|From: Jon Koplik||8/24/2020 2:17:40 PM|
|WSJ -- [ out of control ] Model Railroaders / Souped-Up Spaces .................................................|
Aug. 12, 2020
Model Train Enthusiasts Are Parking Their Railroads in Souped-Up Spaces
Forget unfinished basements. These model railroaders are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to build train rooms in their homes.
By Candace Taylor
Retired professional golfer Ed Dougherty built a six-car garage for his home in Pennsylvania, but it contains no automobiles. None that are big enough to transport people, that is.
Mr. Dougherty, 72, uses the 2,000-square-foot space, plus another room in the house, for his enormous collection of model trains and accessories, a miniature world where trains chug and whistle their way through mountain tunnels, cars zoom back and forth, neon signs flicker, and tiny people emerge from doorways as the trains pass. The walls are covered with shelves displaying even more model trains, plus vintage Lionel advertisements and railroading memorabilia.
When they decided to do the renovation that included the garage, Mr. Dougherty told his wife, Carolyn, “ ‘I need room for my trains,’ ” she said. “I didn’t realize I would never have my car in the garage.”
A Connecticut Conductor
Harvey J. Yaverbaum in his train room, which has a nude beach and a backdrop of Ebbets Field.Photos: Julie Bidwell Photography for The Wall Street Journal(4)
So where do they keep their cars?
“In the driveway,” she said with a laugh.
Model railroading is an obsession that has besotted the likes of Neil Young and Tom Hanks. The rocker Rod Stewart spent decades creating a 124-foot-by-23-foot model train layout in his Los Angeles home. While on tour he would book an extra hotel room, using it as a workshop to put together models for his layout between concerts.
Even the most elaborate model railroads are usually relegated to no-frills spaces like basements or attics. But a few railroading enthusiasts have taken a different track, devoting entire rooms in their homes to the hobby and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to outfit these spaces for trains. Some even build separate structures for their layouts, or convert swaths of their backyards to so-called garden railroads.
This realistic landscape is the home of Harvey J. Yaverbaum's collection. The scene includes an amusement park, a snow-covered ski mountain with an operating ski lift, and a motorboat that pulls a water-skier in circles. It took him seven years to create.
VIDEO: Julie Bidwell for The Wall Street Journal
Such is the allure of trains that normal real-estate rules don’t seem to apply to these homes. Typically, real-estate agents warn that adding highly customized features to a home can damage its resale value. But model trains have a way of charming potential buyers, agents said, even those not involved in the hobby.
“There’s a big romance with trains among a lot of people,” said real-estate agent Steve Lambert of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, who recently sold a North Carolina home with miniature train tracks built into the guesthouse.
The romance is expensive to create. These days new miniature locomotives retail for up to $1,800 each, while collectible antique trains can sell for $8,000 each, according to Ron Hollander, author of the book “All Aboard! The Story of Joshua Lionel Cowen and his Lionel Train Company.”
Retired professional golfer Ed Dougherty and his wife, Carolyn, with his train collection. Photo: Michelle Gustafson for The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Dougherty’s collection includes vintage Lionel advertisements and layouts. Photo: Michelle Gustafson for The Wall Street Journal
Rideable, outdoor steam trains sell for far more. Sean Bautista of Hillcrest Shops, which makes small and narrow-gauge railroads, said a large, rideable locomotive can cost $500,000. Because all the parts must be individually made, he said, “it’s like building a custom Ferrari.” Passenger cars and cabooses range from $17,000 to $250,000. For some wealthy clients, he said, he has made dining cars large enough for passengers to eat dinner onboard. “People have multimillion-dollar railroads in their backyards,” he said.
Many railroad hobbyists got hooked on trains as children. Model trains were popular gifts for children -- especially boys -- in the 1940s and 1950s, said Mr. Hollander.
“Trains were the gift,” he said, with Lionel toy trains in particular becoming “the third wing of Christmas, along with Santa Claus and the Christmas tree.”
