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

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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

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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 

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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.

Visit the Chicago Valley Railroad for Chicago Trainspotting and Budget Model Railroading. 

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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. 

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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 inventory...at 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).

John

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Posted by Rangerover1944 on Thursday, October 11, 2018 12:49 PM

born 1944...my 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

 

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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

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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.

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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 electronics 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!

HZ

Howard Zane
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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
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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!

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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.
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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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Posted by joe323 on Thursday, October 18, 2018 2:30 PM

Howard Zane

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 electronics 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!

HZ

 

I seem to recall someone who called MR “kinetic art”.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by Bigjim7 on Thursday, October 18, 2018 3:23 PM
I like model trains because I like to spend money and This hobby is great for that, With the average price of a engine at $200 one has to be quite wealthy to even buy a few. Kidding aside like most my Dad was into it and we had a nice layout when I was young. My Dad loved Hobbies and I guess I inherited that. Its relaxing and love when people young and old come over and Oh and awe over the layout. Make its all worth while.
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Posted by ripvanwnkl on Friday, October 19, 2018 6:35 AM

I'm a really "late bloomer" with model trains.  When I turned 60 and retired from the Air Force, my oldest grandson, a longtime railfan, convinced me to begin modeling with HO, DCC, sound, and EZ track.  We've never looked back for almost 15 years.  

Dave

USAF (Retired)

 

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Posted by Johnnypopper on Friday, October 19, 2018 6:47 AM
I grew up just north of Altoona, PA, about 1/2 mile from the 4-track PRR mainline and only a few miles from the huge Juniata shops and yards. My dad, grandfather, and several uncles all worked for the PRR, and although none were active model railroaders, they all had the Lionel and later HO layouts they would put up around the tree at Christmas time. I just took what they started and went a bit further!
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Posted by Carolina Northern on Friday, October 19, 2018 10:09 AM

I always tell people I got into it for the groupies, but stayed for the huge financial rewards.

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Posted by robert sylvester on Friday, December 14, 2018 2:59 PM

Smile, Wink & Grin The year was 1953, my father was stationed at Camp Tagajo, Japan, second in  command. We lived on a hill, the elementary school was at the bottom. I remember going into shop at Sendai at the Genza Shopping mall and it was right before Christmas. I marvelled at the Japanese marketing and how the stores were decorated, even then they went in for the holidays in a big way. We looked at everything from toys, trains and bikes, what a choice, even sat on Santa's knee and in a broken accent he asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told him.

On Christmas day, there it was under the tree, a Lionel steam train, engine and 4-5 frieght cars and a caboose. Even a village was set up with Christmas houses and snow. That was the day and it went on from there, then in 1960 the big swtch to HO while stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. A Walther's passenger set and a Revell frieght train with two ovals and switches.

It was my father, plus my love of trains, especially passenger, traveling all over the country back then, going from car to car, standing in the vestibule, watching the diagphram sliding over each other as you went from car to car. Eating in the diner, great food, sleeping in a roomette at night. I truly miss that form of travel. We could have it again in my opinion. Not just Amtrak but private lines, cris-crossing the nation just like the days before.

The younger generation has no idea what they missed, needs to come back again.

Robert Sylvester

Newberry-Columbia Line, SC

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Posted by mbinsewi on Friday, December 14, 2018 3:07 PM

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

I'm glad I came back to revisit this thread.  I clicked on the picture you posted, and it took me to quite a story, and lots of pictures.  Too bad the video is no more.

Thanks Greg.

Mike.

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Posted by NittanyLion on Friday, December 14, 2018 4:07 PM

I honestly have no recollection.  My dad's dad was a railroader (C&S/CB&Q/BN) and my mom's grandfather was a in-plant railroader at one of the titanic Pittsburgh steel mills that were gone by the time I was around.  I grew up in Butler, and we had three railroads in town at the time and the enormous Pullman/Trinity plant looming over everything.  The main road in an out of town ran along the rolling mills for ARMCO.  Railroads were just everywhere.

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Friday, December 14, 2018 5:28 PM

When my wife was pregnant with out first child in late 1971 I told her we would have to buy a train for the Christmas tree next year after he was born.

Well, she jumped the gun and bought me a Tyco set for Christmas 1971.  The next day on the newstand I found the November 1971 issue of Model Railroader (we were overseas and magazines came late to the PX).  The second day after Christmas the December issue arrived.  The two of them hooked me on the hobby.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by Lonehawk on Friday, December 14, 2018 9:35 PM

My first train set was a large scale General set in 1984.  I'm told it didn't survive until Easter (I was 2).  But apparently I was hooked then.

Every Christmas after that I got a train set, and Brio stuff for birthdays, and so on.  Every summer until I was about 10 we'd make at least one trip to Arcade to ride the A&A excursion train pulled by their ten-wheeler.  And my grandfather used to take me down to the mall to watch the trains in the big Conrail (now CSX) yard in Buffalo.  I still live only a mile from it.

I had a 4x4 grass paper covered train board for a while with HO and N.  Then I inherited my great-uncle's 4x6 ISL-type layout in 96, and I was on again and off again for a while.  Mostly because I seldom had any money to spend, then came college, many dead-end jobs, and life in general that put my modeling on a far back burner.

