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How did you get interested in trains/model railroading and why do you it?

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How did you get interested in trains/model railroading and why do you it?
Posted by Harrison on Friday, October 05, 2018 12:25 PM

Just wondering.


Homeschooler living In upstate NY a.k.a Northern NY.

Modeling the D&H in 1978.

Route of the famous "Montreal Limited"

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, October 05, 2018 12:33 PM

My Dad gave me a Lionel train for Christmas 1945 and I was hooked for life on model railroading.  I switched from 0-27 three rail to HO in 1951 and still going strong at 81.
My Model Railroad   
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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Friday, October 05, 2018 2:28 PM

My dad used to take my older brother and me to the train station to watch trains on Saturdays when I was able to walk. Christmas 1963 Santa brought me a Marklin starter set and I have stayed with the hobby ever since, although not always active. Once the bug has bitten ...

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by jdr3366 on Friday, October 05, 2018 2:32 PM
Ditto. Dad in 1950 with 027, now HO (on my 4th layout).
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Posted by Attuvian on Friday, October 05, 2018 2:56 PM

There will be lots of "dad" dittos here.  Mine got me Lionel O guage for Christmas when I was seven or eight, then added to it annually and for birthdays for about three years.  Probably tipped off to do so that frst year by learning that I was always urgent to go watch the NYC line that crossed my street a block away.

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Posted by dknelson on Friday, October 05, 2018 2:57 PM

My parents (in common with many Americans at the time, perhaps because the trains were almost certain to be on time?) would drive or walk to watch the fast passenger trains go by - in this case the C&NW 400.  Now, they did this with my older sister too and she has little or no interest in trains.  Maybe the difference was the Marx wind up train I got at a very early age, when I was even too young for Lionel.  Lionel came at age 5.  

Dave Nelson 

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Posted by snjroy on Friday, October 05, 2018 3:29 PM

As a kid raised in the '70s, I asked Santa to get me the "cool" military train (Cox) that I saw in the Sears catalogue. She (mom took care of the presents) granted my wish.  I still like playing God with miniature things that move around in a miniature land.


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Posted by BATMAN on Friday, October 05, 2018 4:03 PM

The RR was part of everyday life as someone was always coming or going and we were always at the station picking up or dropping off.

Another big factor was the historical factor as railways are ingrained in the history of so many countries around the world and I enjoy learning about that. There are some FB groups that have some pretty knowledgeable model railroaders on them as far as the rest of the world goes. I like to lurk and learn.

Dad also helped with the love of trains by always ensuring I had a layout of some sort.Laugh


It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, October 05, 2018 4:08 PM

My Dad was a model railroader and  the hobby became natural.

The why part of your question is easy..I like trains.




“Shut one’s eyes tight or open one’s arms wide, either way, one’s a fool.” Flemeth-the witch of the Wilds.
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Posted by wjstix on Friday, October 05, 2018 4:23 PM

For the first 46 years of my life I lived across the street from a rail line. I didn't know until later that being a railfan was 'optional'.

I've noted before, there are basically two types of model railroaders - those who grew up around trains, and got interested in real trains first and model trains later, and those that started with models (like a train set for Christmas) and got interested in real trains later.

It would be interesting to do a study of the model railroads built by the two 'types' and see if there are differences - does one group do more operating than the other, or is one more into scenery and structures than the other, etc. I would bet there'd be a difference, but can't guess what it would be.

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Posted by Great Western on Friday, October 05, 2018 5:01 PM

I was born within a short distance of a busy railway line and a local station.  For a couple of years I had  moved  but was back there, just a few hundred yards away now. Passneger trains and troop trains plus much wartime freight passed but they were just trains and being too young to know subtle differences and classes of locos. However just post war books became available with lists of locomotives and other details.  This opened up a great interest.

