By Nicholas Kalis
††††††††††† I may be the greatest fan of Allen Kellerís Great Model Railroadsô videos. About twice a year, Keller issues a new tape, which take us, as their name promises, to some of the countryís greatest model railroads. I have viewed virtually every one of Kellerís forty-two tapes at least twice. That forty-two number excludes similar tapes Allen produced while he was at Kalmbach. At one time or another, I have owned many of Allenís tapes. At least the more recent tapes are a combination of a track-side tour of the layout, a demonstration of some technique employed on the layout, and a brief chat with the owner/host. That said, I would like to offer a few suggestions on how future tapes could be even better.
††††††††††† Before making my suggestions, I would propose these tapes should been seen as differing in fundamental ways from the typical railfan tape. While it may seem too obvious to bother noting, Kellerís tapes do not seek to capture the prototype world. Many of the layouts Allen has video taped donít even try to model a prototype railroad as they are freelanced. I only point this out because sometimes Allenís tapes seem to my taste to try too hard to emulate the typical railfan tape. A locomotive switching a siding without much more explained can grow wearisome after the umpteenth videotape. Kellerís largely model railroader audience, if they are also railfans, are not wearing their railfan hats, so to speak, when purchasing Kellerís tapes.
††††††††††† Sure, I buy a Keller tape to share in the ownerís attempt at evocating the flavor of the railroad Ė whether prototype or freelanced. But what I really hope to get out of a tape is a visit to the modelerís home and some insight into the modelerís approach to the hobby. For this reason, I always enjoy the interviews with the host. I want to hear the modeler tell us about where he got a neat item, who makes that particular car or structure, and show us the book that piqued his interest in the particular prototype he choose to model. I want him to turn a building upside down and show me its interior. How are structures affixed to the layout? I would like to see how he wired his layout (if it is neat enough for me to learn from him).
Even having Kellerís cameraman walking down the hostís stairs and getting an idea of what the live visitor would first see interests me. How has the layout room been prepared? I have visited one home layout where the host had built the area at the bottom of his basement stairs to resemble the vestibule of full-scale passenger car. In appropriate cases, I would like to see our hostís workbench and how he has provided for the storage of all the items that go into building a model railroad. What type of ballast or combination of ballasts did this builder use? Show us the package for an unusual product that improved his layout.
Tell us a bit about the track plan we are seeing. Was the track plan commercially designed? Does this owner belong to the Layout Design Special Interest Group and hence got his ideas there? Let us hear more from the many folks who helped this layout owner build his model railroad. Intersperse more prototype photos or videos that inspired the layout we are visiting. After all, doesnít a live layout visit give us the chance to see photos of the subject railroad and locale the builder sought to emulate. I know Kellerís Cal Winters video did just that, just keep those prototype photos coming.
††††††††††† Another feature I want to see more of is the layoutís fascia board. First of all, what color did the layout owner choose to complement his scenery or keep from distracting the visitorís attention? Does this fascia contain photos of prototype scenes? Are there neat areas for holding car cards, uncoupling tools? One modeler I visited in the NMRAís Potomac Division had telegraph equipment situated on his fascia. Perhaps some hosts of the Keller tapes have equally as innovative items on their layouts. Did Kellerís host place track diagrams running the length of† his fascia? If so, how where these diagrams applied? Are there reduced size track schematics placed at individual towns? If the layout fascia has descriptive labels, how were they applied made and applied? Show us where the layoutís owner has located his power supply. How did the owner insure easy access to this power supply?
††††††††††† How about some visits to layouts featuring traction? If in Kellerís judgment some of these layouts are too small to merit an entire video to themselves, how about a tape that takes us to three or four traction layouts? Other video producers have combined layouts in one tape, I hardly think Kellerís loyal followers would object. How about a tape that features some combination of the finer museum-based layouts and dioramas around the country?
††††††††††† Some parting thoughts Ė Allen, keep up the good work and keep those new releases coming. Just consider incorporating some of my suggestions in future tapes.
Whatever path you choose, your loyal fans wish you prosperity and many more enjoyable tapes.
Let Allen know whether you agree or disagree with some of
the thoughts shared here. Allen may be reached at Allen Keller Productions,
C:\My Documents\Model Railroading\articlesforPotomacFlyer\Thoughts on the Popular Keller Videos.doc