My first HO scale train was a Tyco blue and yellow Santa Fe F-7 with a few freight cars, and an 18 inch radius circle of track I received for Christmas when I was fifteen. My love of trains, however, began on Christmas morning in 1956 when my brother received an American Flyer S scale train set. My fascination with trains has been life long.
Sadly, my new F-7 didn’t work right. It ran backwards pretty well, but wouldn’t go forward. The small town we lived in had a model railroader’s paradise, a hobby shop where I spent a lot of time. The shop was a small garage but it was loaded with HO treasure. The owner loved trains as much as I did and was always willing to help. I traded my Santa Fe engine for an old metal 2-6-0 switcher that squeeked, but it ran. I also purchased two small boxes of track so my layout became a larger oval instead of a circle.
For those unfamiliar with model trains, HO actually stands for “Half-O.” O gauge is the size of the familiar Lionel-type, three-rail trains. HO trains are half that size. I have always preferred HO. The two-rail track and detail is more realistic.
The little hobby shop quickly became my favorite place, and the owner taught me everything he could about model railroading. He also sold me Pere Marquette Berkshire 2-8-4 and Southern Pacific 4-8-8-2 Cab Forward steam locomotives for $10 with a trade and $25, respectively. Unbelievable! Those engines now are twenty times that much! The only thing I still own from the little hobby shop is a twenty-five foot fiber tie strip for hand laying and spiking rails. I’ve never tried that.
The photos above are of my first full layout I built thirty years ago. As you can see, it had open-grid benchwork and it was also my first experience with cork roadbed and ballast. I learned a great deal about what not to do with future layouts. The biggest mistake I made was not planning for taking it apart. When we moved I had to chose the best spots to cut it apart and it was not easy putting it back together.
The unpainted wood stand with the white tank structure was scratch-built forty-two years ago. At one point it was crushed by a basketball, but since has been rebuilt and painted.
In upcoming posts I will include details about benchwork, scenery, and model railroading in general. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful.