Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Fallen From Grace - New England, Berkshire & Western?

3072 views
13 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: New York, NY
  • 326 posts
Fallen From Grace - New England, Berkshire & Western?
Posted by MerrilyWeRollAlong on Monday, August 01, 2011 11:31 PM

I remember growing and seeing lots of articles and news about the New England, Berkshire and Western located at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute gracing the issues of MRR, MRC and some fallen magazines like Mainline Modeler.  At least in the 1990's they were the gold standard of realistic modeling (equipments, operations and scenery) and looked upon by the magazines as what model railroading should be.  Now a days you hear nothing about them.  Their website indicates they are still in existence.

Does anybody know why they seemed to have fallen off the radar?

  • Member since
    June, 2001
  • From: Anderson Indiana
  • 852 posts
Posted by rogerhensley on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 8:06 AM

They are still very much alive. Of course it does cost to see it any more. (you'll have to use the URL as a link. I can't get it to work.)

 

http://railroad.union.rpi.edu/

Roger Hensley
=== Central Indiana Division, NMRA - http://cid.railfan.net/ ===
=== ECI Railroad - http://madisonrails.railfan.net/eci/eci_new.html ===
=== Railroads of Madison County - http://madisonrails.railfan.net/ ===

  • Member since
    January, 2003
  • From: Dover, DE
  • 1,178 posts
Posted by hminky on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 8:17 AM
  • Member since
    November, 2001
  • From: US
  • 1,720 posts
Posted by MAbruce on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 8:24 AM

Interesting quotes from their website:

"A layout as big and complex as ours requires an enormous amount of labor. We struggle to keep up with maintenance because everything depends on the layout operating at a basic level. And there are still so many scenes, buildings, details, on the layout yet to complete."

"wE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH LABOR TO DIVERT ANY OF IT TO HOSTING VISITORS. Even when visitors are willing to make a contribution, it comes no where close to compensating for the time diverted from essential things. And instead of being able to satisfy demand, visitors just begat visitors."

A pretty clear message that the size of their layout is way too big for the manpower they apparently have on hand.  I suppose this would explain why there aren't many (or any) articles as of late.

 

  • Member since
    November, 2002
  • From: US
  • 1,579 posts
Posted by wp8thsub on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 9:53 AM

I used to visit the NEB&W site often to check on layout progress and see if there was anything new to learn, especially with the urban modeling.  Now it's mostly behind a pay wall, but before that was in place layout progress seemed to have slowed, or at least the updates did.  The site changes and hostility to potential visitors are indications to me that the whole project is way too big for its own good.  There may be a cautionary tale in there somewhere.

Rob Spangler

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • From: Sliver City,Mich.
  • 423 posts
Posted by Catt on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 10:51 AM

With an attitude like that I can see why they are short on people.As I recall they used to be a rather friendly bunch.

Johnathan(Catt) Edwards  (My railroad's logo) Co-founder of The North American Rail Alliance A purrveyer of Possible Actualities
  • Member since
    June, 2007
  • From: Indiana
  • 3,538 posts
Posted by Flashwave on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 4:24 PM

MAbruce

A pretty clear message that the size of their layout is way too big for the manpower they apparently have on hand.  I suppose this would explain why there aren't many (or any) articles as of late.

 

I won't diss them, any perosn or organization has the right to be private, if they don't want the public around, then so be it. But if the layout comes to that, then it's either too big, or too complicated, and it's time to re-evaluate.

-Morgan
PR, CEO of the Madison Railroad in HO. no, not that one, the one based off the City of Madison Port Authority.
Exchange Passes? PM me.  
Green Signals Dad, Love ya.

  • Member since
    October, 2001
  • From: OH
  • 12,688 posts
Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 4:33 PM

Catt

With an attitude like that I can see why they are short on people.As I recall they used to be a rather friendly bunch.

With fame comes the fall? I dunno.

Maybe they need to whoa up and take another long look and think where they been and ask is the way we are heading in the best interest of the club in the years to come?

Larry

SSRy

Conductor

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • 7 posts
Posted by RapidoBill on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 8:31 PM

The RPI club is still alive and well, but like all large clubs faces a number of challenges. The layout is still intact, operating and still expanding.

The issue with hosting visitors comes more from a manpower shortage (the club is after all a student orginization at a university, with all the seasonal staffing issues that this entails) than from some sort of anti-social behavior. With any club this size it takes a good number of bodies just to keep some trains moving and answer questions, and I have been to open houses (when they still regularly had them) when we had more than 10 trains were moving and visitors were still complaining about "where's the trains?" It has always amazed me how many trains that layout can swallow up and still not have one visible at any given time! 

The club does do regular operating sessions during the school year, and the operators are split between student members, alumni members and the odd guests. Considering the climatic conditions that the layout exists in (dorm basement, no A/C and the odd leaky pipe) it does operate quite well.

Bill Schneider

  • Member since
    October, 2006
  • From: Western, MA
  • 5,445 posts
Posted by richg1998 on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 9:04 PM

Do a Google search for:

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute model railroad

You will find plenty of info. I just did a search.

The college is technical college and does a lot of research, Different culture for a model railroad from what most of us have experienced and the membership will change as students come and go. My stepson got his PHD there about fifteen years ago. He never knew there was a model railroad there.

Rich

Some heard Trains when brains were handed out and have been on the wrong track ever since.

