Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's not even Super O…
By Paul Olekson Winter 2013
Dear Aunt Emily:
Thank you for briefly mentioning me in the last line of your letter to your niece.
If you remember, I am married to her. Perhaps it is my fault that I do not easily come to mind when you send your regards as I often do not participate in family picnics and other get togethers. Maybe if I let you in on a little bit of my life, you might understand better who I am, and possibly accept me, after all these years, into your family.
Well, here goes …
This weekend is the second anniversary of a near major disaster in my train room. Two years ago I bought a Lionel Conventional Classics GG1 and 3 Madison cars. What a beautiful set! It was one of the very few times in my life that I got a brand new sealed train set. Being the first person to break the seal on the box and enjoy the fresh aroma of plastic, paint, oil, and die cast metal - made that experience so special to me.
I loved that GG1 and ran it so carefully around my layout. Keeping the track voltage at 12 volts insured that my beautiful new GG1 had a safe ride.
For several weeks we were so happy together, but then I have no idea what came over me. This day exactly two years ago I pushed the voltage up to 13, then 14, then 15. The GG1 growled and flew down the rails. It held every curve without a sign that there was doom ahead. I notched it up to 16 volts and on the first curve out of the Hell Gate Bridge there wasn't a wobble or a tip. Next curve was a tight 031 and the GG1 glided through and onto the bascule bridge without a worry. Soon it was taking the third curve over some 022 switches in the dark under my vintage 115 Station. Effortless and steady are the words to describe it as the GG1 began its run on the last straight section before turning back on to the Hell Gate Bridge.
Did I edge the power up one more volt? I can't remember. It entered the fourth curve, a 031 with a 072 in the middle and another 031 after that. The GG1 was heavy for sure, but it was top heavy! That dark green rocket flipped off the rails, tumbled and hung in the air above a lower level of tracks, and when it got past the edge of the table – 44 inches it fell to the floor. I could not see it after it dropped from sight, but heard it thud and clank with a dull pile of scrap sort of noise. My heart stopped - then sank. I flipped up the plywood bridge and ran around the outside of the layout. There it was on its side, lights out and quiet. The pantographs had popped off from the impact and were on the floor a few feet away. Picking it up in my trembling hands I saw the limp pilot truck smashed and bent. I cradled the silent GG1 in my arms as I inspected each side and end. Something began to tell me that all was not lost. It was starting to look as if the pilot truck had absorbed the entire shock of the fall. In fact this turned out to be the case! With the destroyed pilot truck removed, I tested the engine and it worked flawlessly. There was not a scratch or bend to the solid and mighty GG1. I blew the horn and rang the bell! It all worked. Within 2 weeks I had acquired a replacement pilot truck to fully restore the glory to my beautiful engine.
We are so happy again!
I am sorry for carrying on for so long, but it was such an emotional experience. I relive that awful event often. Your niece (my wife) says I am crazy telling you all this as you have no idea what a GG1, a pilot truck, a tight 031, or a pantograph is. Silly I say!
Of course you know – everyone does. She thinks you'll be offended by the words
Hell Gate. Nonsense! It's a wonderful bridge in New York City. Maybe someday we can have a family picnic under it.
Hope you are feeling well and thank you so much for indulging me with your attention. Can't wait to hear from you again in your next letter around the holidays!