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Discover How Train Modelers Plan For Realism

Aug 17, 2007
Your choice of a layout will depend not only on the available space, trackage and on the work you want your railroad to do. At first it will be enough just to have the locomotive pull cars around, pass onto a siding, switch onto a branch line. You have a toy train with a wide choice of powerful locomotives, dozens of accurate, scale modeled cars, and so many interesting accessories and buildings that you can keep your budget unbalanced for months. Isn`t that enough, you ask?

Of course it is enough to give you countless hours of pleasure. But you can increase that pleasure and extend it for years by developing your model railroad so that it has a special character, a personality of its own a personality that is a reflection of you. A model railroad is a toy, yes, but it is much more than that, as dozens of bankers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, truck drivers, bookkeepers, salesmen, and just plain people, young and old, will testify. Paints and brushes are toys, too, in the hands of a child having fun on a rainy afternoon; in the hands of many adults they have become a meaningful and rewarding avocation, a hobby that brings in addition to pleasure the deep satisfaction of creative expression. Many hobbies can bring this satisfaction, model railroading among them, but only when there is a goal, a purpose, a plan. You have a locomotive and some cars, but what do the cars carry?

Passengers or freight and if the latter, what kind of freight? Why does the train move onto the siding? Why does it take the branch line? These operations give more pleasure if they have some meaning if, for instance, the train moves onto the siding to drop off a tank car of gasoline for the filling station near by; if the train takes the branch line because it is on its regular run to Jonesville, where it picks up passengers going to the city.

You and a few hundred thousand other model railroaders have made the manufacturers of trains fit their products to your plans in demanding realism from them track that looks like real railroad track, cars and locomotives scaled so they look like real cars and locomotives. You enjoy these things and smoke and the choo choo sounds because they reproduce the real thing. Your pleasure will be increased if you make your layout and your handling of trains reproduce, as closely as possible, the real thing, too. You can do this if you have a plan.

Your plan need not be rigid and inflexible. It should be made to increase the joy of railroading, not to hamper or reduce it. A plan can save you time, work, and money.

For example, you may find after you`ve had your train a short while that you can buy an operating accessory of some kind, and you are fascinated by remote control loading devices such as the coal loader and log loader car you may have. You buy the log loader, take it home, hook it up, and watch it work. Then you see that it looks a little out of place, because your layout consists primarily of towns and freight yards without a forest in sight. Logs may be loaded elsewhere, of course, but it would certainly look better near a tree covered mountain, from which the logs presumably came. A worse misfit, of course, would be an operating water tank when your only locomotives are diesels, for which you should have an oil storage and pumping depot of some kind.

One of the first buildings for your pike will be a station. If you are handy with tools, you may want to make your own, but if not you will buy one of the beautiful stations put out by the manufacturer of your train. You will find in your hobby store stations large and small, old fashioned and modern. Which one will you purchase? Knowing the character of your railroad, having a plan for its development, will help you decide. If your pike is going to be laid in farming country, for instance, you will not want a large city terminal, but a smaller way station. No matter how fascinating you find the talking station that announces the destination of your train and calls:

All aboard

You will know that it does not really fit if you have only a freight train. Instead, you will want a freight station, and if you like movement you can get one with a loading device that lifts heavy crates onto your flatcars and gondola cars.
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