Selling Hoppers and Chasing Trains: Things we did this weekend

This past weekend was crazy for myself and Glenn here at Brick Model Railroader. In short, we sold out of our first run  of hopper instructions way faster than anticipated, visited a cathedral of steam, took a ride with one of the most impressive machines on rails, and got some work done on two of our future Premium Instructions. It was a crazy weekend.

Nickel Plate 765

Our first run of USRA Hopper Premium Instructions has sold out!

USRA Hopper Box Cover

That’s right, all 50 of our first run of USRA Hopper Premium Instructions has sold out in less than 36 hours, and we were honestly caught by surprise yet again. We had hoped to maybe sell 20 within the first few days, but selling all 50 in 36 hours was well beyond our expectations. To those who purchased the hoppers, we can’t thank you enough for supporting us and we hope the model meets all your expectations. To those who missed the first run, worry not! We are planning to release another batch in October along with our next car, the AC&F type 27 Tank Car. More on the tank car later.

With crazy success of the hoppers, we have a bit of work to do in the next few days getting things shipped out to everyone. We hope you will be patient, but we plan to have all orders shipped out by the end of the week at the latest. But we will be working as fast as we can.

On a related note, we’ve been asked if we will be doing other railroad decal sets for the hoppers, as well as railroad-specific sets for the PS-1 boxcar. We are currently looking into it. For the hopper,  New York Central, Chesapeake & Ohio, and Baltimore & Ohio are requests we’ve seen mentioned and are considering. We also are looking at a western US railroad or two, since there are none in the current line up. For the boxcar, we have a few ideas; Rutland, NYC, Rio Grande, and Rock Island among them. But we’re interested in what you think. Have a railroad you want us to do decals for? Let us know, but keep in mind we want to limit it to railroads who actually used the USRA hoppers, or PS-1 boxcar.

Rutland, PS-1 boxcar

Visiting the Age of Steam Roundhouse

Arial few of the Age of Steam Roundhouse and facilities.

The Age of Steam Roundhouse was built by the late Jerry Joe Jacobson, former CEO of the Ohio Central Railroad System (OCRS). In October 2008, Jacobson sold his interest in OCRS to Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., including the track, modern equipment, and most of the shops and depots. Jacobson kept a collection of vintage steam and diesel locomotives, other old equipment, and a depot at Sugarcreek, Ohio. He bought 34 acres in Sugarcreek and began constructing a roundhouse to house his collection. The roundhouse building was completed in 2011 and all of the steam locomotives, along with a few other select pieces of rolling stock in Jacobson’s collection, were moved inside the roundhouse that same year. The Age of Steam Roundhouse is the first full-sized, working roundhouse built in the U.S. since 1951″. It outlines its goals as:

  • Preserve the steam locomotives, historic diesels, passenger cars, and other railroad relics in the collection of Jerry Joe Jacobson.
  • Build a full-scale, operating, and realistic roundhouse and back shop to overhaul, repair, and maintain Jerry’s rolling stock.
  • Operate the steam locomotives on freight trains.
  • Display railroad heritage for future generations.

The project was paid for by Jacobson and his wife, Laura, and set up an endowment to maintain the site. They are not a museum and are not open to the public, and do not intend to run passenger trains, although they do lease their locomotives and equipment to other parties for events. Architect F. A. Goodman states that the building is 48,000 square feet and of “solid masonry walls” and “heavy timber framing”. It has 18 stalls, and with heavy wood beams supporting the roof, it is the largest timber frame structure in North America. This is a working roundhouse with paid employees. Initially, there were no plans to open the roundhouse for tours of any kind, but in the winter of 2015, it was announced that the roundhouse would offer private guided tours on Saturdays during the summer and fall. These tours however must be arranged in advance and and have a minimum of 40 people.

Stencils used by the AoS shop for lettering equipment during restoration.

The Age of Steam Roundhouse is absolutely amazing. For any one who loves trains and railroad history, it is a bucket list item to see. Glenn Holland and myself have desired to visit AoS for quite some time. This weekend, along with fellow BMR contributor Andy Mollmann, we had our opportunity to finally see it as part of the Fort Wayne RR Historical Society, who arranged private tours for it’s members on September 16th and 23rd, 2017.

If you have the opportunity to go, do it. You will not be disappointed. With 19 steam locomotives, several vintage diesels and other historic railroad equipment, a well appointed back shop for restoration work, and a dedicated, knowledgeable, and passionate staff, it is truly a cathedral to the age of steam railroading.

I wish I could share all my photos from the tour, but the Age of Steam staff politely ask visitors not to share photos publicly. As stated above, they are not open to the public and don’t want visitors showing up thinking that this is a museum. They Age of Steam only provides private tours as it is a private, operating facility, and not equipped for handling the public. However, the AoS does provide numerous, great photos on their own web site, and for those interested, they do have an excellent monthly newsletter, which is free to sign up for, detailing everything they are doing throughout the year.

