Railroading Merit Badge at the Boy Scouts of America 2010 National Jamboree

by Ken Humphreys

In July and August 2010 I was privileged to have served as a Merit Badge Counselor for the Boy Scouts of America 100th Anniversary Jamboree held at Ft. A. P. Hill in Virginia. When I arrived at the Jamboree site, I was amazed by the elaborate preparations which had been made for scouts interested in the merit badge. Charles Anderson, the merit badge staff leader, had assembled a huge staff of volunteers from the railroad industry and from hobbists. Mutiple circus-style tents were set up, each housing instructional facilities for one of the merit badge requirements. A larger tent housed facilities for switching contests and a massive additional tent housed one of the largest modular layouts I had ever scene. Two trailers had been brought in to hold the layout and switching contest equipment plus an air conditioned semi-trailer having steel panels, lights, and other equipment to be used to convert it into a full sized replica of a Norfolk Southern locomotive. Model railroad suppliers had donated many HO locomotives and cars plus a substantial number of HO gift sets to be used as prizes for the switching contests. The whole setup was mind boggling and, if Charles Anderson has his way, it will be even more so for the 2013 Jamboree to be held at the new Bechtel Summit site adjacent to the New River Gorge of West Virginia.

The sequence of photos below shows only a small part of the Railroading Merit Badge activities at Ft. A. P. Hill in 2010. As you view the photos, recognize that Ft. A. P. Hill in the summer is incredibly hot and dusty. The HO layout was in a huge open sided tent and dust was always a problem. The tracks had to be cleaned of dust and grime almost constantly and the failure rate for HO locomotives was significant. Locomotives had to be frequently changed and the layout tracks were thoroughly cleaned every hour or two. Nevertheless, the layout and its Digitrax DCC control system continued to operate virtually flawlessly the entire two-week Jamboree.

The faux Norfolk Southern locomotive

The merit badge staff

The switching contest equipment

We even had a speeder

Look at the dust on the control panel. It was a constant battle to keep the layout operating.

The switching contest winner on the final day receiving his prize, achman Santa Fe "Thunderbolt" HO set, for winning the event that day.

The same scout was the overall switching contest winner in a run-off among the daily winners. He is receiving a Bachman Amtrak "Acela" HO set.

The photos below show the modular layout inside the circus tent. Several of these photos show the open area around the layout with the tent sides rolled up for ventilation.

Putting cars on the track at the start of a day

Occasionally we would get the chance to sit down and rest - but not often!

Notice the real grass growing under the layout.

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