I thought I would add a few thoughts and comments on the joys of model railroading, regardless of scale, size of layout, freelance or prototype, and expense. Of course, I am a bit prejudicial towards HO scale!
My love for the hobby stems from several factors. One, my father loved trains, although he never would admit it. I remember his grumblings about being transported during WWII after the Battle of the Bulge back to their camp in Mourmelon le Petit in old WWI 40×8 boxcars known as “horse cars”. On top of that, he rode cross country on a troop train to the docks in New York City for the voyage over to England. I knew he loved trains due to the fact my first train layout was at age five, an American Flyer train set I found around the Christmas tree that Christmas morning. Another fact is my father took me “railfanning” at the young age of six, trackside at the well known Winton Place station in that suburb of Cincinnati, right down the hill from where we lived, and right up the street from where he worked. My first images I remember were of NYC Baldwin Sharks and B&O E and F units. I remember fondly one particular moment when a friendly engineer gave a serious of toots to “shave and a haircut” to me one day after waving to him.
Another reason for loving the hobby is my not only then riding passenger trains all my life, up to and including Amtrak, but working for a railroad as a brakeman/conductor. This of course lead to photographing anything rail related, collecting, including a still growing collection of rail publications and books, volunteer work at a local well known rail and model railroad museum, and finally, belonging to two model railroad clubs.
The hobby, like railroading, seems to get in the blood. Sure, when younger, I enjoyed playing sports, then playing video and computer games, shooting and blowing up all the enemies I could. I guess you seem to outgrow the computer games, but railroading is something else. I also loved to fish to relax, spending hours sitting along a farm pond in Ohio or Kentucky waiting for that bobber to move. I now relax spending three to four hours running trains on my layout.
Which brings me to another point, and that is, you don’t need to spend twenty-thousand dollars, nor have a 50 x 90 foot double or triple deck layout to have fun, and a great, satisfying, relaxing time. I have read that comment, and take exception to it for sure. I also don’t need ten operators and a dispatcher, along with tons of written forms to have fun either. I have as much fun spending 3-4 hours running trains on my 4×8 layout, with just using a modified waybill system. On a small switching type layout as mine, 3-4 hours goes by quite quickly. And….my layout is set up for two operators. For those modelers who do have this type of room to build, or who desire a huge layout, more power to you. This is NOT to knock these modelers at all, as I’ve visited and have ran trains on some of the most beautiful large layouts there are in this country. My comments are simply to note if you’re just beginning in this hobby, or just getting back into the hobby, you don’t need a room-size layout to be content.
To be sure, I have plans to slightly extend my layout someday as well, with the word “slightly” being key here. I still would not, and could not, extend the layout into a huge room-size layout. My plan would be to expand the layout off my “DB Tower interchange”, to extend over to the ex-Virginian yard at Elmore to use as basically my staging yard, and of course, to “take” trains moving further eastward. My other front corner would include the addition of a petro-chemical complex to add more tracks for more tankers, along with a scrapyard. Hopefully my plans can come to fruition someday, so stay tuned, you never know!!
My bottom line is this: if you have plans to build a layout, do so. But remember, a small shelf type layout, a small 4×8 or 5×10 can be just as exciting to build and operate as a huge museum or basement size layout. If you have one of these and enjoy it, that’s all good as well. The bottom line is to relax, enjoy the facets of model railroading you enjoy, and have fun….