Now I'm starting again fresh, and happy to be doing it.  My wife says I'm obsessed but she's very tolerant, as it's my one real escape and unwind activity.  Also helps that I plan to corrupt... er... introduce my son to it.  Wink 

Any way you slice it, I'm definitely a lifer.

- Adam


When all else fails, wing it!

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Posted by b60bp on Saturday, December 15, 2018 1:03 PM

I guess I was born that way, maybe because I was born a very short distance from Reading Company’s North Broadtail Station and Pennsy’s North Philadelphia depot. In any event people who knew me when I was two said I already loved trains. When I was young we moved to my dad’s home town of Minneapolis, right next to a Milwaukee Road line. We visited my mom’s family back East once or twice a year for all my childhood, riding Hiawatha or Zephyrs to Chicago and B&O or Pennsy east of there. By time I got an American Flyer set for Christmas around 1954 I was already hopelessly addicted. 

There hasn’t been a day since when I gave up being a railfan or modeler, even if it was only armchair style. I still get fired up over trains real or model, my lifelong passion.

Barry P.

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Posted by jk10 on Sunday, December 16, 2018 4:11 PM

I remembering watching trains go through my home town, but it was never a must see thing or something that took hold. When I was in high school, my childhood babysitter told my mom that I needed to see her son's model railroad. We went to visit his layout, and I was hooked from that point on. I remember going back to school and watching the trains go past as I should have been focusing on my English or social studies classes. I used every bit of my meager paycheck to buy all that I could. My dad helped set up a 4x8 layout for me, but it never became more than the track on wood. As I went to college, I was still interested, but didn't buy as much or go to any shows. I was more focused on the fun of being in college and trying to survive. 

It wasn't until a few years ago that I jumped head first back into the hobby and railfanning when opportunity arose. I've been going to shows regularly, operating monthly with the family friend who introduced me to the hobby, and collect as much memorabilia as I can for various railroads. What I enjoy most now is the historical aspect of the real railroads and how they were the backbone of so many communities. I also enjoy looking through photographs online or in various books to learn about the places the railroads went through. My primary interest is the Milwaukee Road from the Twin Cities south through Farmington, Northfield, and Faribault, the Wisconsin Central, and the SOO. The hunt for obscure railroad rolling stock is also part of the fun. 

I'm looking forward to eventually getting a layout up and operating. For the mean time, it's reading books, magazines, and forums. With a little one on the way, my spending and time will soon be taken up by the greatest joy in the world, being a father. Hopefully this will be a hobby we can share together. 

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Posted by NWP SWP on Sunday, December 16, 2018 5:18 PM

I actually have no idea on the "how" exactly that got me started, I grew up with Thomas the Tank Engine but the transition to realistic modeling and operations I don't know where it started, I dont have any railroad heritage, lots of blue collar heritage but no trains, my mom's family were plant workers, pipe fitters, welders, Boilermakers, ect... my dad's family was Con-ed (utilities servicing), mechanics, and one late great uncle worked for Mack trucks.

Steven

Crooner, Imagineer, High School Graduate, living with Aspergers, President of the Republica Pacifica micronation,  President of the NWP-SWP System.

Hook'em Longhorns! 

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Posted by EM-1 on Friday, December 21, 2018 12:47 AM

Probably kind of natural to go with trains.  Steam loco whistles all over the home town.  B&O North South, Nickle Plate East-West, Steel plant with its Lake Terminal, Big roundhouse with turntable to handle multiple EM-1s (my atavar) Yellowstones.  The Nickle Plate was still using mostly Berkshires for freight, and I THINK E-5s or 6s for passenger.  There was an interchange between B&O and N-P not too far from my house.  And even closer was a car shop with a large Bucyrus-Erie always under steam.  Then about 1948-49 my dad got me a Marx Commodore Vanderbuilt for Christmas.  That set the hook.  I wore the thing out.  Then HO, a litle experimentation in TT, a short time in OOO/N, Ideal, Strombecker, Megow, Globe, Athearn, Mantua, Varney...

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, December 21, 2018 6:35 AM

Harrison

Just wondering.

No mystery for me; not rocket science.  I just like trains, always have.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

Silly Aspie's, I have NT syndrome

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Posted by FRRYKid on Saturday, December 22, 2018 12:48 AM

Mine comes from a few different veins: My Mom tells me that I had wanted to stop under our subway (Northern Pacific's term for an overpass.) in town to listen to the trains at age 4! Also, my late maternal grandfather worked for the NP. My uncle is a model railroader as well. I caught the bug from all of those things. The bug has continued for all these years ever since. I have had three layouts over the years. The first was a small 4 x 6 or so board set up in my (now late) grandmother's basement. The second, which I had until about 7 months ago was set up on the ranch where I grew up. The third (and current) is shoehorned in my bedroom. It is made up of components from the recenly abandoned layout. The main section was a planned yard expansion. When circumstances forced the abandonment of the prior layout, I did a small redesign of the expansion. The redesign added a few areas from the old layout that I didn't want to lose. (I did have to narrow one part of the expansion. That allowed me to reuse a section of the old layout with a small unfinished lake. I also had to trim the length of that section to fit the room dimensions.)

"The only stupid question is the unasked question."

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