Some Comments on the Nat'l Train Show, Part I

I posted this over on Trainorders, but I think I'll post it here as well. It's Part I mainly because I know I've forgotten stuff already, and when I
remember, Part II will follow! In fact, just going over stuff, I remembered 3-4 more things, so a Part II is a definite.
First off, let me say that I was going mainly to the booths of companies I know, and talked to folks I have either met at other shows, or online in one of the many Yahoo groups I belong to. So, I don't do as much picture taking or reporting like Harry does. Rather, I'm shooting the breeze with the booth folks, hoping to glean some tidbit of information. Plus, I'm in HO, so I didn't stop at many N-scale booths.
LBF. I spent some time there talking about a variety of things. One was the new F box car coming out. They mentioned they know the roof wasn't correct, but it'd be fixed in time for the release.
They mentioned that they were starting up a club. For an annual membership fee of $39 or so, you get first crack at all the new stuff coming out. At the end of the year, all members get an "exclusive" model.
Also, they're apparently starting a fully assembled, RTR line. Not sure what the difference is to their current offerings, but it was stated that the assembly was done overseas before being shipped to the states. I think the line will be called LBF Gold, but not sure (I heard this a week ago, and there was so much stuff to absorb).
Finally, I asked about the "$1,000 reward" regarding the Bankruptcy rumor. If you don't know the story, somebody on rec.model.railroad posted a note that LBF was going bankrupt. Apparently, this was a false rumor, and LBF is upset about it. Since it was going to be difficult to pursue legal remedies, the company decided to turn it into a promotion. What this means is that you are encouraged to enter (some folks are submitting their theories on all of this), the company will draw a name, and the winner gets $1,000 worth of LBF stuff. They said that this was a two-fold effort; one is to show their serious about these kinds of rumors, and two, to show they're still a viable company.
Soundtraxx. Had a long talk with Nancy Workman. Not much new on the Tsunami front; she's still saying the same things we've seen on the Soundtraxx group. Which is, they're still waiting for two components, they haven't hit their loading dock, and until it does, there's no forecasted release date for the Tsunami. Though she inferred that it might take a couple months or so after these components show up before the first batches would be released.
The Surroundtrax seemed impressive. Their booth was on the end of a row, so the noise of the hall wasn't all around them. They were using some cheapo Radio Shack speakers, and they had a couple of Nscale locos going around. While they had the sound set at "idle" for the diesel, there was a chuff for the steamer, and it demonstrated how the speaker sound rose and fell as the loco went by.
BTW, I *DID NOT* ask about the MTH lawsuit; I figured they weren't going to talk about it anyway.
Finally, I had a short conversation with Big Guy Steve. I had a request to add the ability to have the articulated chuff go in and out of sycn as the loco went around the layout. He thought it was a very good idea and thought they could do it with the new decoders. This might actually happen since during the conversation, he whipped out his Palm Pilot and made a note to this effect! So..., we shall see..... :D
Walthers. The main thing I wanted to know at the Walthers booth was the status of Rivarossi, and what it meant to Walthers. I ended up talking to somebody who works the export sales, and he knew what was going on. In a nutshell, the company is under what we would call the Bankruptcy court and a receiver. The current status is that the Italian court is accepting bids on any or all of the parts of the big company. The closing date is sometime this fall (he told me when that was, but I don't recall exactly, could be Oct-Nov). At that time, some, all, or none of the parts may be sold. Walthers is taking a wait-and-see; they did not say whether or not they have placed a bid.
In the interim, they are still selling what they have, and they have parts to support those items. When asked about the other stuff Rivo makes, but Walthers doesn't sell, I was told they will do their best to help out, but nothing is really guaranteed. Though he said that sometimes they will canniballize another loco to get a customer's loco running.