Retired pro golfer Ed Doughtery uses his six-car, two-story garage at his home in Boothwyn, Pa., to house his enormous model train set. VIDEO: Michelle Gustafson for The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Hollander said he became fascinated with trains when he got his first train set for Christmas as a child in the 1940s. He went on to collect roughly 1,000 trains, but for years, “I never had a real layout,” he said. “Somebody would say, ‘oh, can I see your trains?’ and I would take them to a commercial storage place and show them this vast room that was filled with cartons.”
He vowed to change that in 2013, when he started looking to buy a home with this then-girlfriend. “Every single house we looked at, every condo we looked at was, ‘Where will the trains go? I don’t think this is a big enough basement to have trains.’ ”
In the roughly 4,000-square-foot Long Island house they ultimately bought for $350,000 in 2013, he quickly designated an unfinished room on the second floor as the train room. After the closing, he had the room sheet-rocked and painted, then added windows, air conditioning and track lighting. To reduce noise—the train room is located above the master bedroom—he had the floor lined with soundproof insulation. “We did tests, where I would blow the whistle and say, ‘can you hear that?’ ” he laughed. “It’s not the easiest thing to live with a train collector, I suppose.”
He had silver aluminum shelving mounted on the walls to display the trains. Mr. Hollander designed the benchwork -- the structure that supports the railroad -- and scenery is on adhesive backdrops. He hand-painted the tracks a rust-like color to make them as realistic as possible.
Bells and Whistles -- These model train sets are right on track.
The train room on the second floor of Ron Hollander’s house on Long Island.
Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
Building the room cost about $15,000, he said, and he “couldn’t begin to estimate” what he's spent on trains.
Now the room is outfitted with Mr. Hollander’s layout, which includes models of the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Terminal. The walls are decorated with Lionel memorabilia and photographs of steam engines. When fellow members of the Railroad Museum of Long Island came for a tour, “they were pretty awestruck,” he said. “Most of the guys I know have these basement layouts.”
Like Mr. Hollander, Harvey J. Yaverbaum loved trains as a child, but never had a layout until he retired from his career as a partner at a New York City law firm. “I spent many years daydreaming about it,” said Mr. Yaverbaum, 75. When he and his wife, Kathy, purchased their retirement home in Roxbury, Conn., in 2003 for $1.9 million, he converted a basement into a finished room that now contains his roughly 900-square-foot model railroad. “It’s bigger than a lot of studio apartments in Manhattan,” he said.
Ron Hollander Photo: Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
The space, where 17 trains run simultaneously, took seven years to create. Mr. Yaverbaum said the total cost, including renovating the space, building the layout and buying the trains, ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The now-finished layout includes a 20-foot-long river and at least 20 different bridges. A snow-covered ski mountain has an operating ski lift, while a motorboat pulls a water-skier in circles. There is an amusement park and a model of the New York City subway—the Brighton Beach line, which Mr. Yaverbaum rode growing up—that announces stops such as Coney Island and Times Square. There are two beaches, one of which is clothing optional, Mr. Yaverbaum said with a laugh.
To outfit the space, Mr. Yaverbaum moved the doors “so that a person entering would have trains to his or her left and right.” He finished the floors, walls and ceiling, and added lights on dimmer switches for creating nighttime scenes. The walls are painted with a backdrop of sky, clouds and buildings including 555 West 57th Street, where Mr. Yaverbaum’s wife worked for years.
The Long Island Rail Road
The train room in the Long Island home of Ron Hollander, which includes a model of Grand Central Terminal. Photos: Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal(3)
One challenge was the home’s HVAC system, which is housed in a box in the middle of the basement. Mr. Yaverbaum built the layout around the box, converting an access panel for the HVAC into a destinations board for his railroad. When HVAC repairmen come to the house, he said, “we have some interesting conversations.”
Dan Hoag, the owner of Eaglewings Iron Craft in Phoenix, has a number of overhead train tracks running through the walls of his house. One set travels through the master bedroom, bathroom and closet; another goes from the kitchen to the living and dining rooms. The trains run on elaborate iron trestles and bridges, including a bridge Mr. Hoag designed for his Disney -loving wife, Patience. Based on a scene from “Cinderella,” it has a Mickey Mouse shape in the ironwork. Mr. Hoag said when he installed the layout, friends said to his wife, “how can you let him put that in your house? It’s ridiculous!”
