Moments come along in life that remind us of the journey we are on. Some of those moments are full of bright memories, and others are in the shadows of darkness. Regret, frustration, a sense of missed opportunity: these are real, honest feelings, and deserving of our time. Darkness is part of life, after all. However, the bright outshines the dark. The bright spots are the most poignant of these moments and are nearly tangible in their nostalgia and in the good energy that we carry along in life.
On Sunday, June 8 2021, one of the influencers of the Onondaga Cutoff passed away. At first glace, the life of Barbara 'Babby' Siegelman would have little to do with a model railroad. She loved gardening, family, horses, and her community. Giving and thoughtful, she had more friends than days in the year and was a wonderful person to speak with. She spent her senior years raising her granddaughters on a horse farm built by her late husband and laughing late into the night on the phone with lifetime friends around the world.
|Photo by N. Garvey|
At first we were a bit reticent about running the trains - after all, Babby's late husband had built it and we were guests - but after a few visits with Dad, Babby offered that I could call and we could come by ourselves. Jack and I worked up a plan to make a few improvements and asked permission to do so. Babby was thrilled, "I just love to see it running again, you boys are welcome anytime. Give me a call and come down, and you can do as you please with it - it's wonderful to see it working again!"
That was all the invite we needed. Over the next few weeks we adopted the 'orphaned' layout. We moved all of Jack's 3-rail stuff down there, and also boxes of all my HO stuff which at the time was in storage at my apartment in Westfield. And from the fall of the year 2000 right through the start of the Onondaga Cutoff, Jack and I went to Babby's on hundreds of evenings, and put thousands of hours and dollars into the layout. We were young, fully employed, and without many commitments, and the layout blossomed.
Jack came up with a name: Claremont & Saucon Valley. It represented generic northeastern territory allowing us to run different sets of power on different nights with the same operating plan. Jack developed a system of train symbols and a car-forwarding plan to fit the infrastructure. And we got to work.
We rewired the whole thing to be run by three Lionel ZW transformers. We changed the routes, smoothed joints, added interlockings, added sidings. I painted the walls, added backdrops, and added another interchange track to the two that were there already. Jack slowly but steadily came up with a whole new design for the tracks and switches in the middle of the larger layout, and we separated wiring for the smaller layout where I would now be the operator.
Most of all, it was FUN. Trains moved and we had FUN. And so many of the lessons we learned at Babby's are part of the foundational fabric of the Onondaga Cutoff: camaraderie, fun, multiple-track mainline action, interchange, a car-forwarding plan, night operations, open houses, regular sessions for both readying the layout for running and for operations themselves. The Onondaga Cutoff has roots in the energy of the Claremont & Saucon Valley.