Ferroequinology alive and well in Arkansas

Comment & Observation
By Joe Lee III

Not long a go, the BOH and I had the opportunity to visit the Ruland Junction Toy Train Museum in Heber Springs, Ark., with our good friends Filo and Gloria Coats.
     There are lots of good reasons to visit the beautiful area, but, if you are a toy train aficionado, as am I, the museum alone is worth the drive.
     Susan and Wayne Ruland have amassed a large collection of Lionel standard gauge, O gauge, and 027 gauge; not to mention American Flyer, Marx, and other manufactures. There is even some fascinating ancient homemade rolling stock and intricate custom switches.
     The extensive museum opened in 2012, but some of the operating equipment is 100 years old.
As I looked at one century-old toy, I could not help but imagine the twinkle in the little boy’s eye when he first spied the magnificent steam engine under a beautiful Christmas tree a century ago, and to wonder just how many smiles the ancient toy had created over they years. The collection is the most extensive I have seen.
     For those not familiar with the intricacies of ferroequinology, this is a toy train collection — not a model railroad exhibit.
     Model railroads are frequently HO gauge, detailed to the last rivet and made to admire.
     Toy trains are made to have fun with. Good old three-rail Lionel is the best there is.
     What better could a 75-year-old little boy wish for?
Tariff war late
     Most economists agree tariffs are a bad thing, but U.S. politicians of both parties have winked at unfair tariffs and Chinese currency manipulation since the end of World War II.
     Now the practice has become absurd, and the related U.S. deficit is nearing fatal consequences.
     The problem is that previous politicians — of both parties — have let the one-sided trade practices get so out of hand that the remedy — if there is one — runs the risk of being very painful for gadget hungry Americans.
     The answer, of course, is a level playing field with no tariffs, but that too, is a long shot.
Health watch
     Last week a friend of mine with type one diabetes showed me a little gadget about half the size of a cell phone. I looked at it. It displayed “134” in big letters.
     “That’s my current sugar level,” he told me. “If it gets too high or too low, this thing alarms.”
     He explained he had a sensor embedded in his body that constantly transmitted to the little gadget.
     I read in the Wall Street Journal recently that an iPhone app is getting very close to reporting real time blood pressure, and there is watch getting pretty keen on heart monitoring.
     I want an app that sends me out of the room before the Boss of the House fusses at me.