This past May my father came into town and he brought many boxes of model trains that had been acquired over the years from the time I was young up until a few years ago. Any time I would visit him from house to house he would show me things that he had picked up and I would find the track and put it together on the carpet, or a table, and I would run trains around in circles. It wasn’t until I was getting into high-school did an actual layout begin to take shape. He had a house that had an unfinished basement and we finally had space that could be used to throw some track and scenery together and have a real place for the trains to run.
One summer we finally began the process of putting together what was, to us, a large layout. Two 8 foot by 8 foot tables with massive turnarounds that were connected with a long stretch of track that simulated the double track that we would see on the CSX Mainline that stretched between Martinsburg, WV and Washington DC. The dimensions of the layout had minimum radii that were based around the capabilities of a handful of cars and locomotives, and there was also in an attempt to more properly simulate what you could see out in the real world.
Over the course of a few summers this layout continued to take shape and by the time I graduated high school there was a portion of the layout that was surprisingly well detailed considering the lack of knowledge that either of us had. Some of the limitations we faced due to decisions based around that lack of knowledge of the craft, as well as not knowing materials that could be used in place of the retail products at the hobby shop. The first part that was detailed was the heart of the layout. The location with the power, but also the location that was modeled after the MARC station that I grew up watching trains from when I would see my father.
That layout was all HO scale trains, some ‘modern’ equipment, things that we would see when we would watch trains, and then there was the classic B&O Diesel Passenger equipment, which was the equipment that primarily set the need for the size of the layout. The issue with me trying to use this equipment today is the size required for an HO scale layout, and especially with the things that I would want to model.
I have never been able to shake the draw of trains. Hobbies in my life have definitely come and gone, but the trains have stuck. I have taken stops on trips to and from family’s property in Western Maryland to see what is happening on the tracks in Cumberland. I have taken quick trips to Point of Rocks, the local MARC stations. It is something that I still really enjoy and the model trains are still something that makes me happy. It is more than a plastic Revell/Tamiya model, this can be an entire city, a long train that you can have control over and take from either realistic representations of cities that exist, or an entirely fictional land. At this point I have, with the blessing of my wife, started to put together a new train collection. This time in N Scale (1∶160).
I have been watching videos on about model trains for years from creators like jlwii2000 who does reviews on primarily HO locomotives and rolling stock – well beyond the level of detail I am concerned about… DJs Trains – an actual engineer who also has a heck of a layout and does impressive explanations of actual places from an insider’s perspective, Rons Trains N things – a very energetic modeler who covers the ins and outs of modeling, and finally the charismatic, slightly zany Its My Railroad. I have loved the enthusiasm, but also the great knowledge of what is what, and how to make the things work.
About a month ago at this point I went ahead and took a flyer on a hobby shop a little ways from my house – Train Depot in Mt Airy Maryland. I have struggled to find a quality hobby shop for years now, especially something that has at least some focus on trains. This one I found on Google and called up, asked what they carry, and decided to take a drive over. When I got there… It was perfect. When I walked in, I looked around, and there were a few guys sitting in folding chairs chatting. It was like a barbershop, but instead of cutting hair, it was trains.
Jim was the first person to say “Hello” and take some time to show me what they had, and from there I started to pick up the things I knew I wanted to get. I looked through the glass display at what was obviously some dated equipment – but for me, it was perfect. I found what was definitely a pre-owned CSX SD60 by a company I knew was good, Atlas, and it was the right price, so I decided I would pick it up.
From there I had to have a couple cars to go with the locomotive, so I found something that reminded me of my past, a Chessie System boxcar, and then one other piece of rolling stock. At that point I found some flex-track, cork roadbed, and was about to check out. Jim showed me a box of what was definitely older, previously used, Atlas snap track, and we struck a deal. I figured I would be able to get up an running quicker with this for now, and eventually move on to the flex track. Sweet.
I got home, and dove into the trains head first. Got a bit of track setup, took an obligatory picture…
From there, the box of track was all stacks of track that were rubber banded together based on whether it was straight, turned, crossover, etc. Nothing based on radius, length, make, etc. I began to sort everything, and identify what I had. At this point I learned the curves were either 9 ¾ or 11 inches. I then setup a loop and went to try and run the train for the first time. Unfortunately there was an issue with the locomotive. That is currently being worked on, but in the meantime, I have picked up more track and another locomotive, as well as some more cars. See the video below…
I really appreciate the guys at the Mt Airy Train Depot. They have been great in getting me back into the hobby. It is awesome to have a group of knowledgeable folks nearby that stand by what they sell, and are also willing to answer any questions.
I am really looking forward to continuing on this hobby and expanding on things. I am hoping to find a way to use the 3D printer that was mentioned here months ago to be able to contribute to what I will be building. There are so many possibilities with this hobby, and it is awesome to be getting back into it!