The Rail Philatelist February 1999 Newsletter
Volume 3 . Number 9 February 1, 1999Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:
IN MEMORIAM: This issue is dedicated to the memory of ARMIN CROWE, one of the first and foremost topical stamp dealers. In business as AKSARBEN TOPICALS, he traveled the country doing shows, bringing a stock of over 100 different topics to eager topical collectors when most dealers were not even willing to talk to them. Despite his somewhat gruff demeanor (from his Navy days I guess), he made you feel that your collection was important and that you weren't crazy to be looking for cats or dogs or trains! He was a mentor to me and allowed me the rare privilege of working in his ROMPEX booth in preparation for becoming a show dealer myself. He was always willing to listen and to give counsel and useful advice. He died suddenly January 4, 1999 in a hotel room on his way to ORCOEXPO in Anaheim, CA but this is meant to be a celebration of his life and what he meant to so many topical collectors. His contributions will be long remembered and sorely missed. GOD rest his soul. I, for one, am better off for having known him!
SUPPLEMENT #3 TO ATA HANDBOOK #130: The new 68-page Supplement #3 to ATA Handbook #130 RAILWAYS OF THE WORLD ON STAMPS is now available from Norman Wright Sr., 33 Northumberland Road, Rochester, NY 14618-2405. Cost this year is $15 (postpaid) to cover printing and first class postage; overseas price is $18 (postpaid airmail). Because of the work involved in packaging and the need to maintain a supply of all three supplements, Norm is asking $15 for back copies of any single supplement (#1, 2, or 3), or $40 for all three sent in the same mailing ($18 each or $50 for all three to foreign addresses via airmail). Please allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery. ATA and/or Casey Jones RR Unit members are asked to note such status along with their orders & payment so that Norm can continue to track sales effectively. Supplement #3 includes hundreds of new issues and recent discoveries plus numerous corrections and additions to previous listings. Well worth the price!
FALKLANDS ISLANDS CAMBER RAILWAY: Keith Downing of England sent this e-mail: " I spotted your January newsletter request about the Falklands Railway and can provide the details from the official FDC. The British admiralty installed a powerful radio in the islands during the First War. The railway was used to carry building materials from the Camber Naval Depot along the North shore of the harbour opposite Stanley. It was 3 miles to the radio station at Moody Brook, which was also the Marines base. The line conveyed building materials, ammunition and stores as well as passengers. The 2 locos were built by Kerr Stuart at Stoke on Trent in England and sent from the works on 3 March 1915.The radio fell into disuse fairly quickly as the invention of the wireless valve made it obsolete. The marines stayed on the island but the railway fell into disuse in the 1920's. Eventually the locos were simply pushed off the end of the line at Navy Point in Camber depot and the line quietly rusted away. The British Army Royal Engineers are (have by now??) recovering one of the locos from beneath all the scrap on the dump and perhaps it will be restored. The only other remnants are some wagon wheels and a few short stretches of rails."
ONE MAN SHOWS: With the rising costs and falling sales of organized shows, I am considering doing some one man shows in areas where I have a few good customers. These would be held in a hotel suite in your area on a weekday on my way to or from another show. I have done this successfully in Santa Barbara a few times and once in Minneapolis a few years ago. My one try in Los Angeles, no one came! The plan would be to get reservations in a suite hotel such as Comfort or Embassy Suites where I could use the front room as my "store" and the back room as my living quarters. The Midwest Stamp Dealers Assn. tried this concept for a couple of their major Chicago shows and I liked it but not enough customers came so they have been discontinued. Hours would be from 10 AM to 10 PM probably by appointment to give everyone an opportunity to attend. If you think you would attend such a show, drop me a note or e-mail and I'll see what kind of schedule I can put together. Rochester, NY may be one such show on my way to New Hampshire in March.
