Excerpts: "Little Engines that Can and Toymakers who Create them"

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Excerpts from full paperback, at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Only the tip of an iceberg of the full book at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0D6V69QVF

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ 1145811373?ean=9798218451257

ISBN: 979-8-218-45125-7

More by Robin Millerwww.filmaker.com

Cover: 3in/ft scale narrow gauge live steamer is among 210 images in Premium Color in the paperback print edn.

We begin with toy trains, built to ride by a half-million enthusiasts in the USA alone who buy engines, cars & track in the billions of $/yr. Among today’s large-scale railroad buffs, many recognize Miller Backyard RR (MBRR) kits they find & use. The toymaker-entrepreneur saved Conestoga Big Bang Cannons after a fire, rehired its workers, did the same for a technology company, then an iron foundry. Bob Miller’s dozen entities employed 600.

With a half million enthusiasts in the U.S. alone, Chicago Tribune calls model railroading “one of today’s biggest hobbies.” Also hot in Germany, France, & England. The model RR market is $1½ billion, plus private buying and selling of rolling stock and track – an evergreen market, as it doesn’t seem to age. And has some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet; here are storied some enthusiasts today, and a few honored from yesterday.

Historically large-scale backyard railroading – large enough for children & adults to ride – was from 1877 mostly a hobby for men & boys; from age 15 in the Gallery chapter in the full book. But today of also women & girls from 17 – Pamela Weiss, Ellen Thompsen, & Meredith Stewart (below R) are among those active, and featured in the book

Men & women, large scale model railroaders don’t mind getting their hands dirty making, fixing, and operating big electro-mechanical toys. The author’s interests in backyard railroading date to when he first remembers, from age 4 on a stool mezmorized by my dad’s HO putz, then soon riding his 1½ inch large-scale (1/8 of full-size) “backyard” trains.

Vivid memories from age 10 having the job of second machinist and principal shipping clerk for Dad, aka Rob’t E Miller, whose hobby-business for a decade was Miller Backyard Railroads. Miller parts were metal, made to work & last. And appear in new work by today’s enthusiasts in the book’s Gallery chapter – fully a third of this book to introduce a few largescale model railroaders who invite you to their rewarding and fun hobby.

What is so fascinating about model trains? They’re toys. And ‘kids of all ages’ like to play. Perhaps the pinnacle of the hobby still are engines powered by live-steam, meticulously made replicas of the first locomotives, exacting in motive power as much as looks. The most involved to make, maintain, and operate. In resources they require in time & materials; they are also the costliest. And at the same 300lb/in2 pressure as full-size locomotives, they can be the most dangerous – and set the leaves on fire!

To succeed in the mail-order model RR business, pioneer suppliers like Cliff Pettis in Texas in the mid-1930s made backyard railroading easier to have. Marketing savvy as much as mechanical know-how and energy were the hallmarks of only a few. One was Bob Miller, who at 30 in 1949 bought two suppliers to found Miller Backyard Railroads, an accessible supplier of kits or fully assembled railroad engines, cars, and track for 1,000+ layouts in the USA to Venezuela, widely advertised in Model Railroader magazine.

Today, modelers have a wider variety in today’s rolling stock using technology not available in the mid-20th century: computer-aided design

Mid-South Live Steamers, Columbia TN. Women are participating and featured in the book

(CAD). Numerical control (NC) machining for removing material. Additive 3D-printing for one-off parts and instead of carving casting patterns.

Ridable trains at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, Scottsdale AZ, one of dozens in the full book. Full size mishaps draw spectators, and model RR fans - no one hurt in 3-train mishap

Even with today’s many avocations and other distractions, the model railroading hobby is more popular than ever. Clubs and LLCs have formed for layouts that would be too great an undertaking for most individuals. In the full book’s Gallery chapters, dozens of hobbyists pool talents to help one another, especially with skilled machining or complex electrics.

Among many scales for RR models, most popular is 1/87-size HO-gauge most model railroaders participate in year-round because it’s indoors! Fullscale railroads are eneregy-efficient and safe, but do have accidents. Like highway rubber-necking, people flock to mishaps, like that above a couple miles from the author’s home. One day it will be depicted to scale. The full book shows a backyard-size crane rescuing a car fallen 40 scale ft to a creek.

The author’s father, Bob Miller, left HO to make parts & plans for 7½ in gauge trains, 1/8 full size. His catalog of kits enthusiasts could make & ride is in the full book.

Then after a devastating fire put Conestoga Big Bang [toy] Cannon’s workers out of their jobs, MBRR founder Bob Miller bought and restored the factory, and hired back its plant manager and workers. He did the same for a burned down foundry to make castings for both his toy companies. He had become the “Toymaker of the Christmas City,” Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The man who was Toymaker of the Christmas City? Bob Miller, the author’s dad, wore only green suits. He quipped he was too often mistaken for the minister by church parishioners who congratulated him for his sermon. Did he self-describe as an entrepreneur? Not everyone then knew what that was. He was elected to City Council, so was he a politician? That might cast him in a bad light. When after a break in Florida, where he’d partnered with Bufalo Bob Smith making personal stock tickers, a socialite commented about his tan; he joked he was “a ditch-digger.” Partly true, working on a backyard railroad!

Bob Miller sought publicity to further a cause, not for personal gain. A prime example is promoting ordinary citizens to invest $100 for a share in Bethlehem Risk Corp, which between 1963 and 1976 built “shell” buildings in the newly founded Lehigh Valley Industrial Parks, LVIP. Prospective employers were attracted by a quick up&-running, needing only wall treatments and furnishings to move in.

This solution was a catalyst for today’s seven LVIP business centers that are home to 500 companies and 24,000 employees. It saved the City of Bethlehem from being a one-industry town when that industry collapsed, laying off half the City’s workers. A newspaper editorial years later asked: “Where are the Bob Miller’s today?”

The full paperback Little Engines that Can and Toymakers who Create them is at… https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0D6V69QVF https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/1145811373?ean=9798218451257

This article is the intellectual property of Robin Miller or his heirs or assigns. Dissemination of any of its content beyond a brief attributed quotation or review is prohibited without prior permission in writing. Inadvertent use of any IP of others is protected by Fair Use as educational and historical material.

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Robin Miller – Excerpts from the book “Little Engines that Can…

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