Railroad enthusiasts readily admit that by altering a home’s structure to make room for trains, they may be turning off some future potential buyers.
“I look at this room and I think, ‘how am I going to sell this house with this train room?’ ” said Mr. Hollander. But for him and others, resale value is beside the point. “It’s not something you do as an investment,” he said. “What I love about the trains are the memories they hold for me.”
Trains Move Houses
A model railroad built into the guesthouse at the home of Richard Ticktin. Photo: Steve Lambert/Premier Sotheby's International Realty
Model trains seem to charm potential home buyers.
A few years ago, Chicago-area real-estate agent Michael LaFido of @properties listed a home with both a rideable outdoor train and an indoor model railroad. “It was known as ‘the train house’ to locals,” he said. “We made sure to make that a focal point in our marketing efforts.”
His team made a marketing video with footage of the homeowner driving the outdoor train in a striped conductor’s hat. In another scene, the indoor train pulls up to the billiards room loaded with two copper mugs containing cocktails for the smiling pool players.
The circa-1926 house ended up going into contract for over $2 million, Mr. LaFido said, a sale price that hadn’t been seen in the neighborhood for seven years. In fact, the seller wanted to keep the trains, but the buyer agreed to pay more for the house if the seller would include them in the sale.
Two years ago, entrepreneur Richard Ticktin paid $1.35 million for a vacation home in the mountains of North Carolina listed by Steve Lambert of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. The guesthouse on the property has a model railroad layout integrated into the structure, with trains running overhead through multiple rooms on custom wooden platforms. In the past, “I was never a train guy,” said Mr. Ticktin, 55, but when he saw the guesthouse, “I thought it was very cool.”
While the trains weren’t the primary reason he bought the property, “this was kind of like the cherry on top of an amazing ice cream sundae.”
Mr. Lambert said when it came to showing the property, “the trains were definitely a plus.”
Since buying the house, Mr. Ticktin has been bitten by the railroading bug, spending tens of thousands of dollars to restore and upgrade the train set so it can be controlled by smartphone.
Write to Candace Taylor at Candace.Taylor@wsj.com
© 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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|From: Jon Koplik||10/5/2020 11:14:45 PM|
|great Nobel prize winner notification story (today.) This is from the WSJ article titled :|
Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded for Discovery of Hepatitis C Virus
<<<<< Dr. Alter said he was in a deep sleep when he heard the phone first ring at 4:15 a.m., and ignored not only the initial call but a second one. By the third call, he said, he “got out of bed rather angrily, figuring this was another political solicitation or someone wanting to extend the warranty on my car.”
It turned out to be from Stockholm, telling him he had won a Nobel Prize. “It’s been quite a morning since that time.” >>>>>
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|From: Jon Koplik||10/22/2020 1:37:54 AM|
|AP News -- Beetle armor gives clues to tougher planes ..........................|
Oct. 21, 2020
Can’t crush this: Beetle armor gives clues to tougher planes
1 of 2
This 2016 photo provided by the University of California, Irvine, shows a diabolical ironclad beetle, which can withstand being crushed by forces almost 40,000 times its body weight and are native to desert habitats in Southern California. Scientists say the armor of the seemingly indestructible beetle could offer clues for designing stronger planes and buildings. In a study published Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in the journal Nature, a group of scientists explains why the beetle is so squash-resistant. (Jesus Rivera, Kisailus Biomimetics and Nanostructured Materials Lab, University of California Irvine via AP)
By MARION RENAULT
NEW YORK (AP) -- It’s a beetle that can withstand bird pecks, animal stomps and even being rolled over by a Toyota Camry. Now scientists are studying what the bug’s crush-resistant shell could teach them about designing stronger planes and buildings.
“This beetle is super tough,” said Purdue University civil engineer Pablo Zavattieri, who was among a group of researchers that ran over the insect with a car as part of a new study.
So, how does the seemingly indestructible insect do it? The species -- aptly named diabolical ironclad beetle -- owes its might to an unusual armor that is layered and pieced together like a jigsaw, according to the study by Zavattieri and his colleagues published in Nature on Wednesday. And its design, they say, could help inspire more durable structures and vehicles.
