A look back at my time in the hobby (An essay)

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by LIRR, Jan 11, 2005.

  1. LIRR

    LIRR Member

    Dec 20, 2004
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    Writing is one of my hobbys and a recent discovery of pictures of my old layouts inspired me to write this.

    Humble beginnings (1995 to 1996)

    We all start somewhere. My start was a 4x8 sheet of plywood; my memories of the layout are hazy. A simple loop worked its way around the sheet of plywood, its scenery was Life-like ground cover, and there was a station, a water tower and not much else. The power was cheap toy engines that resembled some kind of cheap lithograph painting, shiny, plastic and loud! Sweet Jesus they we’re loud! You could hear the shiny Santa-Fe F7 winding through the plywood landscape throughout the entire downstairs. After seeing the disadvantage of using a bed in the playroom as a base, my father decided to take the railroad underground…. So to speak.

    Of mountains, snow scenes and light up water towers. (1996 to1998)

    This is the one, my only layout I have fond memories of. The first was a hazy early start into this hobby we call model railroading, the 3rd was a plywood empire that never got much past anything, but more on that later. This layout was the catalyst that propelled an interest into an obsession. The layout was a 4x8 with 2-foot wide, 3-foot long extension at the top near the wall; the extension housed a snow-capped mountain that cast a looming presence over Bedford (The name on the Life-like light up water tower) yard.
    A track held up by Atlas track risers punched into the mountains at each end traveling around the 15’’ curves before popping out the other end, pounded over a bridge and went down the grade to the other end of the layout before coming back up again to repeat the process. The bottom line was a simple loop with 2 sidings that went right to the back of the layout, the train would pass the yard go along a straight, take the 18’’ curve, hit another straight, rumble past an IHC station and head into the tunnel, ah the tunnel. A grayish plaster monolith that dominated the side of the layout closest to the wall, right before the curve the train would pop out and take a curve next to a wonderful rock out cropping (Probably the best looking thing on the layout) head off the curve, under one of the mountain lines bridges. Then run through an area dressed with snow, In the shadow of the great mountain, under another mountain line bridge, past the yard and the repeated the process.
    My Conrail GP-38 circled the layout for hours, working its way towards plywood and plaster oblivion. The yard was the focal point of the layout, seeing as that’s where I sat and where I was looking, a 3rd siding was added, it led to an IHC engine house where a section of dead-track held a Bachman tank engine, the sidings held rolling stock that did not track well, lines of cars extending all the way to the curve at the rock outcropping.
    I saw a John Allen photo where a line of wheel sets sat on a siding, flanked by track hands. I wanted this on my layout. I ripped the wheels off my broken and derail-prone cars and placed them at the front of the second siding, and placed whatever figures I had around them. It looked like the best thing ever to my 9-year-old mind. The mighty Gorre was being recreated on my sheet of plywood! If I looked at it now, I would probably complain about the ballasted but roadbed less track, the elevated sections of track would look like rubbish to me, the snow area would never fit into what I consider realistic. My mind was un-corrupted then. All I wanted was to play with my trains. All that remains of that layout is its baseboard being used as a piece of attic floor in the garage, sometimes I go into the garage, look up and remember a simpler time. Back when trains ruled my entire being, I talked about them all day, I thought about them, I spent entire days in the basement In the shadow of the mountain, My eyes looking out on Bedford yard.

    In the shadow of a fallen empire (1999-2001)

    My father, seeing my complete obsession with everything trains thought I needed a bigger layout, and thus the Plywood Central was born, The old layout was torn down, its buildings and track saved, the mountain was saved. We played on making a Christmas display someday with it. The layout was a big C shape, 2 lines. One with 18’’ radius curves and the other with 22’’ radius curves, the bottom track snaked its way past out of scale plywood over passes under the upper line. The upper line featured an impressive stone bridge that my father built out of balsa wood, while out of scale, was amazing. Initial scenery was done in some areas, but the layout was a giant false start.
    Life got in the way, my interest in trains waned and my little brothers grubby hands reeked havoc on what ever scenery we had done. I floated in and out of the hobby until a change in living conditions forced the what-could-have-been central to abandon its right of way and tare down its bridges. Right before the area where the layout was became my now room we had finished the yard and begun scenery again. Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.

    Armchair modeling, false hope and a new beginning. (2001-Present)

    After the basement was taken over by 2 rooms, trains fell by the wayside. The remains of the mighty Bedford and the weak Plywood Central stayed boxed up in a corner of my room. Waiting for their chance to once again ride the rails. In august 2001 we took a family trip to Strasburg PA, mainly because of my little brothers Thomas the tank engine obsession.
    It was a great little trip. Strasburg is my favorite vacation spot. I’d love to go back this summer. But this trip was different. This is when the plans for the Gregory and Williamsburg were born, a 2-foot wide shelf layout that would run along one wall of my room, point to point. With industries in the middle, It was not a good plan and, if put into action probably have ended up with the same fate as the Plywood Central. My interest in trains began to fade again. My other hobbies, computers and collecting action figures took the spotlight away from my trains. 2002-2004 is a real limbo period; I showed no interest towards trains. About some time during the middle of the summer I started to show interest once more. Reading Trains.com and this site could this be a new beginning? Maybe.
    My brother received his first electric trains for Christmas this year and is getting a layout. The layout is a springboard for my layout, the Ibana and heathston. My first serious layout, we have a lone corner of the basement to work with, we could probably fit the Turtle Creek Central track plan into this corner. Maybe. Maybe is the word of the moment. Could this be the second coming of the Bedford? Or another disappointment in the shape of the PC? Clouded the future is.

    Hot damn! Has it been a whole ten years? I’ve been watching trains go in circles for a whole decade! Well that’s ten. Here’s to ten more.
  2. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    Jun 18, 2002
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    Never too early to start a memoir! :) I imagine many of us can relate to stories of layouts that lost their luster, and interest in model railroading that waxes and wanes. It always seem to be a question of balancing the hobby with the rest of one's life and gaining experience to make the hobby even more enjoyable. Best wishes on your latest layout plan!
  3. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    Dec 18, 2004
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    I had forgotten about my old layouts until I read your essay. Hmmm? I, for one, have had other interest too and over the years some new hobbys like Scale Model RC Warships with on board BB guns, comes along and off we go. The best thing about Model Railroading is that you don't have to find someplace to play. You don't have to find suitable water, or a landing field (RC planes) or a track (RC cars), etc,etc,etc. You find some place in your home or apartment and go on line to www.the-gauge.com.