Miniature Power Products, Woodstock, Ontario Canada.
The P7 President Washington as seen in the Miniature Power Products catalog, 1979-2010.
Miniature Power Products
Castings for the 3/4" scale Baltimore and Ohio "P7" President Washington design by H.J. Coventry (1932) were sold by Ted McJannett at Miniature Power Products of Woodstock Ontario, Canada, from 1979 until 2010.
Ted and I had spoken a few times on the phone, and I had purchased a few books, castings, and other items from him, between about 1988 and 2000. But in 2004, on a visit to Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Montreal, I made it a point to take a "detour".....and drive to Woodstock to meet Ted in person. Woodstock is a couple of hours west of Niagara Falls.
He was as nice in person as he was on the phone. He showed me his shop, his ground-level track in his yard, and of course, the P7 "President" materials. His father, a delightful older gentleman with whom I had spoken on the phone around 1988, 89, or 90.....and who helped Ted with the business..... was there as well. They served me fresh, warm chocolate chip cookies.
Jack McJannett, Ted's father, with Ted's P7 "President" in 2011. Photo by Jim Leggett. Used with permission. Jack McJannett passed away in 2012.
Ted had long-known of my interest in (and efforts to) resuscitate "Friends Models" and to locate all the missing H.J. Coventry designs. It's perhaps for this reason that soon after my 2004 visit, he told me of his interest to have me buy the P7 design from him, take over responsibility for its production, and to reunite it with the other H.J. Coventry materials I was accumulating. I was honored that he would entrust me with this, and I wasted no time in saying "yes" to his offer.
It would be a few more years before I would be able to travel to Canada to make the purchase, however. By day, I was a full time father to a very young son, and, I worked full-time nights and weekends. I needed to find a week during which everything would fall together perfectly, to allow for me to take a week off from my family obligations and work commitments, to make a Canada trip. With each passing year, it became clear to me that a date of around 2010/2011 might be possible. In 2010, my wife and I were delighted to become parents again, this time to a daughter, so a 2010 trip to Canada was ruled out on behalf of this little lady.
By 2011 things were settling down a bit, and I was guessing that I'd be able to make the trip before the end of the year. I didn't want to wait too late in the year, as I did NOT want to make the trip in any type of winter weather whatsoever.
In the months leading up to the purchase, lots of background work had to be done. I needed to renew my passport, which had expired in 1998. I needed to locate a truck rental company which allowed its trucks into Canada. Two places said "no" before UHAUL, who I should have checked with first, said "yes". I needed to contact a customs broker. Prepare lists and costs, of what I was bringing into the USA, etc.
I researched estimated toll amounts for trucks, hotels to stay at, estimated drive times, estimated gas usage and pricing, etc. And I needed to take a week off of work for the trip, and make arrangements at work for "missing that week". I also needed my wife to be home that particular week, to watch our children. It was not as easy as just driving somewhere one afternoon, filling the truck, and coming home that night. It was a major undertaking, requiring days of planning across a few months' time, just to make the trip. And the trip itself cost several thousand dollars, not including the purchase of the P7 design! Gas, tolls, hotel, rental truck, customs broker, import fees, etc. It adds up!
But in November 2011, during Thanksgiving week, the moment finally came: Friends Models formally purchased the P7 design, and moved the patterns, drawings, and castings inventory from their longtime home in Woodstock, back to the USA.
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I rented a UHAUL truck at Saugus Massachusetts and drove it to Woodstock Ontario via Rte. 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike, New York Thruway); entered Canada at Queenston, ON; and drove the QEW and Rte. 403 Highways in Canada to Woodstock. Drive time was about 12 hours including stops. I stayed in a hotel in Woodstock.
The next morning after breakfast, I drove to Ted McJannett's a few miles away, and after pleasantries and a little conversation, we commenced loading the truck. It was an all-day process, and we stopped only for a brief lunch break.
That evening, with the truck loaded, I said my goodbyes to Ted and his father, I drove to my hotel, showered and changed, etc. and walked across the street to have dinner at a steakhouse. I returned to the hotel, and after calling my wife and speaking to her and the kids, settled in for a good night's sleep before the long drive the next day.