To understand what gives the inch-long beetle its strength, researchers first tested how much squishing it could take. The species, which can be found in Southern California’s woodlands, withstood compression of about 39,000 times its own weight.
For a 200-pound man, that would be like surviving a 7.8-million-pound crush.
Other local beetle species shattered under one-third as much pressure.
Researchers then used electron microscopes and CT scans to examine the beetle’s exoskeleton and figure out what made it so strong.
As is often the case for flightless beetles, the species’ elytra -- a protective case that normally sheaths wings -- had strengthened and toughened over time. Up close , scientists realized this cover also benefited from special, jigsaw-like bindings and a layered architecture.
When compressed, they found the structure fractured slowly instead of snapping all at once.
“When you pull them apart,” Zavattieri said, “it doesn’t break catastrophically. It just deforms a little bit. That’s crucial for the beetle.”
It could also be useful for engineers who design aircrafts and other vehicles and buildings with a variety of materials such as steel, plastic and plaster. Currently, engineers rely on pins, bolts, welding and adhesives to hold everything together. But those techniques can be prone to degrading.
In the structure of the beetle’s shell, nature offers an “interesting and elegant” alternative, Zavattieri said.
Because the beetle-inspired design fractures in a gradual and predictable way, cracks could be more reliably inspected for safety, said Po-Yu Chen, an engineer at Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University not involved in the research.
The beetle study is part of an $8 million project funded by the U.S. Air Force to explore how the biology of creatures such as mantis shrimp and bighorn sheep could help develop impact-resistant materials.
“We’re trying to go beyond what nature has done,” said study co-author David Kisailus, a materials scientist and engineer at the University of California, Irvine.
The research is the latest effort to borrow from the natural world to solve human problems, said Brown University evolutionary biologist Colin Donihue, who was not involved in the study. Velcro, for example, was inspired by the hook-like structure of plant burrs. Artificial adhesives took a page from super-clingy gecko feet.
Donihue said endless other traits found in nature could offer insight: “These are adaptations that have evolved over millennia.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education.
© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.
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|From: Jon Koplik||11/14/2020 6:20:20 PM|
|WSJ piece : video-calling / predicted in 1912 / in 1920s, AT&T began testing ................|
Nov. 13, 2020
The Overnight Business Boom That Took a Century
Why a global pandemic transformed videocalling from a technology most people didn’t like to the technology everybody had to have
AT&T displayed its Picturephone at the New York World's Fair in 1964. Photo: AT&T Archives and History Center
By Jason Zweig
To change people’s lives, companies don’t just need disruptive technology. Sometimes they need luck, too.
Consider videocalling. It was developed almost a century ago as a solution for a problem that companies identified but customers didn’t: the need for a machine that would permit face-to-face conversation at any distance.
For decades, dozens of companies kept trying to foist videocalling onto an unready and unwilling public. Then, like a bolt from the blue, the coronavirus thrust nearly everyone into isolation. Videocalling went from a technology most people didn’t like or want to the technology everybody had to have.
Underestimating how important luck can be in determining how fast customers will adopt an innovative technology helps explain the perennial tendency of business forecasters to get the future wrong.
“Before very long,” the engineering journal Cassier’s Magazine predicted in July 1912, “when the telephone call comes, there will appear with it the face of the person who is talking.” That would make it “unnecessary for many people to travel to and from their work at all,” minimizing “the great crush and crowding back and forth in our great cities.”
In the late 1920s, AT&T began testing two-way audio with partial video, called “ Ikonophone,” on local lines in New York. AT&T displayed a prototype at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, then tinkered with the concept for decades.
Finally, at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, AT&T displayed its first easily workable device, called the Picturephone, amid enormous hype. Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, inaugurated the service with a call from the White House to New York.
AT&T’s Picturephone made its World’s Fair debut amid enormous hype. Photo: AT&T Archives and History Center
In 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” featured a space-to-Earth video call from an AT&T-branded Picturephone booth onboard the Discovery One spacecraft. The call cost $1.70.