5 DAYS, 4 NIGHTS; DIARY OF A TRAIN SHOW TRIP: When I have my act together (which isn't as often as I should), show preparations actually start two weeks before the event with the mailing out of postcards to all my customers within a 200 mile radius. Because of the holidays, however, I relied on my newsletter mailing for the Houston show, but they probably went out a little too late to be effective. Other show preparations include working up some special new material for each show, getting the Previa serviced, making motel reservations and of course spending an hour or so the day before departure loading the van as well as scurrying around taking care of bills and personal items that might come due during the trip. But enough of that, this is intended as a diary of my trip to the Great American Train Show at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston, TX:
Day 1: Up at 6:30 AM MT. After completing the usual morning rituals I pack my travel bag, check my e-mail, pack up the computer and my travel cooler, eat my bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios while reading the paper, put the dog in her kennel and I'm on the road by 8AM. A quick stop at the branch library to drop off the 1999 Scott catalogs and another at the main post office to drop off mail and I'm on my way to Canon City to see Larry Piekenbrock, my webmaster, to give him the January page updates and the new issues and specials to scan. After about a half hour of discussing business, I was back on the road. There wasn't any train traffic between Pueblo, CO and Raton, NM but I did overhear a conversation on my scanner in Trinidad, CO concerning what to do about a supposedly empty beer car that turned out to be filled with chicken and tuna fish! The good news is there was quite a bit of action on the former Denver & Ft. Worth, now Burlington Northern Santa Fe, between Des Moines, NM and Hartley, TX - five WB coal empties ( one a Union Pacific-actually Southern Pacific #276) and a General Merchandise plus two EB coal trains. In Amarillo, I stopped at Long John Silvers for a Fish and More take-out (I don't always eat burgers!) and went to my favorite train spot there - 1003 E. 2nd Ave where I can see the old Santa Fe main line and yard lead as well as part of the old Burlington yard and main line. I waited almost an hour for just one thru train, a TOFC, on the Santa Fe mainline but there were a couple trains into the yard and an old GP-7 #1318 in brand new BNSF orange and green "Heritage I" paint scheme switching a short string of cars but most of the activity seemed to be in the Burlington yard with two thru trains and lots of switching moves plus a coal empty at the refueling site and two WB stackpacks coming into town as I left. I passed at least 3 more WB coal empties in the dark including one stopped shortly after I heard a defect detector report "Hot box, west side, axle 404, 464 total axles" - first time I have heard one of those. Got to my motel in Wichita Falls, TX about 10PM CT. After checking in with my wife as I do every night on travel, I entered the days expenses in Quicken and tried to check my e-mail on AOL, but had nothing but problems - what had worked in the morning wasn't working tonight! Over the holidays I had finally installed a faster modem card in my computer, but hadn't changed the modem settings in all the AOL locations. Took some time & head-scratching before I figured this out. Then I had problems getting logged on and staying on - the line evidently wasn't too good. When I did finally get connected I got an error message "Not enough memory to load "mail PPC"". First time I had encountered that, but I got it all 5 times I tried to get my mail, so I gave up in disgust and turned in about 11PM.
