A Love Affair with Model Railroading

Do you remember your first encounter with a railroad train engine? I was a toddler and my dad took me to the Union Pacific railroad roundhouse in Meridian, Idaho. The big black, noisy steam engines scared me.  I think that was why dad bought us our first set of Lionel trains.  He loved the O Scale train set as much, or more, than we did.  I still have that engine although it doesn’t work anymore. The original model railroading set sold for $19.99, which was very expensive for the early 1950’s.

Today, Lionel’s offerings are significantly expanded. Entry level Lionel train sets are inexpensive, and easy to use.  I love browsing hobby shops and model railroading stores looking for “hidden treasures” like vintage engines and rolling stock.  Modern Lionel trains bought in a set come with a loop of FasTrack, a power pack, a remote control, a model train engine, one or two railroad cars, and a caboose.  Once set up you will usually have a 40-inch by 60-inch oval loop.  If you’re like me, just going in a loop won’t be enough, but here is where Lionel model railroading really excels.  Add on kits are readily available to allow you to create the model railroad system of your dreams.  You can buy turnouts, siding kits, passing loops, and powered accessories like lighted towers.

My collection has expanded since those early days. I have about 30 engines, over one hundred different railroad cars (often referred to as rolling stock) and enough track and accessories to fill most of the floor space in my house.

Our current Christmas tree O scale layout has seven different engines including my favorite, the Polar Express.  Yes, there are sidings everywhere!  All the engines have separate remote controls, and we only operate two trains at a time to avoid train collisions.

You might be lucky enough to have a relative or neighbor with a “model train room” filled with Lionel trains. If you do, you know the fun and joy that comes from playing with the trains.  And if you don’t, I recommend reaching out to a local model train club in your area.

We are fortunate to have a local model train club who displays their trains several days a week for the general public. They run O scale model trains, have an HO scale layout, and even get their N scale model railroads running most afternoons. Visiting with avid collectors and model railroad enthusiasts is where you get a real feel for what is possible.

These days, I enjoy sharing my model railroad with my family. But I especially enjoy playing with the Lionel trains with my six-year-old grandson.  We operate the “B&S railroad” whenever we get the chance.


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