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

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  • Member since
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  • From: somerset, nj
  • 2,122 posts
Posted by gregc on Tuesday, October 09, 2018 5:32 AM

my mom and uncle told me stories of the Mahanoy Plane used to carry loaded hopper cars up the mountain

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

  • Member since
    April, 2009
  • From: Staten Island NY
  • 1,405 posts
Posted by joe323 on Tuesday, October 09, 2018 6:08 AM

My best friend growing up had an excellent Lionel 0-27 layout and he helped me get started then college came and I left the hobby.

More recently my wife's then little cousin also had Lionel but would play with wooden trains when he would visit us so I not having the space or money for Lionel bought HO and it just took off from there.

Joe Staten Island West 

  • Member since
    June, 2018
  • From: Chicago, IL
  • 18 posts
Posted by Eilif on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 12:08 PM

As a kid I lived near (my building was nearly adjacent to) the tracks in the suburb of "West Chicago" and I had a train set.

As an adult I was drawn back into it by my son's interest in trains (Thomas, than Plarail, then model trains...).  I found I really enjoyed it and am diving in myself. I'm greatly enjoying the many connections to Chicago and the endless opportunities for tinkering.  I have been pleasantly surprised at how affordable the hobby can be for a bargain hunter like myself.

I'm by no means a rivet counter or tied to realism in operation.  However, I am especially drawn to the possibility of running Chicago area trains (mostly 80's to 00's) and modeling a layout based loosely on the built environment of Chicago's west side where I live.

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 9:43 PM

My parents bought me a set of Lionels when I was 5.  I switched to HO at about 12.  I packed them up when I went to college, but always kept them.  40 years later I started again.

I'd been doing computers for decades and discovered I really liked the tactile sensation of doing things with my hands again.  Model Railroading is more "real" than computer modeling.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 702 posts
Posted by PRR8259 on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 10:32 PM

In about 1973, when I was about 5, my father traded in his worn out Lionel trains (he virtually wore them out playing with them) to Lewis English, Sr. at English's Model RR Supply, in Montoursville, PA, for a new HO Mantua Tyco train set.  Lewis, Sr. and his wife, Shirlee, were the ones who had purchased Bowser and a number of other model train manufacturers (eventually more than 22) and assembled them into what is now Bowser Manufacturing.  Their sons eventually took over the company, and the one son is now retired, himself...Mrs. English still works there, now in her 90's.  Lew, Sr. made it to 93.  At the time of his death, my father's old Lionel trains were still in his extensive collection.

I fell in love with model trains, and still enjoy running them today...relaxation and stress relief after my demanding day job.  I spend a lot more time running trains than I actually spend "modeling", though I can build from kits on the rare occasion when I feel like it (typically Kato diesels that take some time to detail).

Through the years, English's Model RR Supply became my "second" home.  By age 12, they refused to wait on me and insisted I could just help myself to whatever in their million plus items and parts age 18 (you are required by PA state law to be 18 to work in a machine shop) I went to work for Bowser during my summers away from college.  I also had the priviledge of waiting on both mail order and retail customers who came literally from all over the world to shop in the train store.

While doing the hot, dirty shop work to produce the metal steam engines, Mr. English would come by at least once a week to strongly encourage me to complete my college engineering degree so that I didn't have to be a lifer in the factory...He was a degreed chemical engineer.

The English family have been the nicest people I ever worked for, and they work hard to assure customers are happy.  I have many fond memories of the days there in the store and the many local customers who became my friends...and I actually sorta miss unloading the truckloads of new Atlas and Stewart engines produced in Japan by Kato, during those years.

Just this week I bought a new old stock Stewart/Kato F-3A PRR engine to replace one identical unit that I once owned.  I absolutely love all the details on the new engines, but they are indeed very expensive and there are more opportunities for manufacturing defects with all the detail and complexity of some of today's models.

Most of my lifelong friends are model railroaders, including one who grew up like I did, just in another train store, that he is now buying and taking over (while retaining all existing sales staff).


  • Member since
    January, 2012
  • 76 posts
Posted by Rangerover1944 on Thursday, October 11, 2018 12:49 PM

