saturday. Some, like Eagle Mountain, are super-detailed and very realistic (the Eagle Mountain line includes an open-pit mine and mountains made to represent Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly and the Mittens in Monument Valley), while others, such as the Rock Bottom, are more whimsical (the Rock Bottom has many visual puns, such as “Churchill” – a chapel on a hill – and “Camelot” – a place where dromedaries are bought and sold).
On Sunday, another friend, Jo, and I visited four more RRs, including the Gadsden Pacific Toy Train Operating Museum, which has railroad equipment ranging from real-life full scale (another caboose) all the way down to Z scale (1:220). Here’s a photo of one of their displays, showing the relative sizes of the same Santa Fe diesel engine in the different scales, from G (largest) to Z (smallest):
They also have a riding train – it’s called 7 1/2″ gauge, or about 1/8 scale. Their website gives details on why it’s not *exactly* 1/8 scale, but nevertheless, it’s fun to ride on!
As a final visual treat, here’s a shot of a late-1800s-era steam locomotive from the last RR we visited:
If you’re interested in seeing all the photos I took, they’re on my Flickr account, here.
The other toy show I went to yesterday, as mentioned above, was the Fords on 4th Avenue show. This is put on every year by the Southern Arizona Mustang Club, which bills itself as “the oldest Mustang club in the world.” Cars (and trucks) ranged from 1964 1/2 Mustangs to 2015 models; from 1950s-era F-1 pickups to current F-150s; from stock Thunderbirds and Fairlanes to custom hot rods. A smattering of photos:
1956 (I think) Thunderbird with rumble seat and Continental spare tire kit
2005 Ford GT
1915 Model T “doodlebug” (farm vehicle)
Airbrushed artwork on an early ‘Stang
If you want to see the rest of my pictures from the show, they’re here.
It was a great weekend. The weather was excellent; I had good friends with me both days; and I saw lots of drool-worthy toys. How come I’m not wealthy enough to indulge all my toy-buying impulses?