In 1969, Bell Labs executive Julius Molnar predicted that by 2000, “Picturephone will be the primary mode by which people will be communicating with one another.”
The technology, he proclaimed, “will enrich the daily lives of everybody” and “may in fact help solve many social problems.” By reducing the need for doing business in person, said Mr. Molnar, the Picturephone would alleviate pollution and urban overcrowding.
AT&T’s 1970 annual report said the company would expand Picturephone service to more than two dozen cities by 1975 and have 50,000 units in service.
“They thought they could determine the future and the rate they could make it happen,” says Jon Gertner, author of “The Idea Factory,” a history of AT&T’s Bell Labs, where the Picturephone was developed. “They were right about the future, but they were wrong about how fast they could make it happen.”
In 1964, AT&T installed Picturephone booths in Chicago, New York and Washington. Calls cost $16 to $27 per minute. In the first six months, 71 people tried it. In 1969, only three people paid to use it; the next year, none did.
Nevertheless, AT&T piloted the Picturephone for homes and businesses in Pittsburgh and Chicago in 1970. By 1972, after a year-and-a-half, only eight households in Pittsburgh remained willing to pay $160 a month. In Chicago, at $75 a month, only 46 homes kept one.
Video took up such bandwidth that long-distance calls were impossible. And so few people had a Picturephone there was almost nobody nearby they could use it with.
Furthermore, while people liked seeing the person at the other end, they didn’t much like being seen. As long ago as Plato’s “Republic,” thinkers have argued that being visible to others imposes a constraint on our behavior.
Getting accustomed not only to watching video but to being watched on video has taken the better part of a century.
A videophone played a crucial role in the 1925 silent movie ‘Up the Ladder.’ Photo: Everett Collection
The silent movie “ Up the Ladder,” from 1925, tells the story of the inventor of a fictitious videophone, who is cheating on his wife with her best friend. His wife calls her friend on the “Tele-Visionphone.” Scurrying out of the visual frame, the husband then sits where his reflection shows in a mirror, exposing the affair.
Such dreaded blunders still echo today, when children, pets and sexual indiscretion can disrupt videocalls and sometimes even derail a career.
Even so, companies kept pushing the technology, largely because they thought demand had to materialize sooner or later. It didn’t.
No one had cracked the chicken-and-egg problem: The more users a network has, the more valuable it becomes.
Even in 1990, after decades of development, only big organizations could afford what was then known as videoconferencing. Like AT&T’s customers in Pittsburgh more than 20 years earlier, they couldn’t use it successfully unless the people at the other end of the call happened to have a system from the same vendor.
Business executives hold a videoconference with a colleague in 1991. Photo: Richard Howard/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
As recently as 2008, videoconferencing setups still cost thousands of dollars a month, out of reach of households and many small businesses.
In the past couple decades, applications such as CU-SeeMe, Skype and FaceTime helped bring down costs and inch growing numbers of consumers toward acceptance.
But videocalling still hadn’t universally broken through. That only happened when the pandemic hit.
Look at Zoom Video Communications Inc. Thanks to the lifeline that its platform extended, “zooming” has quickly become almost as common a verb as “googling.”
“Covid made that breakthrough in people’s minds,” says Oded Gal, chief product officer at Zoom: “that voice and chat aren’t enough, that they feel they really want a visual connection to break the isolation.”
Whether videocalling will remain as popular when the isolation ends is an open question. This week, the announcement that an effective vaccine against Covid-19 could be within reach caused Zoom stock to drop 25% in two days.
Call it the market’s reminder of the wild swings between absurd optimism and rejection that surround any would-be technological marvel.
Still, videocalling’s proponents, just as they did a century ago, forecast a bright future. Citing this year’s boom in areas such as telemedicine, Mr. Gal thinks videochats will continue to bring people together in ways that wouldn’t have happened if Covid hadn’t created that openness to be on video.
The new technologies for video communication will give businesses and researchers “an ever expanding horizon.”
But those last words aren’t Mr. Gal’s. They come from an article a business forecaster wrote in 1970. His name: Alan Greenspan, future chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Maybe I should try zooming him so we can laugh about it together.
Write to Jason Zweig at email@example.com
Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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