What brought you to Model Railroading?

Got an e-mail, “What is up with your blog, have you forgotten about it?” No, I have not forgotten about it. Been busy this summer with outside projects at home and pharmacy automation projects at work, so trains have taken the summer off. At least the hands on part of model railroading took the summer off.

I have been keeping up with my friend Trevor Marshall’s blog, Port Rowan in S scale. If you get a chance, please go and read about Trevor’s superb small layout design. Another blog that I frequent is Mike Cougill’s blog at OST publications. Mike has started a new publication, The Missing Conversation. Think you will find Mike’s new magazine interesting. His discussion on his blog and in The Missing Conversation created quite an interesting thought exercise for me.

While cutting grass, driving to and from work and any other free time I thought about what got me into model trains. My Granddad Doering used to set up a small garden under the Christmas tree when I was a youngster. I still remember the Santa Fe  F in blue bonnet scheme pulling a couple of freight cars and a bright red caboose. My Dad owned a scrap business that scrapped abandoned railroads. Spent a lot of time sorting different sized ties plates when I was young and several summers as a teenager knocking joint bars loose after the burning crew burned off the nuts and bolt heads. Walked a lot of miles of Right of Way though. I can not imagine how many rail anchors I knocked off of rail. However, I think the pivotal events that changed my model railroad focus were two interesting visits.

The first was a visit to the library not long after my Mom took me to the new Rosedale, Maryland library when I was young to get my very own library card. I think the second or third book I checked out was Silver San Juan. Never imagined that  a railroad like the Rio Grand Southern existed. Keep in mind, around me were the B&O, Penn Central, and Western Maryland. Narrow gauge, that was a whole new experience. I remember looking through the stock train section. Had no idea that cows and sheep moved by train, never saw a stock car before! And the “Galloping Geese”, they absolutely fascinated me. I remember asking my Mom if we could check out the book again when we returned it, but someone else had placed a hold. Got a chance to check it out one other time before we moved in 1978. When I found a reasonably priced like new copy on e-Bay several years ago I bought it. First section I looked through was the stock runs.

The second pivotal event was a visit to the East Broad Top Railroad during one of the Winter Spectaculars. I had never seen narrow gauge in person before. I remember it being a cold day, but riding behind one of the EBT’s Mikados was an adventure. An even more thrilling ride was later in the day when my Dad and I rode on the M-1. What a ride. I have taken my kids back to the EBT several times to ride the trains during the Fall Spectaculars. The Winter Spectaculars stopped a while ago. The kids loved the train rides, especially in the caboose cupola.

My first narrow gauge railroad in HOn3 was a coal hauling Appalachian railroad. Used all EBT engines. Was not your typical around and around. It was a switching layout with mines scattered throughout, a switchback, three way stubs switches. Even tried vertical curves. The railroad had lots of little scenes that you could view from interesting angles. Thinking back, was trying to create those very rural spots where one would find a narrow gauge train at work. Never finished my HOn3 railroad, but I still have some photos and always the memories. The HOn3 was sold off many years ago in favor of larger scale narrow gauge in Sn3 and On2. One lesson learned was that HOn3 was difficult to use to do the very slow switching I like and my light hoppers tended to derail a lot. The jump to Sn3 was fun, but there has never been the same amount of EBT equipment in Sn3.

When I read Mike’s  The Essentials post on his blog, I really sat down and thought a lot about what got me into model railroading, narrow gauge, and what made that HOn3 layout so much fun. Switching, rural scenes, small towns, and of course narrow gauge. Boiled down to the bare bones those are the essential components of model railroading for me. For several years I have been trying to fit an Sn3  layout, the Copper City branch of the Colorado, Rio Grande & Southern into my basement and leave room for my Maine 2 foot interests. After a lot of thought this summer, I thought of what got me hooked on narrow gauge model railroading. Small towns, rural scenes, and switching. In the middle of my gigantic attempt of the Copper City branch was the “midpoint” of the branch. It did not have a name but was a blend of Brown and Vance Junction. I took a look at that one spot and thought when will I have a chance to build this giant dream layout, why not this one spot. The daily Copper City mixed will stop here to at least get coal and water before it moves on, and if the season is Fall, then the stock yard will be a busy place to switch. This one spot was very much a “buildable model railroad”. The entire Copper City branch was the proverbial eyes were bigger than your stomach type of model.


6 thoughts on “What brought you to Model Railroading?

  1. Matt,

    thanks for the heads up on Mike Cougill’s “Essentials”, which is up there with Trevor Marshall’s “Marley’s Chains” in terms of thought provoking articles about modelling,


  2. I myself got into trains when I went to Pennsylvania (1966) from Los Angeles by train. I’ve been a fan since, making my own buildings, bridges, water towers, etc., etc.

  3. My inspiration for getting back into model railroading was the discovery of the Kalmbach book “Bridges and Buildings for Model Railroads” in our local lending library here in the UK as a teenager in the gap after first public exams.

    The book opened up a view of a completely different style of modelling to those I was familiar with, and inspired my interest in American trains and the American style of modelling.

    Fast forward 20 years and a once in a lifetime career opportunity (for me) required me to travel to the Boston and NH areas frequently, and the travel arrangements necessitated weekends “at leisure” in the area, the first of which was spent visiting Bob Werner’s Hobbybarn, Edaville and Mystic Seaport. Further trips to Edaville via the Hobbybarn focussed my American railroad modelling interests onto the Maine Two Footers in O scale, and the B&SR in particular.


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