NCE. This was a two-part stop. One was to meet the guy that installed all the sound decoders in my steamers, and the second was to talk to Jim Scorse, the owner of NCE, about the new ROM chip. Spent a few minutes doing the former, which was nice, before talking to Jim. This was interesting, because just before this, a guy on the layout tour I was on earlier in the week had stopped by the booth to talk about getting into NCE. While he was waiting for a booth rep to get free, we got to talking about NCE, and since I have one, I told him about my experience. And, luckily, it was Jim that got free. After helping the new guy, we had a conversation about the new things NCE is coming out with. One is a radio repeater, which is intended to improve the radio coverage of the system (it seems that there's always somebody out there with a really distorted layout room with dead spots; the repeater should take care of that.
The ROM chip should be welcome news to NCE owners. It should be out by the fall or so, and makes a lot of the programming easier. Consisting will be easier, as well as activating functions up to F12 (though I noticed that the numbers went up to 15 while he was demo-ing it). One interesting thing is that the programming is now partially grouped, so if you just want motor CVs, all of those are grouped together. There appears to be other groups as well (like headlights). Also, I noticed in the consisting aspect, you can have directional lighting, and the ability to consist partially and add another loco later on by moving that loco to the consist. Jim discovered that while we were talking, so I hope he remembers to document it.... There were other improvements, but these were the ones I remembered most.
Fantasonics. Most won't really know this name, this company is owned by Jim and Christie Wells, and they do layout sounds. I mainly spent time there because Jim and I are active on the Soundtraxx group and we're of the mind that the more speakers inside a loco the better, and "there's no substitute for cone area". So, most of our conversation was on speaker and sound theory inside a model RR. His current product is a CD with a number of sounds for background purposes on a layout. For example, one CD is city sounds. You play the CD on any cheap CD player, your speakers are hidden wherever, and it gives you a representation of the sounds within the city, coming from the city. Sounds are scaled to the size of the railroad, and are clean. You also get this manual which gives you some theory as well as recommendations on the sound system. Also, there is a bit about how to segregate the sounds out of the CD and to do a longer loop.
Palace Car Co. These folks are out of Kearney NE, and they make interior kits to fit the "second tier" passenger cars. By "second tier", I mean Athearn, Con-cor, IHC, Rivarossi, MDC, and the like. Kits are a bit pricey, $18 and up. Generally, they include a weight cut to fit the car (and bring it up to appx NMRA RP), a handful of seats, a couple of end bulkheads, and maybe some dividers. The enclosed instructions also have 3 sample plans, though if you have a prototypical plan, the contents may not have enough stuff. They recommend using .030 styrene if you need more dividers or bulkheads (like if you want to do bathrooms or drawing rooms). They also sell the components separately.
I picked up a selection of kits for my one Con-Cor, some IHC, an MDC shorty Harriman, and a Rivo, plus a couple of floor plan books. I don't have the product listing with me, it's being shipped home to me along with all the other stuff I bought at the show!
Richmond Controls. I was looking at their stuff to power some FREDs I bought at the Sunrise booth. We were talking about how to put one into an empty well car. Mainly, they had some kits where the components are separate and you can stick the circuit board and the capacitor in separate locations which could be hidden by the grated walks. Though he didn't have that stock there, we trial-fitted what he had on a couple of well cars I had with me (no Athearn one, unfortunately). But, if you're an intermodal modeller, this could be the ticket to a working FRED.
They also have some LED ditchlights and the like. Didn't spend much time looking at these, though.
Classic Mint Collectables. This is a "specialty" company which makes high end, hand built, museum quality detail items for the layout, mainly in the transportation area. I met Dan and Bob last year at the Hobby Expo in Chicago, and saw their detailed brass autohauler. This year, they have a Komatsu Super Dozer in the works, as well as a brass lowboy trailer. To come is a Peterbilt L-cab to pull said lowboy.... :D
They also showed me a couple of resin-cast CART racing cars, from the early '80s era. Pretty neat stuff.
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I did notice something interesting. A month or so ago I emailed MTH and asked if they would have their HO engine with sound at the convention (NTS). They emailed back that they would. I walked by their booth a couple of times (but did stop or talk to them). I did not see any HO engines there. Did I miss them or did they not have anything HO with sound?
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