Hopping back into the way-back machine, we find ourselves in the early spring of 1976! The birthday dad got me an HO model railroad set. I’m pretty sure it was more because he wanted to build a miniature railroad empire, than that I hinted or even outright asked for a miniature railroad! I do remember going to the magazine shop two streets over and a couple blocks up, it sat on the edge of PA Route 13, what used to be the main road into Philadelphia if you had a car or didn’t want to take the train. It was still jammed with cars those days, but it wasn’t as high speed nor direct as the “newer” interstate highway, Route 95!
Anyway, Pops and I walked up to that old magazine shop and picked up our first of several years worth of Model Railroader magazine. I’m not sure if we ordered the layout book from the back of the magazine or if it was another gift from a legit bookstore, but that book was well worn and dog-eared. Within a year we had a small oval and a turnout tacked down to thin sheet of plywood – completely flocked with green sawdust, much to my mother’s hate and discontent!
Our railroad empire never really came to be, if only in our mind’s eye. The oval lasted until Christmas and then was relegated to the basement – I couldn’t tell you whatever happened to the two engines nor the rolling stock, but those trains did spur me on to plastic airplane kits and later to using my overly active imagination to conjure mighty heroes and villains in the world of D&D.
So why am I writing this? It could be a little bit because the house I grew-up in just sold, to my niece; it could be because right next to that house was the four line Broadway that carried freight and passenger service from Washington DC to NYC; or maybe it’s just scratching a long unscratched itch from my youth. Truth be told, it’s probably a little of all of that rolled into doing something different.
This past weekend I just decided to scroll through YouTube and see what has become of the world of model railroad. Yup it’s still full of geeky old men and rivet counters, but it’s also very much like a moving diorama. And the technology leaps in Locomotive and track and control are mind boggling. Before I knew it I started designing a layout, and writing up lists of “things I needed”!
What I settled on is a simple switching yard puzzle. There are many out there, but this is a very old one, called the Inglenook Shunning Puzzle, and there are track kits that would have enough track to build one without buying individual bits. Moving down in scale from my first foray in the hobby, from HO to N would allow me to get the whole design into a 5-foot x 6-inch board, basically an Ikea shelf, with the initial goal of just getting a running yard down and play the puzzle, then worry if I want to scenic the layout.
It’s didn’t take long for the US Postal service to deliver a very nice N-scale NW2 Diesel Switcher in Pennsylvania RR Baldwin Green, nor the 8 rolling stock (picked for their likelihood to be somewhere on the East coast or from childhood memories of the rail road outside my window, as much as to be easily denoted by color or shape). The pictures below where hastily snapped before we headed out the door to catch an airplane to go visit my boys up north in the State of Maine.
And a little sense of scale. Remembering that the “N” in N-scale is for nine-millimeters, the width of the gauge of the track, which translates to 1/160 scale (for US tracks – I think in the UK the track gauge is narrower, so the scale is 1/148?).
I do plan to take-up some space on this blog chronicling my exploits in this new endeavor. Forward thinking that I might just have to start a new blog devoted to the subject if that boyhood empire ever takes off.