born first locomotive was a key wind up metal train, didn't get an electric train until about 1953, Lionel, gee I even got two swithces one right and one left, manually operated of course...I don't know only know the lore of the rails inspired me, we would even see a steam locomotive on occastion watching the cars go by at RR crossings as a kid and waiting for the caboose...lots of stories and song of the hobo's back in those days. Though through all the frustrations of model railroading once married and had my own children had to have that Tyco Chattanooga Steam locomotive at Christmas time, one Christmas I didn't put it back in the attic with the rest of the decorations...nailed it down on a 4x8 sheet of plywood and went from there....hey still got the Old Tyco loco from the 70's, and it still works....well I put it away after divorce but kept it, before retiring 12 years ago I started buying all kinds of stuff, wow was I surprised when the train hobby store I visited showed me DCC, I couldn't believe it how far this hobby has come, I was sold immediately...well I bought the Bachmann EZ Command first and learned if I lied a little bit, I found a way around JMRI and Decoder Pro...I got it to work...I was amazed learning the CV language of DCC....but I wanted to expand and bought the 5 Amp booster from Bachmann but that's as far as you can expand that DCC system....I did a ton of research for the next 5 or 6 years and expanding my layout and it's 25' X 11', 4' off the floor and with a subway below. Always adding this and tearing down that, installing decoders in analog locomotives and swapping out plastic wheels for metal...all those couplers from the old hook horn to Kaydee still got some old steel and brass rails, but keep it clean enough I don't have any issues running DCC, and no the steel track hasn't rusted in 12 years, my subway is all steel Bachmann EZ Track including the turnouts, live in the mountains of West Virginia where I retired to from NJ...yea I know the disdain some folks have for steel and brass, but most on the top portion is NS, though I do have some snap switches that need replaced with proper turnouts of NS...lots of machines of Tortois under my layout, I've got 60 swithes and turnouts on my entire layout...about 2 years ago I did buy the NCE throttle but use it mostly for programming at this time, I do love that system and eventually will expand it with a booster and sell my Bachmann stuff on eBay or give it to a kid in the neighborhood...hey cheaper than a therapist, this model railroading...and most of the trees about a 1,000 I figure I made myself and even scratch built some buildings and trestles, love the hobby, keeps me out of trouble at 74 years of age, impresses the ladies too


  • Member since
    October, 2003
  • From: Northern California
  • 132 posts
Posted by softail86mark on Saturday, October 13, 2018 2:50 PM

1960. 7 years old. Dad put a 4x4 twice around on layaway at Steve's Hobby Shop. Santa Fe warbonnet freight set. We added to it over the years. Put in a yard and extra loop.

Plus, Espee switched Kellogg's and Continental Can (among others) just blocks away all day and night. 

Turns out the line near our place was the old South Pacific Coast narrow gauge line from Alameda to Santa Cruz. 

I was, as they say, "HOOKED!!"

WP Lives

  • Member since
    October, 2018
  • 3 posts
Posted by Floridian on Sunday, October 14, 2018 10:24 AM

I grew up fascinated by trains. Spent years in places like Spain or Cuba, riding steamers and bullet trains.

The connection is weird, but one day back in 2010, I got my bicycle and a camera and started doing bike touring around Florida. Soon, it became my hobby. Every weekend going to new places and discovering lots of hidden gems and stories. By  2016, I had visited 36 counties, rode thousands of miles and had a blog about my adventures and the history of every single place I went to. The railroad was always a key part in the early development of most of the communities along my routes. Henry Flagler, Henry Plant, the Florida East Coast, Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line... Always there.

Then, one day was time to finally go to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami, that for one reason or another, was always postponed.

Man!!!! That was the the day!

Now I'm out of shape, gaining a lot of weight and happily running trains.

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 579 posts
Posted by Howard Zane on Sunday, October 14, 2018 12:07 PM

There were several driving forces that brought me into the hobby.....early Lionel set, Dad's huge O gauge layout, two uncles who ran steam and often riding with them.....and mostly the works of John Allen which introduced me to the seemingly endless artistic possibilities. It is the art, and not operations or electronics that captured my attention and certainly interests, although I realized early on how important eletronics were to grow into the hobby. Operations? Not so much, but I do love running the trains in a realistic manner.

I mentioned art....well if it is a challenge you seek, here is an art form with at least six and possibly more dimensions.....beginning with #3 which is the relief, then operation, sounds, oders, and others I have not yet discovered, but I'm quite sure are there.

Note: I think that just about every skill a youngin' or even a dinosaur like me will need to successfully navigate life may be found in this hobby and then some!


Howard Zane
  • Member since
    January, 2015
  • From: Southern California
  • 1,351 posts
Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Monday, October 15, 2018 6:31 PM

I do it mostly because I like the models. I always built models and with a model railroad I can have one place for (almost) all of my models.


Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
  • Member since
    November, 2013
  • 1 posts
Posted by KENT J AUGHE on Thursday, October 18, 2018 8:28 AM

I grew up 150 yards from PRR main in Kokomo, In. Dad built wooden steps to the top of the fence, so I could see the trains, before I could even remember! I could hear those 567 prime movers whining  while switching at night. I had a wind-up steamer at age 4. Then 027 (Burlington GP7) at age 7, then N scale after I was married. Still N 46 years later!

  • Member since
    October, 2011
  • From: Cannington, Ontario
  • 110 posts
Posted by arvanlaa on Thursday, October 18, 2018 11:45 AM
At my local library, they sell used books and magazines. When I was much younger, probably, 13 or so, there was the 1996 December issue of Model Railroader on the sale shelf. I fell in love with it there and to this day, it is the one piece of published material that I never get bored of looking over again and again :) I wish MR had the same bulk it did back then but c'est la vie.
  • Member since
    January, 2005
  • From: New England
  • 6,169 posts
Posted by Jumijo on Thursday, October 18, 2018 1:21 PM

I had a dream that a large, green head kept saying "I think you'd really enjoy model trains". When I woke up, I wanted to be a model railroader.

Modeling the Baltimore waterfront in HO scale

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