Day 2: Woke up about 3:30 AM and tossed and turned for quite awhile -I never sleep very well the first night on the road - I'm not sure if it is because I'm all keyed up about the coming show or just that I'm not as exhausted as I will be after a couple days on the road (probably some of both). Finally got up about 6:30 AM and was on the road by 7AM in a freezing, foggy drizzle. Saw three BNSF gen. merch. between Wichita Falls and Ft. Worth where I ate breakfast at Cracker Barrel while skimming USA Today . It was still cold and foggy when I stopped in Dallas for gas but within 60 miles it was hot and sticky and I regretted having on a long sleeved flannel shirt! Got to the Houston Convention Center about 2:15PM and was able to drive right to my table to unload. After making the rounds to exchange New Years greetings with several of the dealers I see fairly regularly, I went back to my booth to set up with a heavy heart but racing mind - my favorite book dealer, Mike Delaudin from Chicago, told me he was giving up the show circuit in March (after the Denver show) to work with GATS as a show promoter. As you know, books are one of my passions - I buy a lot of books from Mike at shows so now I am losing my primary source. On the other hand, I have often fantasized about becoming the RAIL BIBLIO-PHILATELIST so now I had to consider the possible opportunity to buy all of Mike's inventory. Crisis/Opportunity, Ying/Yang! That kept my mind churning as I unloaded and setup and will probably involve considerably more thought over the next couple of months. I also spent a few minutes talking with GATS owner Dave Swanson about my problems with the Salt Lake show (a second floor location with only one faulty elevator as access is not acceptable to a guy with a ton of magazines) - therefore I had canceled and would not pay to not do the show. I think we worked it out - if not I'll cancel the rest of my GATS schedule (sometimes I am a little pig headed!). I was set-up and covered up by 4:15 but a couple other vans had me blocked in so I didn't get out of there until 5PM at which time I joined the rush hour traffic east on I-10 to Baytown where I had dinner at Cracker Barrel and got to my motel in time to watch PBS's Nightly Business Report, Washington Week in Review, and Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser and finished reading USA Today When I tried to open Quicken to update the days expenses, I got an error message "Not enough memory to open Quicken, 10,948 kb needed. Try closing AOL". Hey, this worked last night. What is going on here? I dutifully closed AOL and still got a "Not enough memory" message! Now what? These new programs sure chew up a lot of memory - how did I ever get by with just 4 megabytes on the old computer - now I have 16 and it still isn't enough! Racking my brain again, I reviewed what could be causing the problem: yes, I had installed a new modem but I had solved those problems last night hadn't I?, yes, I had finally installed Quicken Deluxe 98 on January 1 but it had been working for over a week now so ... then I remembered I had also tried playing a new game, The Last Express, a murder mystery on the Orient Express and it had required that I turn off "Virtual Memory". Sure enough, when I turned "Virtual Memory" ON, Quicken worked just fine. Once again I have been hit between the eyes by the old maxim "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." and it's corollary "If it is working, don't make any changes. Particularly when it comes to computers!". This memory problem probably also explains my AOL problem from last night but, for the first time in years, my motel room telephone was hardwired so there was no jack to plug in my modem line! After working on this newsletter for awhile, I turned in at 10:30PM.
Day 3: Woke up about 4:40 because the room was cold, turned off the air conditioner and didn't wake up again until 7:25AM. After a quick breakfast at CB, I made it to the convention center about 9:20 and parked on the loading ramp just as every one seemed to be getting into their cars and leaving. I took my cooler, computer and other stuff to my booth and learned that, unlike in years past, there would be no parking on the loading ramp this year so I had to drive my car back down and pay $3.00 to park, then walk a half mile back up the 4-story ramp! I spent some time walking the floor seeing the dealers who hadn't been set up yesterday and picked up a small group of postcards one of the Texas dealers had told me he had for me but passed on the ones I liked most because they were priced at about twice what I thought they were worth! I also bought a couple Cunard Line steamship baggage stickers just because I thought they were cheap and I could make a couple bucks on them one of these days. One Lionel dealer was having a "Going Out of Business Sale" - first time I have seen that at a show. By the time I had made my rounds it was time to uncover for the show opening at 11AM. There was a lot of traffic all day - I had as many as 10 people in my booth several times - but they were mostly all "just looking" - I didn't have any serious buyers, just a pagefull of small sales by days end. I did get to renew a couple of old acquaintances like Arny Pritzlaff from Princeton, IL who was visiting his son in Houston. Since the Denver Broncos were playing Miami in the afternoon playoff game, I had brought my small radio but couldn't pick up any stations in the center of the huge hall. So, I covered my tables quickly at 5PM and rushed down the ramp to my van to listen to the remainder of the game as I drove back to the motel to catch the last few minutes on TV, then (since the Broncos won) watched the CBS and ESPN post game shows before going to CB for dinner. I spent the rest of the evening (until midnight actually) on the computer.