I never did get a model railway set so the big trains were a good substitute.  Later on, moving to another part of England, saw me close - but not close enough - to a railway.  At 171/2 I joined the RAF, which got me seeing and travelling on many railroads, most new to me in parts of the UK I had never been.  Getting a car when I was 19 saw me lose my railroading interest for a few years.  When married, with young sons growing up, model interests resurfaced.  For almost 30 years I amassed a large collection of HO and 00 models.   Some based on the former GWR and others on the SNCF.  I had to make do with research, model railroad magazines, books, maps etc, to satisfy my interest s there never seemed to be anywhere in my home to build the model railway.  Family needs meant everywhere in the house was required with space at a premium.  For almost 20 years I volunteered on a Heritge line which did get me into contact with trains of course.

Some fifteen years or so ago I sold all the railway stuff, invested it in a good pc and printer.  Thanks that move I suddenly discovered garden railroads: American ones, not the smaller, sometimes toy like and quite expensive European ones I had seen in magazines. This was manna from heaven!  Outdoors, there was plenty of room.  My wife was very supportive and  as I had been retired for a few years this was a worthwhile hobby.

Consequently I bought a couple of ten wheelers, passemger and freight stock from Bachmann, but I soon found the erstwhile Aristocraft range.  At the time Bachmann was the Aristo importer so track and stock was easily obtained.  I did buy quite a few items direct from Aristo at Irvington NJ.  So all in all I have a railway of my own and running it is lots of fun.  There is a fair amount of garden maintenance involved but that, together with other garden and honey do's help keep me active.  To complement the American locos and stock I have built, out of thick treated lumber, some distinctly American structures which are not to be seen in the UK.  There is a covered bridge (based on the one in Cedarburg WI), a North American grain elevator (Prairie Sentinel) a red barn and a one roon school house (based on the one at Waubeka WI - where Flag Day originated). I do have a freight depot and a flag stop building. 

Initially, as seems common in the UK, a Rio Grande theme was attempted but I quickly realized that my back yard looked very little like Colorado. Watching web cams at Roanoke VA, Landgraff WVa, Fallston PA helped to re-locate the line to the Shenandoah Valley which is, at least green, as is the UK.

So if you have no room indoors, then consider out doors.  I realize that very hot and very cold (snow!!) conditions are deterring but there is always maintenace of stock and structure building to be done.

Alan, Oliver & North Fork Railroad

If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. Lewis Carroll English author & recreational mathematician (1832 - 1898)

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Posted by angelob6660 on Friday, October 05, 2018 5:19 PM

I was born with it. 

I'm one of the lucky ones. If I get derailed by another hobby/interest goes downhill or boring, railroad brings me back so I'm happy.

Modeling the G.N.O. Railway, The Diamond Route.

Amtrak America, 1971-Present.

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Posted by dirtyd79 on Saturday, October 06, 2018 1:16 AM

I got interested in it because when I was a kid I went to the Carnegie Science Center's Miniature railroad and Village display and thought it 'd be cool to build something like that at home. A year later my parents saw some model trainsets for sale at this one store and I got one for Christmas. I keep doing it because I find it a great way to keep my mind active and I also enjoy building and detailing structures and train cars. I also find operations interesting and it allows me to not just watch the trains but to interact with them.

"The problem is that there are too many stupid people in the world and no one to eat them."- Carlos Mencia
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Posted by OT Dean on Saturday, October 06, 2018 1:42 AM

I was born about 150 yards from the the double-tracked Milwaukee Road main line between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities, just a few miles west of Milwaukee.  While still a baby, we moved to a house only a block away from the tracks, within a village.  The trains were still going slow (45-50mph or so) through our little burg, but I'm told they regularly cracked open the throttles of the Hiawatha locos, steam and Diesel, a few miles outside of town, to really scorch the ballast.  My older brother had a Lionel train layout (an oval with one siding) on a green 4x8' plywood board, that he'd set up on our sun porch in the winter months, where we could catch glimpses of trains roaring by.  He and I were train nuts together until his untimely death, and I still fondly remember him whenever the leaves fall, followed by the white stuff.  If you could be vaccinated against "Railroad Fever," they'd never take me alive!


