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Musings Of a Re-New modeler (What I want to be when I grow up...)

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So I told my wife the other day that I have the next 25 years of my hobby life planned out. She didn't seem as excited as I felt. That might be because she already feels overrun by my sports card collection. Or that she just doesn't get model railroading. Or maybe from our lack of sleep provided by our soon-to-be-three-year-old and 8 week old boys?? Any way you cut it, my hobbies help me retain my sanity even as I cycle through the ups and downs of interest/energy/time available. I figured this is as good a place to document my goals, plans and learning experiences as I re-enter the Hobby and hope to get plugged into the community. A little background...

My younger brother and I received train layouts (Model Power HO sets if I remember correctly) one Christmas in the mid 90's. We were ready for more about 12 minutes after setting them up. The following day our dad took us to the local hobby shop where the owner was able to provide a huge box of second hand track and supplies at a bargain basement price. After ravenously consuming all the Model Railroaders and other books we could come across, we ended up getting a 4X8 HO layout started. If I remember correctly, it was something of a double oval, with a small elevated branch inside and some sidings/spurs outside. Money was always super tight, and although I think we could run trains on the track, scenery never happened. I ended up going off to college and the family move to South East Texas from upstate NY (more on that later).

Over the next nearly 20 years, nothing happened in terms of modeling. I'd fondly glance through a MR'er any chance I would see one, but life took me all over the place and just would not allow for the hobby. Fast forward to a recent Estate Sale I made it to (another hobby) and I was able to snatch up a beautiful HO Rivarossi 4-8-8-2 Cab Forward AC-12 like the huge steam engines I lusted after as a teenager. Passion reignited. After spending countless hours on the mega-auction site researching the second hand railroading market (I'm actually a power-seller, fueled mostly by my sports cards/memorabilia), I realized that there was a good chance I could self-fund this hobby as well.

To clarify - I buy, through multiple avenues, my sports cards. I'll buy up large collections/lots and keep the cards that fit my collection and re-sell the rest. I will break up the collection, re-organize it or combine a bunch - whatever needs to be done to sell it. Not only am I generally able to make my money back (basically increasing my collection for free) but I am mostly able to turn a little profit. Nothing worth quitting my job, mind you, but enough to keep it fun (another hobby in itself!!) and have a little spending money. My garage is now very obviously occupied by my efforts in this new venture. To clarify more - I don't see these efforts as someone taking away business from hobby shops but as rescuing models destined for a sad end and finding them a new life.

Back to the railroading part! This time around, I wanted to establish my hobby and lay the foundation for a lifetime of enjoyment. This thought process took into account a number of factors. First and foremost are my aforementioned boys (and wife!) - they are priority number 1 and I would drop anything that got in the way of my commitment to them. Second and related is the current lack of time that I have as the boys are so young and I am basically exhausted constantly. Third and also related is that I would love for them to join me in the hobby and passion. This appears to be headed in the right direction, as on a recent family vacation (prior to baby #2) my older son spent over an hour at a small hobby shop just absolutely enamored with everything going on. "Look at this daddy!!" A trip to the Texas Transportation and it's giant layout museum here in San Antonio is scheduled for the very near future! Fourth is the fact that I realize I have a lot to learn myself! As I mentioned, the only layout I ever had never even had scenery. And one can only imagine the changes in the hobby that have occurred over the last 20 years (DCC anyone?). I want to build up my own skills in a manageable and enjoyable fashion. Which leads to....

25 years of hobby plans!!! I think somebody once said something about "starting with the end in mind?" Well my vision is me an as empty-nester, boys room turned into my train room, and my dream layout of the abandoned Cortland branch of the Lehigh Valley railroad from Cortland to Canastota (1925-1955 era, to be narrowed if necessary) ready to show off. I should mention at this time, my ties to the railroad are seeing the ghosts of the LVRR branch through Truxton, NY growing up exploring the Tioughnioga River and dreaming of what could have been. Additionally, I had the "privilege" of cleaning hopper cars at the Orange, TX Res-car facilities one summer during college. As I have a long way to go from here to there, the following plan is laid out (in loose order):

  • Learn to air bush and decal (shockingly few LVRR items available on the market)
  • Start to acquire and customize diesel fleet
  • Build 2x4 freelance layout
    • Basic scenery skills focus

  • Learn to work with Styrene modeling
  • start collection of scratch-built structures
  • Learn/Practice kit-bashing skills for steam locomotive fleet
  • Learn to work with brass.
  • Build Second, larger layout with the boys.
  • Scratch build, kit-bash and accumulate the diesel, steam, passenger and freight fleet to fill the dream layout. I estimate this to be the largest time commitment my plan will require. My current research has me wanting:
    • 8 steam engines
    • 6 diesel engines
    • 4 versions of the Black Diamond Express engines and cars (never ran on the branch - this is for display/fun)
    • 5-10 passenger cars TBD
    • TBD freight fleet

  • Learn DCC
  • Anything else I need.
  • Build dream layout! N-scale, allowing for much near-prototype scaling that I am hoping for.

So it is now all laid out on record. No one knows what the future holds - I could get home tonight and this entire plan be scrapped. At least I have a vision and a loose idea of how I am going to get there. Hopefully it is a journey with more ups than downs and my family and I are able to reap the benefits of a wonderful life-long hobby. I'd like to be able to explore and become more a part of the modelling community along the way, and be a productive member. I'm looking forward to meeting new people, learning new things and letting the creative juices flow.

Let the journey begin....
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