Relay For Life 2012

The Acreage - South Florida Palm Beach County

1000 Scale Miles for Cancer Research

Starting at 6:00 PM on May 11th, I ran a Marx rescue train for 1000 scale miles as a part of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. This event was held at Community Park in an unincorporated area of South Florida called The Acreage. Most of the teams raised money through pledges for the walkers and by selling items of various sorts. One of the teams was the Hawk Battalion of Army Junior ROTC from the local high school. My grandson is a cadet officer in that organization. That is what got me involved. He and I have taken portable layouts to a variety of functions in the area. Running a train for the 1000 miles seemed like a natural extension of our hobby.

The event was originally planned for a night in February. The temperatures would have been pleasant for the teams of walkers and other participants. Sadly, due to a schedule conflict, our Relay was moved out a couple of months until the weather was really not as pleasant. The plan to run from 6:00 PM until 12:00 Noon the next day also required changes. First off, the food vendors packed up and had left by midnight. Then, the radar showed some thunderstorms moving in for the morning hours - expected to start about 8 or 9. So, the organizers pulled the plug and we all went home at 7:00 AM. Since the train had not yet run the entire 1000 miles, I set the track up inside in air conditioned splendor and finished up the next day. Those little Marx locos were much happier in the cool A/C than they had been in the very warm and humid ooutdoors. The lap counter worked better, too.

You can see some very short videos captured using a phone during the event on YouTube. Also, members of the very friendly Marx Trains Group on Yahoo can view some of the construction and progress photos on an album there using the link below. Here are links:

Relay For Life Start
Relay After Midnight
Relay Lap Counter Working
Relay Relief Loco 333
Rescue and Construction Photo Album
It is easy to join the Marx Train Yahoo Group (we are not yahoos - Yahoo is the hosting outfit for the free Group) by visiting the link below here or on the page of
Take a look at the Marx Train Yahoo Group.

The set up. The JROTC folks had two booth spaces. One had information and sold some things. Next to that we had some space for a cooler, the portable generator to power the trains, a bit of gathering space and the little layout. Walkers that were performing in the Relay passed by on the other side of the purple line. Visitors and participants could stop by to watch the trains or to sound the American Flyer billboard whistle.

During the run, the tan riser held some other toy trains. There was also a lap counter. It used an MTH infra red sensor to register the trains. That piece activated a Marx signal and a counter from a vending machine. It all worked fine in the air conditioning at home. Out in the Florida weather, the sensor would not work until about 1:00 AM when things cooled down. Good thing I had practiced with voltage settings and a stop watch so that we could dead reckon the number of laps until the couter started working again.

A Marx 490 with a one-way motor having fiber sides was modified to feature Relay For Life purple and Hawk Batallion Red and Silver. De-piped it a bid, repaired some broken places and added those streamlined fenders. It also required some additional weight to pull the fully-loaded cars.

The paying passengers pledged at least a penny per mile. That came to ten bucks each. We were supposed to obtain total pledges of $250 per participant. With the help of local and on line train buddies, we actually raised over $300 with this setup. Each passenger could provide me with a photo. I printed that on a little card something like a football jersey and assigned individual numbers. Those cards were inserted into little wood blocks to fill the gondolas. Participant at the Relay could also donane and hand write a name on a card. Marx plastic gondolas were repainted and filled with the wooden blocks and passenger cards. Adam Boksz helped me obtain some of them and also did the major part of rust removal from the trucks, wheels and axles. Then, some Relay purple paint and a few custom decals brought these cars into readiness for the run.

The Marx plastic work caboose required soem repairs. As is common on these cars, the roof corners were cracked right off. Some paint and more decals made it ready to hold a couple of crew members for the run.

Here is another view of the Marx 490 loco with the customized body work. The cab roof corners had been cracked off and there was a najor hole in the boiler. It looked as though someone had used a ball peen hammer on it. That made it a good candidate for some work. The plastic tender came along for the ride. The origianl prouection was for an 18 hour long event starting late one afternoon and lasting until noon the next day. That was more than enough time to bring those little motors to a standstill from overheating. The plan was to use shifts of about 30 minutes per loco. Later on, the shifts were down to about 10 minutes in the heat.

Another Marx loco with a one-way, fiber sided motor was also painted up to provide some relief during the lengthy run. This one is model 400. In addition, you can just see a modification on the pilot that allowed a special coupler (bent paper clip) to be used for double-heading from time to time. A careful measurement of the small loop of track told me that it would take 8 1/2 laps to travel one scale mile at 1:64 scale. That made the run into a planned 8,500 laps. At the event, there was also another Marx loco to help out when the motors got hot. That one was as model 333.

The gondolas loaded with the wooden blocks were pretty heavy. In order to reduce the load on the locos, I rigged up a front coupler-like gadget on the front of the 400. I suppose a second tender might have been better from a prototypical standpoint. For this project and the Relay For Life, one tender was enough.

A close up view of the exotic drawbar arrangement used for double-heading.

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