My Modeling Background
Decisions, Decisions - The Reasonings Behind N Scale, Prototype Location, & Layout Dimensions
Humble Beginnings & Impulse Buying
As a youngster, I was fascinated with trains. My earliest memories of this interest were while living in Scranton, Iowa at age four or five. We lived about a block away from the local grain elevator. I have vivid memories of the sounds of diesel electrics revving up, the crashing of couplers violently meeting, and then the winding down of the locomotives as they switched cars at the elevator. I remember marveling at the yellow and green liveries of the Chicago & North Western engines. I was hooked!
My First Layout
My first trains were what I fondly refer to as "Brio predecessors". They were plastic trains that you pushed around on plastic, sectional track. Any model railroad enthusiast could have seen a future model railroader in the making. For me, having the trains and track were simply not enough. Houses, autos, trucks, and even people were all part of my first "layouts". Everything was grossly out of scale, but it all looked very grand and realistic to a 5-year old!
HO - American Style
I first got started in HO with a starter set for my birthday in the early 70's. It was an oval with a Santa Fe F-unit, about five freight cars, and a caboose. This was placed on the floor many times before I finally decided I wanted a permanent layout. I grew up in Iowa, which afforded me a full-sized basement. Had I known then that I would eventually move to Florida as an adult, I may have been more appreciative of amount of space that only a basement can provide!
I started with a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood, which quickly grew to another full sheet of plywood, plus a half sheet for a spur. For track, I initially had only two switches. So, I simply had a larger oval and a passing siding. The track wasn't nailed to the plywood, and it wasn't ballasted. The only differences between this and the floor were the size of the trackplan and the elevation! I guess this isn't totally true - I did add several kits to the layout, including a cattle depot, logging operation, lumber mill, coal mine. I also purchased several more freight cars and two engines - a Union Pacific GP (38 or 40) unit and a Union Pacific SW (9 or 1200) unit.
The layout would occasionally receive attention, primarily in the winter time. During one summer, I made a push to accomplish some things on the layout, including adding grass, dirt, and roads. Unfortunately, as time passed, and I got into my teens, I completely lost interest. The unfinished layout languished in the basement through high school and college until my parents finally disassembled it after I moved to Florida to accept my first job out of college.
Adjusting to a new life in Florida, followed by marriage kept my interest in model railroading dormant for many years. It wasn't until a 5-week trip to Germany for Siemens, my employer at the time, that my interest in trains was again rejuvenated. Riding the rails for a two-week tour of Europe in the middle of my work assignment with my wife really made me stand up and take notice of how nice the railways of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria were. I had been to Europe for a month during college, and had ridden the trains all over Europe then as well. However, I must have been more interested in German beer than German trains at the time! (Truly unfortunate, as the year was 1987, and the BR 103s in red and cream livery were the kings of the rails!) While this sparked an interest in German trains, model railroading really hadn't entered my mind -- until some two years later, when I made a fateful trip to a hobby store!
They Make Models of European Trains?
About a year after my son, Matthias, was born, I paid a visit to The Depot, the local hobby store in Lantana, Florida. We were there primarily to look at American HO equipment for my mother-in-law's Christmas layout. In the back corner of the store was some odd looking HO equipment. After further investigation, I found out that it was European rolling stock! With the memories of riding trains across Europe less than two years old, my interest was piqued immediately.
I started my Model Railroading Rebirth by making an uninformed purchase of some ridiculously priced Märklin HO, TEE liveried passenger cars and a DB BR 103 electric locomotive. I also purchased a Budweiser Budvar Bierwagen and some very nice looking C-Track. Having done no research whatsoever, I assumed that this was all that was available for European model railroading - Märklin HO and ridiculously high prices. I continued to purchase C-Track and some additional rolling stock, including a beautiful Andechs Bierwagen, while I contemplated what I wanted to model. After "playing" with the trains for awhile, I felt it was time to get serious about doing some research for a proper layout.
Nächster Halt: Prototype Modeling - Finding a Location