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Posted by rogerhensley on Saturday, October 06, 2018 7:12 AM

To be brief, my first 'set' was a Marx keywind about 1944. Then to a Max elecric and then another and then another, all Marx. About that time I saw a HO set that filled a small bedroom and with the trains coming through Anderson and the train sets, I was hooked. PS, I'm 79 and have an HO railroad in the basement and supervise 7 layouts at the History Museum.


Roger Hensley
= ECI Railroad - =
= Railroads of Madison County -

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Saturday, October 06, 2018 7:37 AM

It all started when I was a wee lad ... and the rest, as they say, is history.  Nothing to tell really.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

Silly Aspie's, I have NT syndrome

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Posted by Water Level Route on Saturday, October 06, 2018 9:08 AM

Can't remember if it was the Sears or Penney's catalogue,  but flipping through it one year I hit upon the model trains page and was frozen.  I had always liked trains, but for some reason that year (the bug apparently), I was hooked hard without even having one...yet.  Thank goodness for Santa!

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Posted by josephbw on Saturday, October 06, 2018 9:42 AM

When I was in 2nd grade we moved to a house that had a RR track running right down the middle of the street. I remember running outside to watch the engine and short train go down the street at about 2-3 MPH. If you stood still you could feel the ground quiver under your feet. I would walk along side of it, on the sidewalk, for a couple of blocks before I went back home.

This was a B&O branchline coming out of Dayton, Ohio, that was switched 3-4 times a week, I presume depending on demand. They used an 0-6-0 switcher with a whistle that went off at every corner. I used to plug my ears, and the engineer would laugh at me and give me a wave and a big smile.

The train bug remained latent until 1978 when my wife bought me a Chatanooga Choo Choo for Christmas. Then it took off, and is still going strong.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Saturday, October 06, 2018 9:55 AM

My dad bought me a Marx set for Christmas, I was 6.  Less than a year later, he died.

Mom remarried a tenant farmer, and there was no time or money for trains.  I bought a set for my son in 1985, and it rekindled my love of trains.  It ramped up quickly in the late 80's when I watched the Wisconsin Central get started.


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Posted by dstarr on Saturday, October 06, 2018 10:21 AM

It goes way back for me.  Dad brought home a wind up train when I was three.  I can still remember watching it clatter around the dining room table with one of Dad's Camel cigarettes in the stack to provide smoke. And even at three, I loved those Lionel Christmas catalogs.  In those days every thing moved by rail. Every evening's entertainment was driving to the Wayland MA train station to pick up Dad coming home from work.  Wood, open platform, truss rod coaches pulled by a real steam engine.  Dad came thru with a Lionel Scout train set when I was five, and later a magnificent 0-27 freight set with Alco FAs for power.   Things railroad lagged a bit until I had children of my own.  I started an HO layout in the basement, and, after a move, I have a round the walls HO layout in the downstairs guest room.  

  But, times change.  None of my three children (now grown) has the slightest interest in model railroading.  My model railroad club no longer has enough able bodied members to schlep the layout in from the trailer and set it up for the show.  Hardly any trains run anywhere in the state of New Hampshire.


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Posted by Little Timmy on Saturday, October 06, 2018 1:41 PM

I kinda got hit with Model train's , and real train's , at the same time.

My father had a Lionel Santa fe A-B-A tinplate 3 rail set which my Grandfather bought him in 1951 ( I think ? ) So I started out playing with that when I was two year's old.

At the same time, I grew up on my Grandparent's farm in Dilly Oregon. 700 acres with a creek that ran year round. The back pasture was up against Hi-way 47 ( too the Coast ) and on the other side of that was the Southern Pacific mainline.

