Time to Model: Chris Paciacco’s N Scale Journey
Like many, my interest in model railroading started out when I was a child. I was about two and a half years old when my grandfather introduced me to his O Scale Lionel train sets. All of the sets included steam locomotives from where he grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and Southeastern Michigan, so everything was PRR and NYC themed. While playing with my grandfather’s trains, my grandmother would take me on Saturdays to film trains on CSX’s crossroads of the Michigan network here in Plymouth, MI. This is where my lifelong theme and my railroad interest would develop.
I always found a fascination with car counts, locomotive varieties, and the element of surprises that anything is possible when trackside on any given day. As I grew older, my uncle (son of my grandparents) got into N Scale where he showed me how I could model a decent railroad in a small space where I began to grow a collection of my own – based on what I saw in Plymouth over the years. As I got older and got my driver’s license, I spent more and more time filming various rail operations on the CSX network across Michigan, mainly for the trackage rights of CP Rail overhead trains running in conjunction with the CSX trains serving local customers of the auto industry, connecting traffic to shortlines up north, and overhead traffic of all kinds – this would lead me to some pretty dynamic road trips and making friends along the way.
As the years went on, the train volumes began to decline and would be rollercoaster events of high and low volumes of trains for years with operations constantly changing, feeder lines being spun off to shortline operations, and connecting lines being abolished such as my brief time working at a (now defunct) shortline. During the past decade, I met and made many friends that reside and document operations along this stretch of the national rail network and its rich history from its predecessor of the Pere Marquette. This brought me many great events both directly and indirectly around the trains. This includes catching lash-ups of soon-to-retired locomotives, rare movements, first/final train services, and other events that are long gone and memories I will never forget.
Along with these events and documenting trains, I took my memories to my N scale empire that I grew over the years based on what I’d film. My N scale layout models the CSX from Grand Rapids to Plymouth condensed into a small space, but elaborate for 2-3 people to operate for a few hours. My roster, operations, and scenes reflect these great stories/ memories of my past, plus extra space for the years ahead for the future railfan stories I will share with my daughters as they grow. The PM&E (Pere Marquette & Eastern) that I named my theme of the CSX/CP across Michigan is the legacy of my lifetime – one loco/ rail car at a time.
When ScaleTrains came to the market, what caught my attention was two aspects of the product being offered: details and unique models. As an N scaler, the ET44AC (or Tier 4 GEVO) model caught my attention because it was the first-ever N scale model of an extremely current locomotive roaming the class I railroads, including CSX that I incorporate on my layout and runs through my local area on a daily basis. The second aspect (which applies to the C44-9W and all other N scale ST locomotives for that matter) was the vast amount of details – especially seperatly applied handrails, grab irons, MU hoses, and modern details such as the PTC antennas. When I saw the models in person at the ScaleTrains.com booth at the Novi, Michigan World’s Greatest Hobby Show (and had the pleasure to meet Shane in person), I got to see these models in my hand and could see and feel the various (and sturdy) details on the models – making them surpass any model I’ve seen both in my collection and on club layouts.
I recently acquired a Rivet Counter N Scale CSX ET44. The locomotive is mainly for being a common workhorse on my CSX roster – as it is extremely common to see on pretty much any train on the CSX network including here in Michigan where my model railroad is based and very heavily influenced with. It’s also common to see them on grain trains being handed off to shortlines in this state with the ET44s intact until they reach the elevators.
Another locomotive on my list is the BNSF C44-9W in the Heritage II scheme and “fake bonnet” scheme for the run-through coal trains from the Powder River Basin to both CE plants in West Olive and Essexville on the CSX network in Michigan and on my model railroad. In addition, I frequently documented “fake bonnets” through here in the late 90s on autorack trains across the state, well into the early 2010s.
In addition, if ScaleTrains.com ever announces the ES44ACs for N scale in CSX, BNSF, and especially the CSX special paint schemes – those would specifically be in my collection as all of the mentioned been to Michigan – and documented by myself.
My current favorite product release from ScaleTrains is the ET44AC locomotives in N scale because they are unique to N scale and will forever be known as the symbolic product of ScaleTrains.com that pushed the level of detail in model railroading for N scalers. In addition, the sounds are loud, crisp, and has that “booming” effect that’s hard to get in N scale sound locos. The sounds even draw enjoyment to my 2-year old daughter who loves watching trains. Of course, the CSX paint scheme is my favorite, along with BNSF Railway.