Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Model Railroading: It's Baa-aack!

Model Railroading is a hobby that's been at the edges of my life for a long time. And now it's entered from a new direction. But first to recap:

Round 1

When I was a kid I got interested in model railroading early on. As it was, I loved trains, and I lived in a train town. Even at 3, I was drawing my own trains with such detail that my mother had to look at the real thing to see what all those details were that I was drawing.

The idea of owning and running my own miniature railroad was certainly appealing.

But, we moved around a lot and model railroading was not an inexpensive hobby. I managed the next best thing in the way of hobbies: electronics. I built a crystal radio (and used it--a lot), and built circuits on those 50-in-one and 100-in-one kits.

Round 2
As a teen, I got interested again. I had some income and I got a starter set with a locomotive, some rolling stock, track, and a transformer. It was N scale, perfect for an apartment dweller. I built up a setup, some scenery, and had fun with it. But for too short a time. It was enough to get engaged, but not really to get deeply involved.

Various things got in the way. Fortunately, electronics still fit into my life as a hobby.

Round 3

I was grown, married, and had kids. What better time to start a new set-up? I still had some of my N Scale stuff. I bought some wallboard, cleared a desktop, and started work on the layout. I laid what track I had out on the board, intending to build up as I bought new parts. For now, I'd get a train going around with a couple of buildings to amuse the girls and let them see what we were up to. We managed this much, but then...

The garage where I set it up is also where we let a couple of our cats sleep at night during winter (they were outdoor cats.) They decided that the train set was "contested territory", and decided to claim it in the destructive method that male cats have. Fortunately the transformer, locomotive, and stock were all packed away. But most of the track was rendered unusable by the, um, corrosive fluids.

I planned on setting up a new layout with a cover over it. But other projects came along, and time slipped away. For about ten years...

Something New

Last night my younger daughter finished her homework, and we both had some time to kill. I fired up YouTube to watch some model-making videos. She asked to watch model railroad videos. So we watched a couple of things about making layouts. Which I roundly criticized, since I hate styrofoam and that was what was being used in these videos (yeah, I can understand why--I still hate styrofoam.)

Then she let me know she was interested in model railroading. She still remembered that short-lived setup we'd done together before the cats got to it. And she's looking for a crafty outlet. The more she learns, the more interested she gets.

I gave her the run of my small model railroading library (a collection of old N Scale and HO scale books like N Scale Primer and 101 Track Layouts). Today we stopped at Nor-Cal Train Shop after I picked her up from school so that she could see what it'd cost to get her own starter set. She talked with Jimmy there for about an hour and a half.

I guess she's interested.

He sent her home with a couple pieces of track and a couple of pieces of rolling stock to keep her inspired, as well as some magazines she's been reading all night around housework and homework. I've promised to move a file cabinet out of her bedroom that my wife and I left there after using it for a computer room years ago, she's trying to figure out how large a set up she can start with, and planning out ways to earn money to pay for the starter set so she can start operating something.

Her real interest is the modelling, though, it seems. Scenery, buildings, basically building dioramas with something that moves in them.

To tell the truth, I'm pretty surprised. This has all been rather sudden, for me. I wonder how long it's been percolating?

She seems committed. Telling her she couldn't just use my stuff, but had to buy her own hasn't deterred her. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

Model railroading is a neat hobby. As I've learned, even if you don't end up doing much of it, the skills you learn from even doing a bit of it can take you in a lot of directions. I suppose I could say I got an early lesson in digital electronics from figuring out how to wire a reversing section in a track layout.

On top of that, I'm beginning to wonder what I could fit into a really small layout myself...with microcontrollers, of course.

1 comment:

  1. My dad built a large model train table that could be lowered from the ceiling in one of the rooms of our house, it was pretty cool. And then we moved :(

    You could probably do something like that to have more room.