What made you realize model trains were more than just toys?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by nachoman, Jul 9, 2008.

  1. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I've had model trains for almost as long as I can remember. But when I was a kid, I didn't understand the different types of locomotives or cars, different eras, or that there was much more on the market than what was sold at the department or toy store.

    I remember the neighbor kid had a layout of probably 10x16, that I thought was huge and absolutely cool. It really had no scenery, just plywood and a spaghetti-bowl trackplan from one of the Atlas books. And he had plenty of the "accessories" that I would see at the toy store up the street. The crossing gates that rarely worked, the grass-mat scenery, flashing light bridges and the like.

    The park up the road had a model railroad club with display windows, and what I remembered as an enourmous HO layout. There were also 3-rail O gauge layouts and an n-scale club. But somehow, I didn't view those layouts as being much different than what I had at home. Just bigger and more complete.

    Then when I was 12, I read my first issue of Model Railroader. There was an article inside about a club layout somewhere in Michigan. To me, the photographs in the article looked absolutely like prototype trains, and I suddenly realized that my models could be much more than an F-7 pulling a ragtag bunch of cars around a loop.

    I've looked at that same article since, and that club layout in Michigan really isn't any better than many of the layouts built by Gauge members. I think what made me realize that trains could be models was the photographs depicting the scene close-up, as a miniature observer would see it. Somehow, viewing the trains from a different angle convinced me.

    So what was it for you? What convinced you that model trains were more than "round the christmas tree" toys?

  2. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Well, I shared my Dad's MRR hobby when I ran model trains with him as a child. Then, about 5-6 years ago, I started taking my own sons to real-life heritage railways, simply as family outings. That's when the "bug bit" and jump-started my railway/MRR "heritage" and I starting building our own layout. I say that's when I fully realized they were not just toys! Rob
  3. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    What made you realize model trains were more than just toys?

    When they started moving by themselves, and started costing more than the contents of my entire toy box for a single piece. :rolleyes:
  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I see it more as a continuous spectrum of various shades of realism - Lionel O27 at one end, and Proto48 or Proto87 at the other. Same with layouts - some are more realistic than others. But in the end, regarless of where on the relaism spectrum the model trains fall, they are all really toys with little other purpose than to express ourselves and enjoy.

    I, too, was introduced to more realistic modeling through Model Railroader. But because of Model Railroader my first few layouts were attempts to model other layouts, not the prototype. Now that I know better (??), I try to focus on modeling my imaginary prototype. But I still enjoy playing with Lionel and other 3 rail O trains, too.

    my thoughts, yours may differ
  5. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    I actually don't know. I was exposed to Model Railroader since... I don't know. My family probably had them before I could read, though I was the first child and my parents weren't railfans.

    So it would've been a gradual process, not a realization, and it occurred before I got my first actual models - I know I was discontent with what I was doing as "too toyish".
  6. riverotter

    riverotter Midwest Alliance Rail Sys

    For several years as a kid I had an American Flyer train set that we only brought out at Christmas time. I pestered my parents so much to "get out the train set" for any plausible occasion that the Christmas when I was 11, instead of the pair of switches I had asked for for the AF set my parents gave me an HO train set - 0-6-0T steam locomotive, about a dozen freight cars, and enough track to build a 4' x 6' layout. My dad had cut down a piece of 4x8 plywood, braced it and put legs on it out in the garage ... and that's where I "lived" for about the next four years (until girls and guitars became higher priorities :rolleyes:). Even though my layouts were all "variations on the oval theme", I can remember making up stories about what was in the tank cars and box cars and gondolas, and where the trains were going to and from, etc. I had lots of spurs and "industry" buildings for the freight cars. So I'd have to say that Christmas when I was 11 was when I recognized that the AF train set was a "toy" (nothing derogatory there), and the HO train set was "a model train".
  7. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    We always had the Lionel A-B-A and 2 or 3 cars running in a circle around the X-Mas tree... This was until I was 10 or 11. When I was 24, I got re-interested in trains..

    I had an HO set.. and my friends got involved, we started looking for layout designs.

