I'm fortunate that I live only a little more than an hour away from one of the biggest - if not THE biggest - train shows in North America: the Big E Train Show (aka "Springfield" aka Amherst RR Show, etc.) About 25 thousand folks show up over the course of the weekend and anybody who's anybody in the hobby is usually there.
With four huge buildings filled to capacity with railroad stuff, it can be pretty overwhelming and I'm usually totally fried by late afternoon Saturday. I haven't gone back for the Sunday in many years - just can't take the overload. %^) I go with all sorts of things in my head - and sometimes on a list - to get, but then when it comes time to get them, I usually figure - "well, I don't really need that yet..." Consequently, I don't usually buy all that much model railroad stuff at Springfield, though the deals are always pretty great. I do, however, usually come back with at least a couple of books.
And this year, I came back with a priceless (to me) photo - though I didn't buy it.
It was toward the end of the day when I happened past a table manned by a guy I recognized from past NHRHTA Reunions. WilliamM grew up in Wethersfield and had shared some photos with me in the past and, as we were chatting, he mentioned he'd just purchased a few photos I might be interested in. Most of them were old, 1970s vintage snapshots of things I had better photos of - the Wethersfield station, etc. But one photo hit me like a bolt of lightning ...
It may not look like much to you, but this is the office/scalehouse for the Valley Coal Company in the south end of Wethersfield. I'm modeling Valley Coal on my layout and this is the only photo I've ever seen of this building. I only have one other photo of Valley Coal, and it only shows a corner of the roof. So this was quite a find indeed! Can't wait to show it to John & Max (unless they just saw it now...)
William graciously allowed me to borrow the photo to scan, and I returned it to him immediately with my thanks and a question.... Could he check his photos for any pics of the Ballantine Beer Distributor? :^) I figure even a photo from the late 1990s (from before it was torn down) will be more than we have now. Hey - you never know....
In other news, I finally found a copy of the March 1961 issue of Trains magazine. I admittedly haven't been searching super hard for it - just casually. But I happened across it and got it for a buck. Why was it important? Well, there's a feature article in there about the White Train (aka the Ghost Train) that used to fly up the Air Line through Middletown back in the (18)90s. Very cool.
I also picked up copy #53 of Philip R. Hastings' photo book on the B&M that I'd been keeping my eye out for for years (it's long out-of-print). There are SO many evocative and model-genic photos in there that it almost (almost) makes me want to change my prototype. But The Valley Line has some of the same features as those photogenic B&M branches, so I think I'll be able to scratch that itch just fine with what I have.
Finally, other than a few other various/sundry minor items, I picked up the final three issues of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society (R&LHS) Bulletins I'd been wanting to get for my collection - issues from way back in the 1940s - one featuring the Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington, one on the many railroads in the City of New Haven, and one on the Hardwick & Woodbury. They're pretty rare and I was lucky to run across Alden Dreyer who had them - though not at the show (heh, they're so rare they didn't even get to the show...)
Just another little bit of serendipity.
The long, exhausting, wonderful day was capped off by our now-annual dinner in the Parlor Car of the Steaming Tender Restaurant, accompanied by the sights and sounds of long freight trains on the old B&A line and the New England Central switching cars on the other side.
All in all, a wonderful day.