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Model Railroading Hobby

model_train2A hobby interest that has been in my blood since my age was in the single digits. My parents bought me an American Flyer (brand) train set at that age. I still have that train set today. I like it because it had two rails rather than the non-prototype 3 rail (and larger size) popular Lionel (brand) train sets of that era.

Much later I discovered it is considered “S” scale and gage. That was after becoming more interested in trains as a hobby rather than just a toy.

A permanent train table was set up in my bedroom with the American Flyer train set always on display and ready to run. The room was very large so there was plenty of space. That layout (as a display such as this is called) stayed in place until I got married after active duty in the Navy.

My second home which was purchased after the kids were born, had a very large basement. A large HO scale/gage layout (folded double dogbone) was built in it that got to the point of being able to run trains on all tracks. It was cut up and given away after moving to New Hampshire, then Texas.

Never had the time to start up another new layout as I was working almost constantly for the next nearly 30 years. Lots of travel and all that “important” stuff.

An “armchair” relation has been maintained with the interest even though I am not practicing the construction part of the hobby.

A large live steam locomotive construction project has been started in my metal working machine shop. That is my back-in-touch effort. It has stalled and is on hold, just waiting to get re-started. There is much guilt about that stall out.

The construction on that locomotive project was started because it is the construction that is the enjoyment. The finished locomotive is a goal but not the primary one. What has been done so far was totally enjoyable and worth the time spent.

There is a special road to somewhere well paved with all my intentions and interests in making things. When I get to the end of it I will probably have the most half built toys.

Some people may view that as a character flaw. They fail to understand it is the process (any process) that is the driving force. In a sport hobby like golf, it is the playing of the game that is the hobby. Not the score card at the end of a round.

Every part made in a large machining project is a round of golf. A part completed. Time to enjoy making the next part and enjoy the process again. Finishing the total project just means starting a new one.

Showing off a finished project is always fun if there is an audience that understands. It is always a goal but finishing just a single part to satisfaction feels just as good.

There is sometimes the urge to lay track and build a miniature world of trains. No room here in basement-less Texas for an indoor layout, so that serves as an excuse not to try. Of course where there is a strong enough will, there is a way. Much study and thought has been expended to a garden style outdoor railroad. If the backyard was fenced and private, there would be a loop of track planted in it somewhere. A real in the weather railroad, but much smaller.

None of this is revenue producing. So it is all 100% expense, spent just for the enjoyment. It is a problem to look at every hobby and try to find a way to make it pay for itself. The entrepreneur spirt makes me think in those terms.

That is the primary excuse when projects go on hold. Always thinking about return on investment. My most current hobby activity involves lost wax casting Silver. That is bringing in enough revenue to more than cover the expense. The wage per hour is paltry but that is not why I do it. I enjoy the creative effort.

That is the same enjoyment of creating a miniature world for running trains. There are so many aspects for the creative aspects. The construction, not the running of trains that is my interest.

Looking at the perfect diorama model, the realism is not the only attraction. It creates thinking of how it was made and the attention to detail required. It’s an engineering mindset but not of the kind that operates the locomotive. It’s an artistic interest.

An artist enjoys the tools and the process more than the finished item. The desire to possess what is created is not the drive. It is all about the creation process. The results are personally admired for a while, then are sold or given away, so another project can be started.

A model train layout can become a bore when considered finished. The hobbyist layout is always a work in progress. Even large club layouts are seldom if ever “finished” to just run trains. Clubs are about operation, but there always is something tangible being added or improved.

Modular train layout clubs are all about display of members’ creative effort. Modules are three to four foot “sections” of a layout that can be assembled into one big layout.  Each module are private efforts for the most part, then are assembled for “operation” on club day as a display. So many ways to enjoy doing a hobby.

Yeah, like I really NEED to turn up the fire on an old interest. Ha! Not tomorrow…

3 comments to Model Railroading Hobby

  • Scott Lindroth

    Fond memories of my dad’s 1940s-era American Flyer S series train layout. I loved the big controller box with a throttle and clever reverse circuit, the red/green switching lights that could (and did) blister your fingers, the “working” sawmill and coal hopper…

    Even the sheer weight of the engine was impressive!

  • Dan'l

    My steam locomotive could puff real smoke too. They called it “smoke fluid” but it smelled like kerosene…

  • Scott Lindroth

    Yes, I remember the “smoke fluid” and the whistle in the billboard. Not exactly MIT’s TMRC, but it fired the imagination.