Friday, July 11, 2008

Roadside America

On our return trip from our vacation in the Lake George and Glens Falls area we stopped at Roadside America in the Shartlesville PA (I 78, exit 23). Below are some pictures. We visited five years ago and being interested in model railroading I was interested in getting some pictures and viewing the layout with a more critical eye.

The as you can see the O scale layout is very large. What is now Roadside America was started by Laurence Gieringer as a young lad. For sixty years through to his passing in 1963 Laurence build and honed a growing layout. As you can see from the first three pictures, the layout is substantial. Since Mr. Gieringer the family continues to run the layout.

The layout though substantial and intriguing, appears little has changed since 1963. In a few scenes there are conflicting details….vehicles in from the 1970s in the same scene as those from the 1920s and 1930s.

Camera’s are allowed, but mono-pods are not allowed which is why the following pictures are poor resolution.

The layout has water rather than false water. The rock details are nicely done. The rail bedding and railroad stones is an element tht is consistently missing and has been the model railroading standard for at least thirty years. That these details are missing is an indication that the layout has not been touched in any significant manner in decades.

Note the airport just beyond the circus. Note the stone work in the foreground and the fall color on the trees to the back left.

The detail work on the church and scene below are outstanding.

Below is a rail depot. The detail of the building is wonderful but the detail has not extended to the details being consistent. In the scene are a range of vehicles from the 20s to the one side and on the bridge, a car from the mid 1950s by the station on the left, a yellow taxi from the late 60s and a mid 70s to early 80s ambulance. Across the station is a late 80s bus (also in the bottom left of the picture). The truck across from the station and the buses are not an O scale item but more like HO scale vehicles (they stand out because they are not scale consistent). I suspect these out of scale items have been unwisely added in the last two decades.

Overall, this dated and static layout makes for an interesting one time visit. I was hoping to see a couple of scenes that have been redone in the last five years, but was gravely disappointed. Those running other public layouts are changing a scene or two at a time every year as a means to keep the layout dynamic and to attract repeat visitors (items that go into storage tend to come back out years later as part of another scene).
It is not uncommon for denominations and churches to become bogged down in maintaining traditionalism, maintaing outdated traditions that over time become fixed and stale with the original rationale lost. Form is maintained while the spirit and intent is lost. It appears that this layout has gone the same way and is running as fixed monument to its orginal creator. I suspect that Laurence continued to hone and improve the layout each year. It is unfortunate that the owner has not kept the dynamic honing tradition alive and have settled into traditionalism. The layout has so much more potential that is being lost.
I have no reason to make a repeat visit.


Christian Camuti said...

I was there like 30 years ago as very young child. As a 4 or 5 year old, I was very impressed, but having driven by the place a few times in the last few years, it doesn't appear things have changed much in 30 years.

I trust Lake George was nice. I am looking into that region for a vacation in the next couple of years. With gas prices going north I am thinking regional vacations!

Evie said...

Christian - I think the place has stayed the same since I first visited - at least 40 years ago.

Lake George was nice. It's a beautiful area. We're thinking of going back sometime. I know what you mean about regional vacations. We've done some of that in the past few years and will likely do more of it in the future.

Jenn said...

looks like don's heaven on earth!

Dave said...

Jenn, two of the best layouts I have seen are in Indianapolis. The one is an excellent HO scale layout at the Children's Museum and the other which is not a good but still well done is at the Train Station (the station has been renovated into an array of shops). Both layouts are constantly evolving.

Barbara said...

that is so cool. Cameron would love to see that!