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April 17, 2012 - Three years ago, we started the Blue Comet Award to be “given annually to the person or organization who does the most to promote the O gauge hobby to the general public.” Like many in O gauge, we were concerned that perhaps interest in our scale had peaked and we were not attracting enough new, younger participants to keep our scale alive and vibrant — and we started the Blue Comet Awards to help reverse that trend.

Now, in our third year of running this competition, we’re happy to report an abundance of riches — so many groups doing a great job of promoting the hobby that we’ve decided to honor two winners and six runners-up. The common thread that runs through virtually all these entries is a commitment to “takin’ it to the people” — moving out of our comfort zone of train shows and taking our hobby to venues where it’s less often seen, in an effort to share our excitement about model railroading and pass it on.

Click on each of the honorees below to learn their story and find out why we found them inspiring and worthy of recognition.
2012 Blue Comet Award Winners

National Capital Trackers, Washington, DC area: This modular club was designed from the start to promote the hobby to the public, and they’re doing that on a grand scale, with 22-26 shows per year at venues all across their area. While they’re often a star attraction at train shows, other less typical venues have included the National Marine Corps Museum, Boy Scout shows, the Eastern Shore Life Museum and Delmarva Chicken Festival on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and Celebrate Fairfax in Fairfax VA. Depending on the venue, layout size can range from modest to huge, and a control and programming cabinet fondly named the NCT Power House supports near-flawless DCS, TMCC, Legacy, and conventional operation. Read More

San Diego 3-Railers: As one of four layouts in the San Diego Model Train Museum, located with 14 other museums in San Diego’s Balboa Park, this group’s large, permanent, year-round facility greets more than 100,000 visitors annually. From the beginning, the group notes, “it never took long for the visiting public to find the hot spot in the museum. It was the only place where trains ran fast, kids were allowed to operate trains, and whistles, bells, and smoke filled the air.” A thriving and well-organized Kids Club is also part of SD3R’s outreach efforts. More than 400 families have participated over the past decade, with activities ranging from setting up carpet layouts to constructing buildings, receiving gifts of rolling stock, and operating the 4-mainline museum layout by themselves. Read More
2012 Blue Comet Award Honorable Mentions

AM-Trackers, Basel region of Switzerland: This group promotes American-prototype 3-rail O gauge modeling in Europe, with a 47’ x 21’ modular layout, including a turntable and piano-sized control panel, that travels to numerous venues with the precision of a Swiss watch. Perhaps their crowning achievement — so far — has been bringing the whole layout to the October 2011 York train show, to the delight of thousands of TCA members. Read More

Dennis Moore, Howard County, MD: Dennis is a testament to what one person with limited resources can accomplish. His 8’ x 8’ display, set up for several weeks at his local Community Center, drew well over 1000 visitors who were fascinated by the frenetic action of 4 trains running on two levels amid snow-covered Plasticville and K-Line buildings. The Center’s Director has invited Dennis to make this an annual holiday tradition. Read More

Intracoastal Model Railroad Club, Brunswick County, North Carolina: In an area where there’s no train shop for at least 50 miles and the hobby has been little known, a group of retirees from warmer climes is getting a lot of attention. Their portable layouts seem to pop up everywhere, from an annual fundraiser at a town firehouse to the huge Southport Spring Festival to a regular gig at an elementary school. Read More

Loose Ties Model Railroad Club, Buckhorn, PA: This group has displays in two local shopping malls. One has been an annual holiday event for over a decade, and the other is a permanent home for 10 layouts covering all scales including O gauge, open year-round on the second weekend of each month. Loose Ties members buy train sets, with assistance from local hobby shops, and raffle them off for free to local children. Their layouts and generosity have been featured in both newspaper and local TV coverage. Read More

North Central O Gaugers, Grayslake, IL: This group came up with a unique approach: reaching the public through library visits. Their permanent 25’ x 45’ layout resides at the Fremont Public Library and a traveling modular layout (with a dedicated trailer) has visited 30 different community libraries over the past 8 years. Libraries use posters, email, and direct mail to advertise when “The Trains are Coming,” and attendance averages 800-1500 per show. Read More

Pittsburgh Independent Hi-Railers: “For the past 7 years, we have done a Christmas show at a local mall drawing about 6,000 per year. Interested visitors can take the throttle of a 10–80 car train. In addition, Kennywood Amusement Park asked us to join them for their first ‘Holiday Lights’ festival in 2011, which drew about 40,000 people. We are asked to return in 2012 with our 30’ x 40’ layout.” And all this is done by an 8-member club. Read More

We hope their efforts will inspire you to share your own excitement about O gauge model railroading and to compete for the next Blue Comet Award. Rules are posted online at Blue Comet Award Rules.