I always stopped whatever I was doing to watch the train's go by. ( 5 or 6 times a day. The last train of the day alway's went by at 7 PM. )

Needless to say, SP is my Favorite Railroad !

I started building model's when I was 4 ( snap together car's ) and actually was "Gluing" together car's and Airplain's when I turned 6. But in 1975 I got a Tyco Bi-Centenial trainset, and that's when I started building train kit's .

Now , I build "EVERYTHING" ! ( Car's ,Truck's, Ship's , Plain's , Train's , Building's, ECT ... ECT ... )

Why do I do it ?    I'm not really sure. I find it soothing, and there's a connection to History, I guess....

Rust...... It's a good thing !

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, October 06, 2018 6:12 PM

I grew up with very little exposure to real trains.


However, electric train sets, usually Tyco sets in brown boxes, were part of every Christmas. I had an HO layout in garage up until I was about 8. I did not have another layout until I was in High School, by then I was into N scale.


I don't know. Equipment has always fascinated me, not just trains. Operating electric 1/87 trains is probably a lot more fun than operating a dragline in 1/87 scale.


I have also alway love building a miniature world. I have probably built at least 50 military dioramas in my life. Sheppard Payne's book on diorama building was one of my two favorite books in Middle School. The other was the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook.




Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by 7j43k on Saturday, October 06, 2018 6:24 PM

I was apparently genetically inclined to like trains.  Some of my earliest memories are of trains:

getting a tour of a diesel switcher working at the Sears store in LA (age 4-5).  The engineer told me there was a "sandbox" inside.  Yeah, right.  A "sandbox".  I knew engineers were grownups and had to run the engine, not play in a sandbox.

and later riding the Super Chief east (age 5), and being in the obs and watching the semaphores still falling after the train had completely passed.

Etc, etc.

I wanted a model train as soon as I knew they existed.  Didn't happen until I was 14.  But it DID happen one Christmas.  I even got to have some input, and got that big Lionel 4 truck depressed center flat!  I discovered HO (through Model Railroader, at a store) in 1958--GOTTA do THAT!!


And more etceteras until now.



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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, October 06, 2018 7:06 PM

It's all my dad's fault!

 April_RR_C&O2707 by Edmund, on Flickr

I'm the guy in the white shoes!


 EJT_EBT_20 by Edmund, on Flickr

...and again at the East Broad Top.

He would take me to Collinwood Yard near our neighborhood to watch the N.Y.C. RR switch cars and move many locomotives around the roundhouse and shops.

One day a crew stopped near the pedestrian stairway and the engineer hollered up to me on the landing "Hey kid! You wanna' ride?" I bound down those stairs two-at-a-time (as I recall).

Well, thhat sold me! The engineer let me work the throttle of the ex NY, O & W 117, NYC #9512. I was hooked.

Wasn't long before I was "hitchin' " rides at every opportunity.

 IMG_0012-1 by Edmund, on Flickr

A great hobby, indeed!

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by Little Timmy on Saturday, October 06, 2018 7:07 PM

Sheppard Payne's book on diorama building was one of my two favorite books in Middle School.

The other was the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook.

I had the Dungeon master's guide .....

My friend's and I would set up our miniature warriors on my layout.

Rust...... It's a good thing !

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Posted by cedarwoodron on Saturday, October 06, 2018 9:49 PM

My first exposure to trains, at 3 or 4 years old, was one of those wooden track and train toys by Brio- made in Denmark back then.

I then got a Lionel train set at age 6 and when I discovered HO at a local hobby shop at age 11, my dad got me an Athearn HI Train set for 1965 Christmas. From there I stayed with HO all these years and treasure also the time my grandfather and father spent with me going to watch real trains. Perhaps it's partly a psychological thing but I get great visual enjoyment from watching trains today just as I did when I was a child. To me today , fall and winter is train season even though I live in Florida now. As a kid I used to walk about a mile from my dad's store to the local hobby shop on a cold winter Saturday, but no matter how bad the weather I was warmed by having purchased a new Athearn BB car kit or some Atlas track for my layout. 


