This Blog is just a fart in a hurricane, but it's therapeutic to vent my spleen. I imagine that most people will read a line or two and then move on.
So, why the hell am I a model railroader - anyway?
It's really hard to describe the mixed feelings of joy and frustration that a trainset brought me.
Once upon a childhood I received a trainset for christmas and/or my birthday circa 1974, or there-about. Hard to say which event since they are less than a month apart which sucks. If you get toys for christmas then you are pretty much assured that you are getting clothes for your birthday, or vice-versa.
All of those warm and fuzzy bonding stories of father and son model railroaders don't apply. My Dad restores antique radios and he taught me some basic soldering skills, but we didn't build any basement empires together and I didn't know any other model railroaders either.
Shortly after receiving the trainset, the circle of track was tacked down to a 4'x5' scrap of plywood that was painted the same turquoise blue as the kitchen. Scenery was limited to some paper mache that I slopped around and some black tempera paint for a road.
Don't get too excited about my first venture into scenery. A couple of blobs of unpainted paper mache and a large spill of flour/water paste didn't amount to more than a slick and a couple of knolls: There were no tunneled mountains.
A long and barren stretch of double track that was a half-mile away from my childhood home was the closest real railway. With a friend or two, we would walk a mile or two up or down the line and almost never see a train. Sidings were few and far between and were almost always empty. I was an adult before I learned that it was the Canadian Pacific MacTier Subdivision originally built by the Toronto Gray & Bruce Railway over a century ago. Seeing a locomotive rush past is always exciting but watching the rest of the train is monotonous and boring.
All I knew as a kid was that trains ran very rarely and the locomotives didn't really look like my trainset. My Bachmann Canadian Pacific F9 didn't look like the GP's I saw once in a while. That first trainset locomotive still runs: Eight wheel electrical pick-up and power with a center mounted can motor. Which is unlike a couple of other locomotives I got later that have pancake motors that are ozone emitting pieces of crap that stutter and stall.
I received a pittance of an allowance. Friday evening I could get some pop and candy and the whole amount was spent. So the only hobby money was from the annual christmas gift from my Grand-Parents. Upon receiving my first cheque, I was dragged to the bank and forced to open a savings account and be taught to save money. It was a complete waste of time! I didn't learn how to handle money because I was never allowed to handle any money. At the first opportunity, I'd withdraw all the money and go the hobby shop. The money never went very far and I'd be lucky to get a couple of pieces of track, a turnout and maybe a piece of rolling stock. Most locomotives were out of reach, except for those pan-cake motored pieces of junk. At the hobby shop I looked at the N-Scale trains and wished that I had them because they were half the price of the HO-Scale trains that I had.
My first steam engine was a Tyco 0-4-0 that had the rods bind up on it.
The couple of manuals that I got, I didn't read except for the picture captions.
I'd let the train run in circles and when I got bored, I'd reverse direction and all the cars with talgo horn/hook couplers would derail through the turnouts.
I went to a model train show down at Harbourfront where everything was literally and figuratively out of reach. I was especially put off by the guy who was hand laying his track and pontificating that any other way was inferior.
I was introduced to an older boy who lived in the neighbourhood who had a model train layout which was impressive but he was moving-on to R/C planes.. Those .049 airplane motors were beyond my reach too...
The Delaware & Rutland Railroad Club was impressive but aside from the annual open house, joining wasn't an option for me.
One friend got a trainset and tacked it to a piece of plywood that was hinged to the back of his bedroom door. It wasn't much better than my layout except that he had a couple of animated bits, like operating crossing gates and a car with a horn.
If I only had the skill, knowledge and resources: I just didn't know how to get beyond the plywood plain in front of me. Paralyzed, I would just watch the locomotives do laps around the loop of track and feel a great sense of frustration.
After a couple of years, I gave up on model railroading and packed everything away for over 20 years...