    I realized the configurations of layouts and how difficult you can actually make operations :eek::eek: They don't have to just go in circles :mrgreen::mrgreen::mrgreen:

    So now, I have G and 1:20.3 and they uhhh pretty much go in circles :confused::confused:sign1
  8. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    On a serious note, if I can still manage that, anything like that goes beyond being a toy when`the individual becomes more interested in appearance and/or performance that in just playing with it.

    There are people who fight entire wars with "toy" soldiers on a scale that puts model railroading to shame, and there are model railroaders who combine that with "toy soldiers" to make huge outdoor layouts in 1/8th scale.

    It's whatever melts your butter.
  9. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    It was Model Railroader articles about the V&O layout that did it for me.

  10. Kevinkrey

    Kevinkrey Member

    When I realized that I just spent $100 on a loce that needed a $40 decoder and $20 worth of detail parts, and a few $100 worth of freight cars to go behind it, and than I needed another loco because I had too many cars, and the bachman ex track carpet layout was to small and unrealistic, but the 4x12' layout became boring, and.............

    Well, youve all been there and know what I mean right?:rolleyes:
  11. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    When I walked into my first hobby shop, M.B. Klein's in Baltimore. They had a showcase near the front door full of locomotives. One stood out in particular, Rivarossi's SP Cab Forward, at the princely sum of $89.99. The detail was amazing to me at the time, the silver band across the nose...sweet. Though I had been thumbing through MRs since I was 8 at the public library, the hobby clicked in my brain pretty hard at that moment. I was 14 and financially in the twilight zone, never able to afford it but I gots one now...

  12. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    Well, I suppose I got my start, as so many of us have, with a Lionel O-27 set as a youngster. That actually expanded into a rather extensive layout in my parents' basement. Somewhere along the line, I started reading, not just MR, but Trains Magazine, too, and realized that there was something called "scale" model railroading. I also spent some time with the local station agent in the town where my Aunt and Uncle had a farm and I would go in the summer. This encouraged my interest in the real thing. Then I went off to college, and my interest in railroads diminished, although it never really went away, even during four years in the Air Force. After I got out of the service and settled where I am now, in Upstate New York, my interest re-awakened a bit and I attended our local Railfair. I got interested again and joined the Cornell Railroad Historical Society/Cornell Chapter NRHS. The next thing I knew, I was running the Railfair! I was also elected National Director for the Chapter and started attending Board meetings. Along the way, I started amassing rolling stock, much of it for the New Haven, which was the road I most "experienced" during earlier years. At this point, I still don't have a layout on which to run all that rolling stock; but I have plans in my head. I guess my main interest, though, is more in the real thing. While I am no longer National Director of my Chapter, I have "advanced" to the post of Regional Vice President of the NRHS, with responsibility for about ten Chapters in upstate New York and even one in Quebec.
  13. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Ironically posed in front of a pawn shop...:rolleyes:
  14. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Aye, but a very cool one. It was built for me by an online friend as part of a model exchange. It's fully detailed inside and out and lit up like a Christmas tree. The name was a playful poke at me, I'm an LSU fan, he a faithful---if not somewhat disappointed---Buckeye fan. A great reminder of some of the neat folks one runs into in the hobby.


  15. I was 12 and my mom took me to a used book sale at the library. I picked up a worn copy of Model Railroader & poured through the issue over and over again, amazed by the beautiful detail work and highly crafted models. It was the 10/91 issue with an article wrapping up Dean Freytag's article on scratchbuilding a coke plant, focussing on the rolling stock that really caught my eye. I still have it, sans cover (and pretty ratty).
  16. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    My dad's On3 trains he'd run back and forth on his 2'x2" layout. His grandt line porter moved so much smoother than anything I've seen since (it has a coreless motor). It also helped to have his super detailed freight cars sitting there...a world apart from my first Life Like trainset!
  17. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I started with a Marx set but for some reason I couldn't ignore the fact that very few real trains had only four wheels on each car. My used Lionel set was a step up but the proportion of the car body to the size of the trucks just didn't do it. And then somewhere I came across a MR magazine and like many others, noticed that scenery and scale do make a difference.

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