The next morning, Monday, I had breakfast and coffee, checked out of the hotel, filled the truck with gas, and commenced the drive home. It was the Monday before Thanksgiving. The drive was about 16 hours including stops, one of which was about 3 hours at Customs. The truck was physically inspected as well as X-ray searched for drugs, weapons, contraband, etc.
I had a disposable film camera....yes FILM camera.....with me, and documented the drive home. (I had also documented the "loading the truck" process at Ted's). The chronological progression of photos below is from left to right; that is, if you view them from "left to right" you'll be able to follow the P7's trip back to the USA in the order it happened. Please click on any photo for an enlargement and a description.
Moving day begins! Please click the photo to enlarge.
Ready to load. Please click to enlarge, and for more information.
View from Ted McJannett's front door. Click the photo please, to enlarge, and for additional information.
At Hamilton, ON, the road splits left and right. Left leads to Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec, and Canadian points east/northeast. Right on the other hand, leads to New York. I turned right and went over the Burlington Canal via the "Hamilton Skyway". To my left was a "lifting span" for a railroad. Lake Ontario would be on my left for several miles.
Lake Ontario 1. Click to enlarge.
Lake Ontario 2. Click to enlarge.
Approaching the Garden City Skyway. Click for more information, please.
Customs was about a 3 hour ordeal, which was no doubt faster and easier than it could have been, since I had made all arrangements with the broker beforehand. If I had just "shown up" with a truck full of "stuff" I don't even want to think what a nightmare it could have been.
First, I had to park the truck at a large outdoor Xray machine that scanned the entire truck. When that was complete, I drove it over to a parking space, and went into the offices to "check in". There was a long wait in a waiting room, then I was called to a counter, drivers license, passport, and broker paperwork were presented, things looked up on the computer, etc. Then after a long wait I was asked to back the truck into a freight bay and open the rear door. It was then inspected by a border agent. The fellow had lots of questions that I believe are designed to "trip up" or "catch" smugglers and bad guys, get them to incriminate themselves, etc. but I just answered the questions and played dumb. After X minutes the agent probably figured that I wasn't taking the baited questions and probably didn't have anything illegal in there anyway, so, he concluded the inspection. He closed the cargo door, and "sealed it" with a customs security seal that had to be broken off with a bolt cutter upon my return home.
The most boring drive in the world....Buffalo NY to Albany NY, on Rte. 90.
If I never have to drive this drive again, I'd be fine with it. But in 2011, I had to drive it "one last time", to get home!
The North Grand Island Bridge. Click to enlarge.
Approaching the South Grand Island Bridge. Click to enlarge.
The day I arrived home, was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. My longtime friend in live steam Richard Symmes, and I, unloaded the truck at my shop. It took about half a day.
Afterward, we got lunch at a D'Angelo's sub shop in Woburn, Mass. Richard wanted the Lobster Roll but was afraid to ask for it, due to the price. I told him, "Richard, anyone who just helped me to unload a truck, can have anything he wants for lunch!"
After lunch, we drove to, and walked a little bit of, the Boston and Maine Railroad's abandoned "Woburn Loop", which formerly went from Winchester MA to Wilmington MA via Woburn. In its heyday it was both a branchline, and an alternate mainline for the New Hampshire route of the Boston and Maine RR. We walked near the Wilmington end this day and it was getting dark by the time our walk was ending.
I returned the rental truck to UHAUL on the day before Thanksgiving.
Once the truck was unloaded, lunch was had, walks were taken, and Richard went home....the materials took dozens of hours to sort and store properly. Those dozens of hours were necessarily spread out across a couple of years. The patterns were repaired as needed, cylinder coreboxes replaced, all patterns stored properly, existing castings sorted out, new ones cast, and all inventory placed in new bins and shelving.
My sincerest thanks must be given to Ted McJannett, for buying the P7 design in the 1970s, for first introducing me to it (by way of his advertisements) in the 1980s, for keeping its castings available for sale for 31 years, and, for entrusting me with its care in 2010.
The 3/4" scale P7 "President Washington" design remains available from Friends Models today, and will remain available. It was H.J. Coventry's "Flagship" design, and Friends is honored to bring it into the 21st century.
Ted McJannett with his P7 "President", in 2011. Photo by Jim Leggett, used with permission.