Jim Stapleton's     IE&W Ry Spring Steam Up
June 7-9 and 14-16, 2013

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 steam!).

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…

Stapleton Arial View Long Yard Steaming Bay
Steaming Steaming2 2 Steamers
Additional material is available (click to view).