model train set on track

Who Am I (Rollin’ By) and Phil Klopp’s Magnificent Layout

e*Train Issue: Jan 2018   |   Posted in:

A toy train song and video by and about TCAers

By Arnold D. Cribari, TCA #12-67101 Winter 2018   

My pleasures over the years have included O Gauge model railroading and songwriting.  In May 2015, I started writing a song with the goal of making it into a train song with a driving beat.  After a couple of hours, it occurred to me that I knew very little about real trains, but I knew a lot about toy trains, having experienced the joy as a child (since I was 4 years old) of receiving Lionel trains as birthday and Christmas gifts and having collected and operated Lionel and MTH Trains as an adult.

Once I decided to write a song about toy trains, the tune and lyrics came to me very quickly.  One of my sources of inspiration was a toy train video of Phil Klopp’s train layout in Easton, Pennsylvania, that was featured in the third (Pennsylvania Suite) of the six video set of  Great Toy Train Layouts of America by Tom McComas and James Tuohy. O Gauge trains ran through Phil’s magnificent layout as the Shaker tune of “Simple Gifts” played.  By setting this video to such beautiful music, a beautiful work of art was created.

Another source of inspiration for my song occurred when I received in March 2015 the official newsletter of the Train Collectors Association.  As I leafed through it, I was thrilled to see that Tour No. 22 included a tour of Phil’s layout.  I immediately registered my wife, Shawn, and myself to go on this tour, which took place during the evening of June 26, 2015.  My anticipation in attending this tour proved to be another source of inspiration for me to write a model train song.

After completing the song and performing it for a couple of weeks at local restaurants/bars, the magic day happened.  On the evening of June 26th we entered Phil’s Easton, Pennsylvania home with about 40 to 50 other train collectors and operators, and descended into paradise as we walked down his spiral staircase into his basement.  There, I witnessed the breathtaking splendor of the horseshoe curve in autumn colors as Phil’s trains ran (with prototypical slowness and smoothness) through it. There, I witnessed the joy and happiness that emanates from his circus with all of its animated accessories, and his carnival with an operating roller coaster. 

There, I experienced Phil Klopp’s wit and charm when seeing an O Gauge couple skinny dipping in his pond, the head of the Loch Ness monster protruding from another pond, and a glowing still surrounded by O Gauge moonshiners.  There, I saw Phil’s awesome Starrucca Viaduct Bridge.  There, a multitude of O Gauge passengers waited on a station platform as their train pulled in, and mysteriously disappeared from the platform as the train pulled out. 

And then, the most incredible thing happened:  Phil pressed a button and a huge table of Standard Gauge Trains came down from the ceiling on pulleys and the trains chugged through a Standard Gauge layout with a tunnel and artful scenery.

Phil could not have been more warm and generous that evening.  I introduced myself, gave him a compact disc (CD) of my song, “Who Am I (Rollin’ By),” told him how the Pennsylvania Suite video of his layout inspired me to write the song, and he graciously thanked me.  My telephone number and email address were on the CD.

Two days later, I checked my I-Phone and saw that I had a voice message with a 610 area code.  When I played the message, I heard Phil tell me how much he enjoyed my song, and asked me to call him back.  To say I was thrilled was an understatement.  During our delightful telephone conversation and subsequent emails, Phil gave me permission to mention his name and use my I-Phone videos of his train layout with “Who Am I (Rollin’ By)” as background music.

It is with great pleasure that I share this video and song with the TCA and my fellow O Gauge Railroaders, which the general public can also access and enjoy on YouTube at this link!