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
  • 2,578 posts
Posted by cuyama on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 9:13 PM

 

I guess the uninformed and unkind comments are to be expected on this forum, where attacking accomplished hobby institutions masquerades as insight.

The high visibility of the club in the past was pretty much due to the efforts of John Nehrich, who had a unique position and situation within the university and the club. (And he's also extremely  knowledgeable) As John's role changed and he published less, the club's public profile has changed.

Such high visibility for a private club in the past is what was unusual, not really the current situation.

Byron

 

  • Member since
    November, 2002
  • From: US
  • 1,579 posts
Posted by wp8thsub on Tuesday, August 02, 2011 11:42 PM

cuyama

 I guess the uninformed and unkind comments are to be expected on this forum, where attacking accomplished hobby institutions masquerades as insight.

I've followed, and been a fan of, the NEB&W and John Nehrich's modeling for many years.  Much was made of the NEB&W supposedly having a role in sharing the history of the region with the public, being a component of the "Riverspark" attractions and so on.  If it was always just another ordinary club I'd bet fewer people would be taking notice of the less visible role in the hobby, since the expectations for the typical club aren't the same.  I seem to recall a few hints dropped previously that certain aspects of the project, such as the Troy cityscape and steel works, were perhaps too ambitious, and that some scaling back was being contemplated.  I don't think it's just idle, uninformed speculation that the project may have proven too grand in scope.

A further problem is the presentation of the club's visitor policy on its site.  A simple "We regret that we are unable to accomodate visitors" would suffice.  Instead, they post a page-long diatribe about how much they dislike visitors, except for maybe this one guy.  That kind of tone does them no favors in terms of PR, and seems to have inspired most of the "unkind" comments you speak of.  A reworking of that one web page could do a lot to help their image.  A single point of entry through the paywall couldn't hurt either, by more efficiently segregating public content from the members-only sections, but that would require a more thorough redesign.

Rob Spangler

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 8,523 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, August 03, 2011 11:43 AM

I'd like to add my perspective and a bit more to the history.

I was a member while I attended school there from 1974-1978 and president for one year (if you hang around long enough, they make you be president!).  

The layout was just coming becoming operational and had a few sections of scenery going in.  In fact, in 1978, the RR made the cover of Model Railroader, RMC and the NMRA mag, if I remember correctly.

What made the RR great was the continuity and high standards set by the alumni who didn't go away after they graduated.  In the 70s and early 80s, the leader of this group was Tony Steele, whose day job was at the D&H, but spent most of the rest of his time, including a good chunk where he should have been sleeping, at the model RR club.  The layout development was heavily D&H influenced. By the early 90s, John Nehrich had pretty much replaced Tony as the NEB&W alumni "guru" and the standards for construction and operation were raised to their current level and the layout became much more Rutland oriented.

While I was there, we had regular monthly operating sessions using a mixture of member and club equipment.  There was thoughts of eventually doing both "modern" and "steam/diesel" era operating sessions, and the club was acquiring equipment to support both.  The club would also have open houses once a semester, typically on the alumni and freshmen orientation weekends.   The club would also occasionally host the local NMRA chapter meetings.

During the Nehrich era, the club abandoned the notion of a modern operating session and tied the layout  to a specific date, acquiring enough equipment to support full operating sessions.  For a while in the 90s, the club even became affiliated with a historic group and held regular open hours with paid operators.

Now, the club has operating sessions a couple of times a year.  There is still quite a following of alumni and a couple a years ago, we all had a reunion and ran the layout.

There are always model railroaders and railfans lurking at engineering schools such as RPI.  We typically had about a dozen "hard core" student members at a time and another couple dozen more casual student members.  One good thing about the presence of so many alumni and the high standards was the chance to learn a great deal of modelling craft.  But, the down side is that it can be very intimidating.  The bar was set so high, I suspect many incoming students with a level of interest were scared off.

One other thing to note.  A good chunk of the "hard core" student members went on to careers in railroading, myself included.

It is a shame that the club doesn't have any regular open houses.  The layout, which is now about 40 years old, still looks great and operates pretty well, even some of that yard track where I learned to hand lay code 70 rail all those years ago!

 

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    April, 2006
  • From: THE FAR, FAR REACHES OF THE WILD, WILD WEST!
  • 3,672 posts
Posted by R. T. POTEET on Wednesday, August 03, 2011 12:25 PM

It used to be very specifically cited that membership in the club was restricted to current students, former students (who had joined the club while in a current student status), and graduates. I saw nothing on their current website indicating that that is still true.

Nehrich's articles were always interesting -- the Trains.com Magazine Index credits him with 224 publications over the years -- and the name, New England, Berkshire, and Western always attracted my attention. I too had observed a decline in Nehrich's offerings in the hobby press; the index indicates that he has had nothing published in about five years. I always like (published) track plans which I can follow in the hopes of being able to identify photo locations; I must confess that I never really figured out the NEB&W. The layout was very photogenic,but  the trackplan was always, to me, just a little on the busy side.

From the far, far reaches of the wild, wild west I am: rtpoteet

Question: What's the difference between Political Correctness and Mindless? Answer: Thirteen Letters!

Only dead fish go with the flow! - - - - - Sarah Palin

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!
Popular on ModelRailroader.com
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
Find us on Facebook

Loading...