Nickel Plate Road no.765

Nickel Plate Road 765 makes a run by on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic RR

Since Glenn and I were already in Ohio to the see the Age of Steam, we decided so cross another item off our train fan to do list, and see and ride behind Nickel Plate Road no. 765, A 2-8-4 Berkshire type steam locomotive owned and operated by the Fort Wayne RR Historical Society. 765 was invited by the the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad to be the steam power for the Cuyahoga’s “Steam in the Valley” event.

Age of Steam Roundhouse founder Jerry Jacobson passed away on September 13th 2017. To honor Jery and all that he has done for the preservation of steam railroading, 765 carried his name on the side of it’s cab for the recent trips on the Cuyahoga Scenic.

Our train for the day departed for a two hour ride from the Cuyahoga’s Akron North Side Station and traveled north to just past Boston Mills Station before before returning again to Akron. On the return trip the train stopped at Boston Mills and passengers departed the train to experience two photo run-bys where we could take photos and video of 765 running down the line with passenger train in tow. Glenn and I rode in one the Cuyahoga’s dining cars which provided an excellent view of the  Cuyahoga Valley National Park as we rode through it. The Cuyahoga staff was friendly and professional, the cars were well maintained, and drinks and other concessions were available aboard the train. The Cuyahoga Scenic is a great train ride if you are in the area.

Cale on the left, and Glenn on the right, posing in front of NKP 765

This was the first time that both of us had seen NKP 765 in person, and it was an amazing experience. 765 is a beautiful and incredible machine. It is huge, the largest steam locomotive I’ve seen under steam, and it puts on a one of the best shows in railroading. On top of that, the volunteers behind 765 are some of the most awesome, friendly, hard working, and dedicated crew that any steam locomotive could have. They are the heart and should behind the locomotive and the reason it touches the hearts and minds of every one who sees it it person.

I have been familiar with 765 and the Fort Wayne group for a long time. I’ve followed them, and I’ve had a healthy respect for what they do. But after seeing this locomotive in person for the first time, I’ve fallen in love. I get it now, I know why this engine has so many dedicated fans, and why it is so loved by generations. It’s a time machine, transporting you back to another era, when railroads were still the life blood of travel, and steam power was at it’s peak. And it’s a memory maker. It leaves an impression on you, and the crew do everything they can to make seeing 765 a fond memory you’ll never forget. 765 has a chuff like cannon fire, it’s presence towers over you, it glides so gracefully along the rails yet has power to pull like no other. And that whistle! The whistle stays with you, it’s both powerful and melodic. It is the voice of a truly great machine.

Our Next Premium Instructions

Despite all the fun at the Age of Steam, and with 765 over the weekend, I still managed to get some work done on BMR’s next two Premium Instruction kits.

The first is the American Car & Foundry type 27 tank car. This car will be the first instructions we offer that detail how to build multiple versions of the car. You will be able to build the car in 8,000 and 10,000 gallon versions, each with single, double, or triple domes. We’ll be working this week to finalize the instructions and get them sent off to the printer. We are aiming for release in the first half of October.

ACF type 27, 10,000 gallon, 3 dome version.

The second car we have coming is the AAR 53ft Flat car. We will be looking to include instructions for an interesting freight load for this car and would like to hear ideas. The flat car will be released in November.

Preliminary flat car model.

So that is what we were up to this weekend, and what a great weekend it was. A lot of train fun, and some work too. Again, we would like to thank everyone for your support. It is for all of you in the LEGO train community that we at BMR do what we do and share our love of trains and LEGO with you.


13 thoughts on “Selling Hoppers and Chasing Trains: Things we did this weekend”

  1. The tank car and flatcar will both be welcome additions! As usual, I have plenty of ideas for flatcar loads:
    – Farm equipment: A/C WD, John Deere “B”, or Farmall “H”
    – Logging “donkey”
    – 50’s road building equipment like power shovel, dozer, road roller.
    – WWII stuff: Sherman tank, 1/2 track, jeep (but Brick Arms already has those)
    – Circus Calliope
    -Of course, since it’s Lego, you have to have a helicopter.

  2. Wow, I waited a single day, and ya sold out. Well put me down for 1 in the second print run.

    PS-1 Boxcar Decal suggestions:

    BAR Bangor & Aroostook State of Maine Products

    Ann Arbor RR

    AAR 53′ Flatcar decals:

    DT&I Detroit Toledo & Ironton

    US Army
    (Couldn’t find a good linkable photo.)

    USRA Hopper decals:

    DT&I Detroit Toledo & Ironton

      1. EMD F units I have mixed feelings about. I never really like their looks. But one of my favorite roads, the Western Maryland, had them. So I have to build a WM F7 at some point. It’s just not high on the list at the moment.

        ALCO’s on the other hand are sweet! I have quite a few I want to eventually model.

        I would like to see us release a diesel model in the future, maybe some time next year. This year is already filled up with other projects we’re working on. But I would really like to do a GP7 or GP9 as soon as we have time. I think a Geep would fit well with the series of cars we’re doing at the moment, both being appropriate for the transition era. But it’s all a matter finding the right time to do it. But it’s definitely on the radar.

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