Stapleton's IE&W Ry
June 7-9 and 14-16, 2013
SCALE LIVE STEAM
by Arthur Boyd
Mind bending - not the phrase that often comes to mind when visiting a
model railroad. But that's just what it was for me in
visiting Jim Stapleton's IE&W Railway in northern Virginia.
A benefit of NMRA membership is that you can attend any NMRA event
anywhere. Our neighboring Potomac Division sponsored this
"layout open house." It was a nice day for a drive in the
country, so off my wife and I went.
The clues that this was something special were lined along the
quarter-mile driveway: the parked cars were from Pennsylvania
and New Jersey in the North to Georgia and South Carolina in the
South. Then, there it was: unlike any "garden
layout" I had ever seen.
On a trestle-work ranging from knee-high to shoulder height were scale
steam engines (G guage to you and me, but officially #1 gauge), hauling
60-car trains. "Nice sound system," I thought. "And
even smoke generators." But wait, there were puffs of steam
coming from the cylinders. And no electric throttles, no
wires to the track.
Yes, I had read the advance information, but still it took a few
minutes to sink in. These were live steam, not electric
trains! Those nicely detailed back-heads the modelers were
adjusting in the locomotive cabs weren't "details," they were actual
steam locomotive controls.
Off to one side under a large awning were a half dozen or so men
tending their dozen or so engines in the "steaming bay," either
building up steam and checking steam pressure before a run, or wiping
down engines after a run. And, like all model railroaders,
swapping stories and tips about their models. Some models, in
several scales (all using the same gauge track) were scratch built,
most from kits, some "ready to run" (it that term fits at all for live
In my several decades as a model railroader, never had I heard of this
specialty segment of our remarkably diverse hobby.
Jim was gracious and answered my questions, as did the
others. That beautiful Challenger? I could get a
rare kit for $13,000. Well, maybe I'll just stick with N
scale - for now…
Additional material is
available (click to view).