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Posted by Track fiddler on Saturday, October 06, 2018 11:24 PM

I grew up near an almost Wildlife Refuge area in the middle of the city before we moved to Northern Minnesota.  This was a place where my friends and I spent all of our time. Time when not in school or home doing chores.

The only way I can describe this place is a Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn type of Escape we all went to.

This place had Swamps, it had reeds, snakes, skinks. Sometimes it had rats you could kick with your boots and kill. It had small groups of Woods and fields. In the fall the cattails would explode into puffs in the damp marsh area known as Pillow Land.  This whole place had bike trails that we made.

We had a very old Timber Trestle. This Trestle was so many decades older than us but we never gave it a thought, it really didn't matter.   Anytime walking up to Her was like walking up to an Old Friend, welcoming us. The sweet smell of creosote, and a good place to escape the Sun.

We had a chocolate factory. This chocolate factory was very close behind The Trestle. The mixture of chocolate and creosote was a strong richness to our noses, it was like the smell of candy.

The factory workers would put two gallon can pallets of chocolate and caramel out on the loading docks to cool. I never remember seeing delivery trucks loading them. I just remember smelling the air. On one occasion one of the workers having a smoke break waved us in and gave us some dented cans of chocolate syrup. We all ate a lot of ice cream after that to use it up.

Then there was the Green Machines. Green Machines named by us.  They ran everyday, all day on the three main lines. I knew where they're coming from. I just didn't know where they were going. My friends and I really didn't care about that either, we just enjoyed watching them.

Burlington Northern going to the steel mills with the Duluth taconite pellet drags at the time of the steel boom, I put that together at a later date.

Back then we just picked up the fallen ones. They worked great in our slingshots and wrist Rockets. This was one of the few important things to us back then.

Not a care in the world.  My friends and I just loved watching trains. I still do to this day.

This is why I Model Railroad.

              Wink Track Fiddler



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Posted by U-3-b on Sunday, October 07, 2018 6:26 AM

I don't know if it is my blood or not.  My grandpa was a railroader retiring with 50 years under his belt.  He took me for a ride on the South Shore when I was three and I still remember it well even though it was over fifty years ago.   Family yearly visits to the Museum of Science and Industry just so I could see the layout, the Burlington Pioneer Zephyr and the submarine, convinced my parents that something was wrong with me.  I really liked trains!

My cousin gave me her Lionel set when I was 7 and I got something every Christmas until I was 17 or 18 to expand my empire, then I guess my parents tired of me building my huge layouts covering all available floor in the basement, which was also my dad’s workshop and the laundry room.  The next Christmas I got a HO set and that is what I switched to completely. 

With college, moves with the job and life in general I have never had more than a 4x8 layout and have nothing for quite some time now, but I have been amassing cars and engines and designing layouts on paper and in my head for many years waiting for the last move and the basement to build my dream layout.

I narrowed my focus while I was in my early 20’s and have got rid of much of what has not reason for being in a layout centered in the summer of 1953.  I am working on a large community layout in a museum in the town I live in now to keep me from building something that I will just have to tear down when I move next, which I hope is soon.

I’ll have to get back to Science and Industry sometime to see the layout and I know the Zephyr and the U-boat are inside now.  


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Posted by NVSRR on Sunday, October 07, 2018 6:46 AM

My first was the classic lionel set    My grandfathers 6110 set.    I also got one christmass the working on the railroad lionel kids set.   I wish i had his original set but i did get the 6110 a couple years ago.


decades later, and many layouts later, It has been   All up grade since then.  

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

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Posted by dh28473 on Monday, October 08, 2018 1:49 PM
I allways liked trains used to sit at my desk watching alcos go past my school. When my son was about 3 or 4 the wife asked what i wanted for christmas an i said a train set so i bought one and went from there.

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