Research

Model Railroading

Description

I have been interested in model railroading for as far back as I can recall. I remember going on a variety of trips with either my father, grandfather, our family friend Ernie (who, like my grandfather, worked for the railroad) or childhood friend Chad to observe "actual trains". Those trips were motivation to model trains on a smaller scale. When I was a child, the only "toys" that I would ask for at Christmastime were model trains. I grew up in a family of modest means; so, I cherished those trains whenever my mom, nana or Santa Claus were fortunate enough to gift me one (or maybe even a whole set if I was a really good boy, I thought)! Having had my first job at 14 years old at a greenhouse also helped with this later on! I recall going to many area yard sales looking for model trains, track and scenery back then that people were looking to get rid of for cheap.

Also relevant to my interest in modeling railroading and railroads at large (scale) are scanners. I bought my first scanner at about the age of 12 from lawn mowing and debris removal money which enabled me to listen in on railroad operations. The channels on this scanner had to be manually programmed so that each channel mapped to the frequency of a particular railroad's operations. So, for example, a railroad might use one frequency for operations along a section of mainline but a different frequency for yard operations. To figure out what frequency was used for a given type of operation, I used the scanner "seek" function. I used the seek function over the 160-161.99 MegaHertz (MHz) range (Incrementing by .01 MHz.) This incrementing allowed me to listen for clues to figure out what radio chatter mapped to what railroad and railroad operation. This was often quite a challenge and involved a considerable amount of cataloging of trackside features, like mileposts or control points, which were often referenced by train crews over the radio to dispatchers. Later on, I discovered a manual (I cannot recall the name of the book now, unfortunately) at local library that listed this information, which circumvented the need for this sort of research. Nevertheless, the seek function, and subsequent cataloging early on allowed me to learn a considerable amount about railroad operations (and electronics) at an age when I probably should have been playing with toys.

What I like most about model trains is what I refer to as "realism to scale". For me as a child, those trains and trackside scenery just had to be in proportion to what one might actually observe at a grade crossing. If my trains were 160 times (i.e., N scale) smaller than a passing train, everything on my (crude) layout had to be that scale. As my childhood friend Michael and I discovered, one could not simply put a (large) Matchbox semi truck alongside an N (or HO) scale model train and expect it to "match up". How outrageous, we thought; the Matchbox semi truck was out of scale in relation to the train.

As of late, I have been designing a small modular, N scale model layout with the help of my daughter, Kes. I have some photos of our activity posted to my "Trains" photo album. This has been a great STEAM related activity for us both. And she has been a lot of help; if not for her use of tools, at least for her enthusiasm as dad works out the various "kinks" in (lead-free) soldering, wiring and woodworking! Bon has also given me a lot of insight, like using Oklahoma's red dirt as scenery. Most of the stuff on my layout is used; it is stuff I have hung on to over the years, or stuff that I have purchased used as of late with the intent of upgrading at my shop. These upgrades include converting electrified track-powered locomotives to rechargeable, battery-powered locomotives (i.e., "dead rail."). Additional activity includes other interesting aspects of railroading like train car restoration, and (software) car forwarding. We are not a very well-endowed railroad, so we have to work with what we got!

This brings me to what I might be able to offer those interested in the hobby. Since I have been doing model railroading for quite a while, surely I must have learned a thing or two about model train maintenance, eh? And of course I am STILL learning! Anyways, in my work, I follow NMRA standards and recommended practices when performing maintenance. So, if you have a locomotive or rolling stock and are interested in upgrading and/or repairing it I might be able to help you out for a modest fee. If that is something that might be of interest to you, feel free to send me message or give me a call. I will probably post more content here as time goes on, so stay tuned.

Links

Alaska Railroad

Amtrak

AnyRail

A-OK Railroad

Atlas Model Railroad Co., Inc.

Caboose Industries

Chadwick Model Railway

Chicago Union Station

CPN Iron Horse Industrial Park

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Dead Rail Society

Ernie Barney

Kadee

Late Night Model Railroad

Lead-Free Solder

Linie8 GmbH

Matt's Projects

New Mexico Rail Runner Express

Mike N8rbi Radio

Oklahoma City Streetcar

Oklahoma Railway Museum

Pantenary

PECO

Raspberry Pi

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Stan Ferris

Tiny Circuits

Walthers

Wheeling & Lake Erie

Whistle Stop Trains