Mike Chandler is our Newest Master Model Railroader!

MMR Number 489
To state that a transcontinental train trip I made at the age of 14 was an enjoyable vacation would be a major understatement. It influenced my entire life from that point onward. I became fascinated with all aspects of railroading in general and trains in particular. Therefore it was hardly surprising, that a few weeks later when a school friend introduced me to HO scale, I became hooked on model railroading and have remained so to the present time. Additionally, I have remained in HO throughout.

My interest in railroading also resulted in pursuing a career in the railroad industry with Canadian National, a circumstance which kept me close to prototype railroading, but unfortunately, distanced me from model railroading due to frequent moves which prevented any serious attempts to construct a layout. Although I joined the railroad as a machinist apprentice, I rose quickly through the ranks to occupy several management positions in CN's motive power department and while most of my career was spent in Western Canada, my longest posting was as Senior Technical Officer Motive Power at CN's system headquarters in Montreal. As you might expect, one of my MMR certificates is for motive power

Although I've had the pleasure of attending 11 national NMRA conventions, they've been widely spread over time with my first convention being at Vancouver, B.C. in 1965. At that time, a fan trip was a standard part of the convention schedule and with convention attendance usually around 1,000, it was possible for an all coach train to accommodate everyone. During the '65 convention, we ran over the CN's Yale Subdivision from Vancouver to Boston Bar and return. Because of that trip so long ago, I can claim to have been on a train trip with John Allen who was sitting in the same coach just a few rows behind me. Of course, John Allen was a model railroad celebrity by that time and consequently everyone in our coach knew who he was, but celebrities then were no different than today, and even though the coach was crowded, John made the entire trip to Boston Bar seated by himself. We were all just too intimidated by his presence to sit next to him. I did not see John on the return trip and assume he linked up with some of his friends during the brief layover at Boston Bar and had some company for the ride back to Vancouver.

You will, no doubt, be shocked to read that it's taken me 43 years to earn my MMR! However, although true, that statement is also misleading. I can claim that because two of the freight cars I used to qualify for my car certificate were built in 1969,and while I did some scratch building of structures in the years that followed, I was mostly an arm chair model railroader for the next two and a half decades due to frequent moves with the railroad. By 1996, it appeared that I wouldn't have to relocate again, so we purchased a house with a basement which was well suited for a model railroad. After all those years of arm chair model railroading, I knew exactly what kind of layout I was going to build even down to the types of industries and structures that would be served by it. Due to my years of experience with Canadian National, I also wanted a layout that could be operated in a prototypical manner and believe I have achieved that as well. My love of scratch building and hand laying track initially delayed construction of the layout, but with retirement, progress became more noticeable. And while it's still not complete, it has become fully operational with scenery covering more than half of it.

The achievement program had been around for a few years by the time I joined the NMRA, and while I was aware of it, the program seemed so far beyond my reach at that time, I just put it out of my mind. However, as my layout began to progress following retirement, I decided to have another look at it. To my surprise, I discovered that I had accomplished most, if not all, of the requirements needed for seven certificates. With this in mind, I began the necessary paper work in late 2011 and by May of 2012 received my car and motive power certificates which were the last of the seven required These were preceded by: author, volunteer, engineer - electrical, engineer - civil and structures.

My family, we have one daughter, has been most supportive of my hobby over the years and my wife even played an unexpected but significant role in developing the operating system for my layout. During a visit to our local church's fall fair sale a few years ago, she discovered a 1929 C.N. operating rules book. Because the era of my freelance railroad is 1938, the book was a good fit and since that time, we've had many successful operating sessions based on it.

Mike Chandler