The R&R RR

When the lovely Nancy Temple and I married in August of 1969, we lived in a one bedroom apartment on 8th Ave and 54th street in Manhattan.  Shortly after we took residence, the boxes of train stuff began to arrive; a wedding present from my father. I took them out once to see if they would even work (they had been stored in a shed with one screened side in south Florida).   The resulting display of sparks and noise spooked the cat big time.


Two years later, our first daughter, Jennifer, was born and we moved to a much larger two bedroom apartment at West End Ave and 104th street.  One rainy weekend, when she was 4 and our second daughter, Julia, was on the way, I set up two ovals on the living room rug.


Much to my delight, she loved them.   Julia was not quite 3 months at her first Christmas when I set up the first of the under-the-tree layouts.  This featured my D&RWG snowplow pulling the box car and caboose of the same road name.  She would sit in my lap and follow the train with rapt fascination as it disappeared and was surprised and thrilled (I wish I had recorded the squeals she was making) as it reappeared on the other side of the tree.  I knew I had “good” kids and I had to do something about it.


I began to acquire more stuff. More rolling stock, some more steam power and as many operating accessories as I could find and afford.  This was difficult in the late 70’s, but I did have some success.  When my wife suggested building a platform to sleep on and building a layout beneath it, the Riverside & Ridiculous RailRoad (the R&R RR) was born.  The design criteria were simple: be able to operate two trains simultaneously (one for each kid) and have a yard for me.  The two ovals could exchange trains and each had an alternate route. The passenger streamliner ran on a loop-to-loop in the mountains (1122 automatic switches and a delay signal for the station stop).  The trolley would run from the lower town to the upper station. The operating accessories were close to the edge for easy viewing. Frankly, it turned out much larger than my wife expected (6.5 feet x 11 feet).  Of course, it was too small for me.


The inaugural run was cause for a neighborhood party.  To my great surprise, the ones who stayed and played long after the kids had gone on to other things were the moms.  They had all wanted to play with trains in their childhoods, but it was “inappropriate.”

The next surprise was twins, Mary and Judy. Another move, this time to a larger apartment in the same building and the second version of the R&R RR.  This edition required the running of four trains. A second ZW was added as well as a KW.  Two ovals with exchanges ran on the lower level in one direction.  A second line ran in the other direction with an upper and lower level that shared one section of track.

This required the design and construction of working blocks (using relays) that would prevent the following train from overtaking the lead train and prevent collisions on the shared track.  It was noisy (those relays going off under the layout), but it worked!



When we replaced with windows with ones that would actually open, it became very difficult to maintain the tracks in operating condition.  The elevation of the sleeping area also began to be dangerous and the layout was dismantled in the early 90’s.  The R&R RR had ceased operations.


Two of my favorite pictures:  Jennifer running the Carpet Central (top) and Julia and me on the R&R RR (note the stylish wearing of the engineer's hat).