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Wilkes-Barre Township citizen John Cunius is apparent with the 4-by-8-foot Lionel alternation blueprint he has been alive on at night during the pandemic.

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Courtesy John Cunius

Nick Pittman works on his New Jersey-themed 4-by-8-foot HO calibration layout, which he stepped up assignment on during the pandemic. ‘I anticipate the amusement is acutely relaxing,’ said Pittman, who is a advertisement astrologer in the Garden State. ‘In these crazy times, anybody needs an outlet, this happens to be mine.’

Courtesy Nick Pittman

For some archetypal railroaders, Lego is the cast of choice. Anniversary year, Times Leader anchorman Mark Guydish builds a blueprint for the Christmas tree. This miniature affair esplanade was aggressive by a anew appear roller coaster. Actuality we see a Thomas the Tank agent alternation in use and Hogwarts Express in waiting. ‘When the blueprint lives, it inspires you,’ Guydish said.

Mark Guydish | Times Leader

This coffer robbery arena can be begin on the Guydish family’s O barometer blueprint in West Hazleton.

Mark Guydish | Times Leader

Nick Pittman works on a apish city artery for his HO calibration archetypal railroad layout, which depicts NJ Transit commuter account as able-bodied as bales operations in New Jersey.

Courtesy Nick Pittman

Classic Jersey Axial Lines colors are represented on John Cunius’ Lionel archetypal railroad layout.

Courtesy John Cunius

DuPuis

John Cunius’ new Lionel blueprint is apparent here, complete with accumulator for allotment of his all-inclusive accumulating of locomotives and rolling stock.

Courtesy John Cunius

Roger DuPuis | Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — Shortly afore I sat bottomward to address this allotment amidst the anguish of Friday afternoon, I opened the advanced aperture to acquisition a baby box on the porch.

I hustled the box admiral to a bend allowance that stays mostly closed, aphotic and still smelling of Pine Sol from a months-ago bed-making aback its balk floors see little traffic.

With the box anxiously broken open, I set two baby structures bottomward assimilate the table: A gray bend storefront, and a blight black abundance shaft building.

Both are 3-D printed N calibration structures — this arresting avant-garde technology has lots of uses you ability not accept advised — destined for two of my archetypal railroad projects already they accept been appropriately corrective and weathered.

One will acquisition itself in a scaled bottomward adaptation of Philadelphia, the added in a fabulous atramentous arena apple alleged Owl Creek — the name aggressive by, but not absolutely resembling, an breadth abreast Tamaqua.

They’ll apparently achieve in those places but break in this room, the one abode in the abode area absoluteness is suspended, area trolley cars abounding with bodies bang through alive Philadelphia and trains boom into a 1960s atramentous town, neither of which has yet heard of the coronavirus.

It is my one absolute escape from the news, which pervades best of my alive life, as it does for so abounding of us.

Since the outrbreak began, we accept accounting about the abounding diversions bodies are axis to as an escape from the apathy and alarm of these times: Cooking, music, video games, gardening, haircuts, drives bottomward anamnesis lane, the pleasures of binge-watching Netflix shows.

Booze additionally seems to top abounding people’s lists, but that’s addition story.

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Some of these are new or added pastimes for bodies who ability contrarily be out ping, eating, socializing, appliance or accomplishing any cardinal of things now mostly banned to us.

But these times absolutely are custom-built for archetypal railroaders, abounding of us no strangers to spending continued hours building, painting and account abstract versions of the apple for our trains to run through.

Social distancing? Accompany it on.

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Seeing an accretion cardinal of posts on my amusing media about projects adolescent modelers were tackling, I able out on a cardinal of platforms to see if anyone would like to altercate them for the paper. While I focused mostly on our region, I was captivated to apprehend from bodies as far abroad as Ohio and Iowa, who allotment my absorption in railroads that served Pennsylvania.

They additionally were affectionate abundant to allotment photos of their projects, some of which began or absolutely ramped up already the coronavirus pushed us indoors.

None of this afraid my acquaintance Otto Vondrak, editor of Railroad Archetypal Craftsman Magazine.

“Where amusement time was already belted to alone a few hours a month, aback there are no limits,” Vondrak said. “I accept readers cogent me all the time how abundant they are accepting able these canicule with calm orders banishment them into the amusement room.”

Here are some of their stories.

John Cunius

I did not apperceive Wilkes-Barre Township citizen John Cunius Jr. afore this, but he was one of the aboriginal bodies to ability out.

We’re the aforementioned age, 46, we’re both longtime archetypal railroaders, and we are both still alive abounding canicule — me for the newspaper, and Cunius as the arch of aliment for a bounded accommodation complex.

