I have always loved model train layouts. I can remember the one that triggered my want to make my own. It belonged to a sixty something year old man that lived in a house next door to my grandparents in Weber City, Virginia. If I had a photo of his layout I would insert it here, but at that time 35 years ago I was not a camera owner.
The layout filled a large portion of this man’s basement. I cannot accurately estimate the layout size, but after purchasing the first 4 x 8 sheet of plywood to begin mine I would cautiously frame his as 36 foot by 60 foot. Yes, it was massive. It had numerous trains and tracks with switches galore.
So back to the title of this post: Starting a New Hobby. I have wanted to build a similar layout to what I saw those many years ago, but some things have been a bigger priority. Things like getting married, buying a house, raising two kids, and quite honestly every day life. But as I start the second year of my fifth decade I am ready to transition into this new pursuit.
Over the years there have been other hobbies to fill the void, such as baseball cards when I was 16-24 years old. This was in the 1980s and collecting baseball cards was still a big thing back then. Now some thirty years later I really have no more desire to keep them, so I have decided to make use of them to fund my new hobby.
One thing I learned pretty quickly is that this new hobby is EXPENSIVE with a capital $$$$$$!!! I thought I could get my toes wet buying an HO train set, you know the packaged ones with everything in them. But the folks at the hobby shop told me I would be better off to start with a hobby grade engine. Of course, being in a hobby shob it was 20-30% above the online price at $89.95 for the lowest price. I declined their very generous offer with plans to find my engine from my friends at Amazon.
Let me assure you the selection on Amazon is limited only by your imagination and choice of engine type. I could have selected either a steam engine model or a diesel and I decided my first would be a diesel type. Then it was just a matter of deciding based on the look of the engine. You can see my choice in the picture that follows.
This is a Bachmann Industries EMD GP40 MKT 245 locomotive. Bachmann is one of the larger manufacturer of train locomotives and accessories as I discovered as I plunged into the new world of model trains. I am learning that a lot of people order specific locomotives along the idea of the layout they want to replicate, but since I did not have a plan at the time I bought mine I figured this would do just fine.
As you know a locomotive is no good without a track to ride on, so I turned back to Amazon for it as well. What I settled on was a 16 piece set from Bachmann Trains that formed an oval. You can get this in several styles, but I chose the black rail bed with steel alloy rails.
So I now had two out of the three absolute minimum pieces. What else do you need to run an electric train set? An electric control device. Obviously the deeper you wade into any hobby the more elaborate you can get with any facet of controls. I chose a basic one from Athearn, which is yet another supplier.
Yay, progress shows with the three main items, but there was still something missing. What is a train without some cars? For this angle I chose to visit our friends at eBay. There is a much different experience in this direction, meaning a lot more used items. But with the costs beginning to mount I was satisfied to work on an auction to try to get a few cars for a great deal. (Continued in part 2)
In an auction on eBay I found an offering for what you see above, an older Tyco set of ten train cars. With new train cars anywhere from $15 and up I felt like the $41.19 I paid for this was a pretty fair price.
With everything in hand I set up my layout on a 4 x 8 sheet of heavy plywood. You can see it below. I invite you to check back to see progress as i design the layout.