Day 4: Up at 6:30 and checked out of the motel a little past 7AM. After breakfast at CB, I got to St. John, the Evangelist Catholic Church just after 8 for the 8:30 Mass so I had time for extra prayer and meditation. Got to the Brown Center about 10:15 and was happy to find a parking place on the street under the ramp. Paid for my booth at the show table (show sales may be down but booth prices are up 15% this year) and then checked out all the layout modules - there were some outstanding modeling efforts. I heard the "First Aid" call, but didn't learn until later that a Louisiana dealer dba The Cajun Railroad Co. had a heart attack and died on the way to the hospital - that put a pallor on the show for me. Makes you reevaluate your own mortality. I would prefer to die in my own bed, not on some cold concrete convention center floor. On a lighter note, the Bay Area Railroad Fellowship modelers were walking around with "BARF" emblazoned proudly on their vest chests and backs. Since there wasn't much activity, I worked on filling some mail orders for an hour until traffic picked up. The show opened at 11 AM but I didn't make my first sale until 12:40, a $1.00 magazine! And it didn't get much better the rest of the day although it certainly was busy. The layouts were crowded all day long, right up until closing. The book & art dealer behind me said it was his worst Houston show ever. Same for me but most of the dealers were pleased with their sales so it must be that I don't have the right merchandise for that market. Guess I'll have to consider that more carefully. About 2PM a cute young reporter from the Houston Chronicle asked me a few questions and her engaging smile had me spilling my life story - not sure if she'll print it, but it was a pleasant diversion. That completed, my thoughts turned to getting out of this disaster but I didn't start packing up until 4:15 PM. I was packed by closing time and drove my van to the loading dock at 5:02 - I didn't drive in since I didn't want to get trapped inside again. While wheeling out my second of six cart loads, my friend Mike said "Somehow I remember this show as being better than this". I said "Yes because I usually buy a couple hundred dollars worth of books from you but I didn't sell enough to do that this time"! I was on the road by 5:45 and stopped for dinner at a CB north of Houston about 7PM. Got to my motel in Ft. Worth about 10PM. After entering my expenses, I checked my e-mail and everything worked fine except one of the 13 messages was more bad news. My good friend and mentor, stamp dealer Armin Crowe, AKSARBEN STAMPS, had died of a heart attack after a long days drive on his way to the ORCOEXPO stamp show in Anaheim, CA. Not the kind of news (or day) that makes for a good nights sleep!
Day 5: Up at 5:48 AM because I didn't want to be late for my 7AM appointment. One of my dealer friends at the Houston show works at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe headquarters in Ft. Worth and he had offered to give me a quick tour of the Operations Control Center. We both pulled into the parking lot about 6:35. The control center was impressive with its eight (?) huge display screens and about a hundred (maybe more) work stations with 2-3 computer screens at each clustered around the huge room. The left display was a weather map, the right display was a list of dispatcher warnings and messages. The other displays showed agribusiness, BNSF AMTRAK performance, J.B.HUNT performance, UPS performance and various other charts plus a few train pictures in a seemingly random pattern. I was a little disappointed because I had hoped to see a big situation map showing train locations, particularly for the line from Ft. Worth to Amarillo that I would be following later, but those are evidently handled on each dispatchers work station and only displayed during crises. However, there were two added bonuses to the visit -one, the walls to and from the control center contain a priceless art collection including the original art work for the Great Northern Indian chief calendars, original Charles Russell paintings, and paintings of other artists which were commissioned by the railroads in the early part of this century and, two, the outside entrance was flanked by four former business cars, now painted silver and named for Cyrus Holliday, James J. Hill, Yellowstone River and Canadian River. Dinners are evidently served in the cars on special occasions. I'm glad I got up early for the tour -thanks John! Then off to CB for breakfast and on the road by 8 AM. Saw seven trains between Ft. Worth and Amarillo, two Intermodal, one