Once the nights wind bottomward afterwards work, Cunius has been activity to assignment on a new 4-by-8-foot Lionel alternation layout, which he’s fabricated cogent advance on in aloof about three weeks.

After his wife goes to bed about 9:30 p.m., Cunius alive to the basement and cobweb abroad until 2 a.m. or so.

“I’m actual meticulous,” he says.

It shows: The new blueprint sits aloft accurate cases showcasing allotment of his ample accumulating of Lionel trains, while the mural aloft backpack aflame engines through a picture-perfect village, through bedrock cuttings and accomplished a farm. He has an eye for detail, bottomward to rivers, streams and abundant alpine grasses crafted by hand.

It’s not based on a accurate place, admitting Cunius does aggregate accessories from railroads bounded association will remember, including the Jersey Axial and Pennsylvania Railroad.

Like abounding of us, Cunius acknowledges he affiliated the hobby, accepting spent abounding blessed hours alive on trains with his backward father, John, who calm for 40 years.

“I aloof adulation it,” he said. “I’ve admired it aback I was a kid.”

Cunius’ assignment has been spotlighted in the archetypal railroad columnist before, and those absorbed in his latest activity can watch for it in an accessible copy of Classic Toy Trains magazine.

Nick Pittman

A weatherman by occupation, New Jersey citizen Nick Pittman is quick to acknowledge that he already advised addition career.

“I am 100% austere aback I say if I didn’t become a advertisement meteorologist, I would accept been a adaptable engineer,” Pittman told me.

“My adulation of trains goes aback to my childhood. It started with a ride from Atlantic City to Philadelphia with my grandmother aback I was apparently 7 years old,” he recalled. “I enjoyed it so much, I begged her to accompany me aback for addition ride.”

That angry into hundreds of rides, he said, and as audience they became affable with the alternation crews.

“The conductors started giving me pieces of their compatible and eventually they alike let me advice by accession tickets and authoritative announcements,” he said. “I had a blast.”

At aloof 17, however, Pittman was accustomed the adventitious to assignment as as a advertisement weatherman on his bounded NBC station, and “it became accessible what I had to do.”

He still stays in blow with his adulation of the railroad by volunteering on a bounded shortline in South Jersey during the anniversary season.

What Pittman absolutely didn’t have, until recently, was a archetypal railroad at home.

“I told myself I’d get the job done already I endemic a home and had abundant space. Abiding abundant afterwards purchasing a abode in August, I started the process,” he said. “My bedmate congenital me a accepted 4-by-8 table and I was off to the races.”

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He models avant-garde NJ Transit for the commuter allotment of the HO blueprint and Conrail aggregate assets (NS/CSX) on the bales side.

The alive acclimate division this winter slowed bottomward the work, however.

With Pittman alive from home, the communicable provided a absolute befalling to jump aback in. He started appearance up the locations of barrio and clue on cream board, gluing barrio together, architecture anchorage and burying trees.

“Over time it absolutely started to booty shape. I’d say at this point I’m about 80% done with the ‘big picture; but as any archetypal railroader knows, you’re not absolutely EVER done,” he said. “The accomplished capacity now charge to be added which absolutely accomplish it realistic.”

As with others I interviewed, I capital to apperceive why Pittman enjoys archetypal trains, abreast from an accessible absorption in the absolute things.

“I anticipate the amusement is acutely relaxing. It’s nice to apperceive you can aces up absolutely area you larboard off. It takes a lot of acuteness and backbone but in the end it’s all account it as you’ve congenital an absolute astute boondocks from scratch,” he said.

“In these crazy times, anybody needs an outlet, this happens to be mine.”

Mark Guydish

Longtime Times Leader anchorman Mark Guydish is addition affiliate of the archetypal railroad fraternity, activity aback to his adolescence canicule — and to answer theme, ancestors connections.

“The appropriate archetypal alternation fits your mood, account and amplitude at a accustomed moment. I’ve acclimated N Barometer in baby places, including ambit a table top captivation my dad’s acclaimed liquor accumulating at Christmas, G barometer for quick set ups, abnormally if adolescent accouchement would be active it, and HO barometer beneath my own timberline until I switched to the the ever-flexible Lego sets,” he said.

“But the granddaddy of my alternation assignment sits on a ample O barometer table about 10 anxiety by 12 feet, so old alike my backward ancestor couldn’t bethink the date he complete it in the abundant basement of our adolescence home.”

That blueprint in West Hazleton sat abandoned and arenaceous best of the year, with simple Plasticville houses. It saw added circuitous incarnations as anniversary of seven sons took a ache and abating (and reinventing) it, Guydish added.

Its final abundance (so far) is “Gundy Junction,” Called afterwards their much-admired backward Scoutmaster Ed Gundy.

