Model railroading a way to bring trains home | SierraSun.com
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Model railroading a way to bring trains home

Sun News Service

You don’t have to “work the rails” to find trains fascinating.

The huge, powerful steam locomotives that pulled cargo-laden rail cars across America in the early 1900s were also carrying the hopes and dreams of a growing nation. Workers, miners and manufacturing supplies moved west as produce and food moved east. The railroad created new industries, expanded communication and, for the first time, truly united the United States.

If you’re thinking of starting model railroading, or just want to know what the fascination is all about, visit the Model Train Exhibit at Truckee Donner Parks and Recreation District Community Center on Church Street during Truckee Railroad Days, Sept. 8-10. There you will see a multitude of train layouts.

The more you learn about the role of the railroad, the more fascinating it becomes. That is just one reason why over one million Americans have made model railroading their hobby. They are able to re-create a turn-of-the-century America in their own home and at the same time learn more about the history of our nation and the importance of the railroad.

Numerous magazines, web sites and software are available to guide you through the whole process, from purchasing your first train to finding synthetic snow for a layout. Of course, the most reliable and knowledgeable source of information can be found at your local model railroad specialty store.

You can build a simple track or have an elaborate layout with mountains, rivers, bridges and towns. Some model railroaders like to build layouts of trains they saw as a child. Others chose to reach back in time to recreate the fascinating days of the steam locomotives and how they opened the West.

There are several manufacturers of model trains and different sizes, or ‘scales’ as they are called in the industry. Trains are built to scale after real trains, right down to the color scheme and lettering.

The tiniest of scales is “Z,” where a typical boxcar length is one inch. Working Z scale train models can be found in coffee table tops and briefcases!

The next largest size, TT Scale, invented in the former Eastern Block countries, is slowly making its way to the United States. However, rolling stock is limited to European-style trains – you won’t find any Union Pacific trains in TT scale!

N Scale model trains are double the size of Z scale and are popular in homes with limited space when a fully featured model railroad is desired. You may be amazed on how much can fit in an N scale layout.

Invented in the 1950s, the HO scale (twice the size of N scale) quickly rose to the top of the popularity list in the ’60s and enjoyed top billing until the 1980s. Most HO products are packaged as kits, requiring beginner to expert levels of “gluing and screwing.”

The next larger size model train is O scale (sometimes referred to as O gauge). Most O gauge trains are “ready to run” and require little or no “modeling” and are therefore referred to as “Toy Trains” by their many collectors.

Lionel has been making toy trains since 1900, spawning a huge collector market for this scale. In 1950, 50 years after the first “Toy Train” appeared in a window of the New York City’s Macys, the baby boomers came along and ensured an electric train under nearly every Christmas tree. Now, 100 years after their inception, “Toy Trains” remain a strong part of the model railroad industry.

Originally crafted in 1960s by German toy manufacturer LGB, the most popular model train of the ’90s is G Scale. “G” is used for “Giant” or “Garden,” as these trains seem to be “giant” compared to other model trains and they operate in the “garden” as well as indoors. G Scale trains are ready to run, easy to set up and operate. The youngest of children can get their little hands around their giant wheels to get them on the track and rolling along quickly. Since they take up quite a bit of space indoors, many G Scale train layouts have made their way out to the yard where train hobbyists turn to landscaping as their artistic palette to highlight their trains.

Imagine operating a model train outdoors in the rain, wind and even snow, just like the real trains! That is model railroading at its finest.


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