gen. merch. and the others EB coal loads. I was surprised to see a herd of 10 dromedary (one hump) camels in a pasture near Iowa Park, TX - never know what you'll see! There were no trains at the coal train refueling facility in Amarillo when I got there at 1:30 PM but a WB had just left and was pulling thru the crossover as I turned off to Burger King (closest fast food to my favorite observation site) for my take out Big King Combo. Five Intermodals came thru on the old Santa Fe mainline as I ate my lunch and finished reading USA Today - EB Hyundai, J. B. Hunt, and Maersk and a couple mixed WB. The newly painted GP-7 #1318 was working the yard lead and a trackmobile pushed a string of five hoppers out of the Burlington car shops. There were two C&NW, a D&RG and an SP locos in the old Rock Island yard so the Union Pacific still has a presence in Amarillo. On the road at 3 PM and was pleased to see a train on the spectacular former Santa Fe Canadian River bridge about 20 miles north of Amarillo - four inverted girder spans alternate with four inverted Howe trusses - you just don't expect to see a bridge that big and beautiful in the middle of no-where! Both the BNSF and the UP were doing some switching as I came thru Dalhart, TX but I didn't see a thru train until I caught up with the WB coal empty near Des Moines, NM - 4 hours, 15 minutes and 170 miles after I had seen it in Amarillo - he was making good time at 40 mph! Stopped for dinner at the Trinidad Pizza Hut but I was too early for AMTRAK #4. Near Pueblo, CO I heard the dispatcher explaining that speed restrictions between MP 111 and 113.5 were due to some fires in the area earlier but the track was okay now and this train would be the first one thru to test that the tracks were good. Pulled into my garage at 8:53 PM MT. After an enthusiastic greeting from Sadie, our Sheltie, I checked the mail my wife had picked up at the Post Office on Saturday and checked my e-mail, the van unloading will wait until tomorrow. To bed by 10:30 PM MT.
5 days, 4 nights, 2188 miles and not enough sales to cover all the expenses and cost of goods sold. Probably not a productive use of my limited time and resources. Still, most of the experiences were worthwhile but, hopefully, they won't be repeated.
STAMP OF THE MONTH: Mr. Ian Drake writes "I was especially glad to locate Italy #709 at last - I had the Souvenir Sheet (original and in Italian) in my topical collection for many years but, for some reason, had never been able to find the stamp. This stamp is , of course, some designers flight of fantasy. While it depicts a steam engine emerging from the Simplon Tunnel, steam was never used in the tunnel - this line was always electrified. In addition, two tunnel portals are shown. There was only one completed in 1906 - the second bore (actually a separate tunnel) was not started until 1912 and completed in 1921! Anyway, the train is shown on the right-hand track, whereas traffic always operated on the left-hand track in this system! Lastly, if this view is intended to depict the Italian side on the tunnel system, the coach road should be on the right - not on the left. The only explanation (and apology) that I imagine could be made for this is that the artist must never have viewed the tunnel from the Italian side and he surely was never a railfan! Did you ever ride through the Simplon? Quite an adventure it is - makes you feel that you have departed this life except no one told you. It is 16 miles plus through - you enter at Brig on the Swiss side and come out at Iselle (or Domodossola) on the Italian side, where the head-end power changes. Imagine it is much speeded up nowadays with bigger power and modern coach stock. It used to get quite hot in the center of the mountain and they at various times had drainage problems - it cost over 60 lives during construction and is certainly a marvel of engineering." Thanks for the information, Ian! (Ed note: I am unfamiliar with the Souvenir Sheet referred to above.)
RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: Here is another train show sign paraphrase:"Pray for me, my spouse collects train stamps!"
FEB 6-7 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CONVENTION CENTER ALBUQUERQUE,NM FEB 27-8 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW AMERICA'S CENTER ST. LOUIS,MO MAR 5-7 HOSTLERS TRAIN SHOW UNION STATION OGDEN,UT
FEB 6-7 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CONVENTION CENTER ALBUQUERQUE,NM
FEB 27-8 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW AMERICA'S CENTER ST. LOUIS,MO
MAR 5-7 HOSTLERS TRAIN SHOW UNION STATION OGDEN,UT