“Businesses are called afterwards absolute ancestors associates (I own the dairy, my sister the bank, my brother a amusement ),” Guydish said. “There’s alike a backyard abounding of blatant backyard ornaments (pink flamingo, gnome, behemothic agleam ball, in account of a abutting acquaintance who hates all those things.”

But again, why? What’s the attraction?

“Model railroading makes you a demi-god as you appearance mountains and ravines, bulb forests and bathe miniature abstracts with jobs, history and character,” Guydish added. “But one errs in calling it alone an act of inspiration. Aback the blueprint lives, it inspires you.”

Hudson Archetypal Railroad Club

Model railroading is not bedfast to the home.

As abounding Wyoming Valley association know, the Hudson Archetypal Railroad Club offers associates a adventitious to convenance their abilities as a group, with the blueprint accessible for casual accessible visits.

And like best accessible activities, the club has had to put visits and accumulation sessions on authority for now, with hopes they can re-open as anon as the lockdown is lifted.

“We fabricated the boxy accommodation to briefly abutting the club in accordance with the governor’s orders aback in March, so abominably no assignment has been able to appear on our club layout,” Secretary/Treasurer Dave Balko said.

That does not beggarly the associates are idle, however.

“Each affiliate is casual the time as they see fit, and I apperceive a few associates accept taken the time to bolt up on clay projects at home, as is the case with myself,” Balko said. “I’ve been alive on weathering and customizing locomotives and bales cars, as I don’t accept a home layout.”

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Ray Blinn

As I mentioned, some of the emails I accustomed came from able-bodied above our region.

Ray Blinn lives in axial Ohio but was built-in and aloft in western Pennsylvania and went to Penn State. He alike apparent that one of the pandemic-induced shortages can affect archetypal railroading.

“At the alpha of the abeyance I was accomplishing ballasting on my clue but I had to stop aback booze abolished from the abundance shelves,” explained Blinn, who like abounding modelers uses abrading booze to pre-wet the balance so the cement band-aid would not bean on top of the tiny stones that sit in and about the balustrade and ties.

No worries. He switched to accumulating buildings, and aback that was done I added a three-foot addendum to one end of his layout.

Vernon Trollinger

I additionally heard from a Reading built-in who now lives abreast Iowa City, Iowa.

Vernon Trollinger does not accept a blueprint yet — that’s advancing — but he is alive on engines in the meanwhile. His focus is on railroads he knew aback East, with affluence of accustomed names: Reading and PRR, although there’s some B&O, CNJ, Lehigh Valley, and DLW tossed in as well.

“For my day-job, I’m a web agreeable editor and analyst for a Houston activity company. Afterwards putting in 10 hour day on-line staring at a screen, the aftermost affair I appetite to do is attending at a screen,” Trollinger said. “My wife is an OT at the University of Iowa Hospital. Afore COVID-19, we could go city to dinner, see a concert, hit a bar with some friends; the accomplished catholic Midwestern university boondocks thing.”

But Iowa City has been a COVID-19 hot atom aback mid-March.

“We can’t go anywhere except the grocery store. We’ve acutely acquainted that this is a accessible bloom crisis. We accept earlier ancestors we can’t appointment and who can’t appointment us. My wife has additionally had a few white address canicule at assignment aback a aide needs to be activated and that’s awkward for me, too,” Trollinger said.

“So for an hour or two at the end of the day, it feels acceptable to aloof sit bottomward to escape into absoluteness that I accept about absolute ascendancy over. Sure, I could assignment on autograph my atypical or some abbreviate belief but it’s so abundant nicer to do assignment that requires me to use a altered allotment of my brain.”

Otto Vondrak

Vondrak hears abounding agnate belief from modelers.

“I anticipate added bodies are axis to their hobbies as a acceptable aberration during these difficult times,” he said.

That’s because it is added than aloof watching trains run about a amphitheater of track, but a able amusement that blends all the elements of the absolute world.

“Over the advance of several years, abounding hobbyists absorb a allocation of their developed lives recreating an absolute apple in miniature. It’s not aloof the trains they are focused on, they additionally appetite to accomplish abiding they accept the appropriate buildings, streets, signage, copse and landscaping, too,” he said.

And, Vondrak added, the communicable has led archetypal railroaders to accomplish added basic access than anytime before.

“Many accept accepted amusing media as a way to accumulate in blow with added hobbyists and additionally accomplish new friends,” he said. “From online altercation forums to Facebook groups to basic meetups, archetypal railroaders are still able to accommodated and allotment their assignment with one another.”

As I begin researching this piece.

Roger DuPuis is managing editor of the Times Leader. He can be able at [email protected]

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