The Typical Model Railroader

The Typical Model Railroader

The Other Side of the Coin

By Roger Heid


The typical Model Railroader is not a Beginner. Many Beginners don’t make it to the stage of being called ‘Typical’, whatever the reason might be. From here on in, I will refer to the typical model railroader as a ‘TMR’.

The TMR has advanced from running the train around the Christmas tree, once a year. He has caught the ‘bug’. He wants to expand the layout and move it off the floor. That’s when the trouble starts.

Here I need to interrupt and mention that most all TMRs are male, married and 40+ of age. If you don’t fit into this category, you are not ‘typical’. But, as it goes with everything, there are always exceptions to the rule. A large number of TMRs were engaged in model railroading in some form or fashion during their younger years. As retirement approaches, they decide to return to the old and abandoned hobby and to go all out, all the way.

There are cases of younger husbands assuming or resuming this hobby while a young one is on the way, ‘knowing’ it will be a boy. As a rule, the corresponding wives can clearly see through this plot. They rarely raise any objections, though. One lady I knew once commented that this hobby will keep him home and out of the bars. Well, that’s one way to look at it.

This hobby has the advantage that you can be at home while working on it, and you can do it year round, come rain or shine. The disadvantage is the potential living space required to facilitate ‘meaningful’ expansion of the layout.

That brings us back to when the trouble starts. Now some lumber and stuff needs to be purchased. It needs to be explained to the wife that he did not pick up carpentry as a new hobby. If this explaining is conducted properly, the wife will even help bringing the stuff into the house. Mine did.

For some time, the TMR’s attention is split between building the platform and designing esoteric track plans. As a result of the most recent track plan, another trip to the lumber yard becomes necessary. Therefore it was decided that this and that in that basement room can go. A garage sale is staged along with the agreement that the proceeds are to be split between him and her. He includes his old fishing gear and some partially assembled golf gear.

Soon, the layout platform has taken on the maximum permissible dimension, for the time being. All the track layout and associated items, like tracks, turnouts, cars, locomotives, power supplies and control elements are firmly in place, on paper, but not on the platform. That’s when the trouble continues.

Once again, I need to interrupt to mention that, contrary to the belief of some, the TMR does not put his hobby on top of financial priorities. He will not jeopardize the welfare of his household and his family members. If the financial consequences of this or any other hobby lead to undue indebtedness or any other adversities you are certainly not a TMR. In that case, you must have caught a bug the nature of which I will not discuss in this article.

Then the old hunting rifle was sold, after sitting in a closet for years. As a result, a layout is starting to form. In the process of creating some shelf space, the old stamp collection yielded enough to lengthen the track system.

The good wife rummaged through her jewelry box and decided to let this ancient broche go. On his birthday, the TMR received the locomotive he wanted. Things started to move now. Sorting through long forgotten boxes in the attic yielded enough cash to obtain a few more items on the endless wish list.

Now starts the time when the TMR needs to learn and to prove his skills. Why does the train de-rail always on the same spot? Why does the cars uncouple either always on the same spot or at random? Why does this locomotive all of a sudden not run? As the layout and the stock keep growing, more and more questions and unwanted situations will suddenly appear.

The good TMR will soon lose his tendency to lose sleep over issues that are actually trivial in the whole scheme of all things. He will learn to be patient and approach these issues in a calm and logical manor.

In one case I had encountered, the TMR sold his motor cycle to provide the means for the growth of his model railroad. His wife was outright exhilarated. She would not have to worry about his safety, anymore; no more fear of a call from some Hospital ER.

In the meantime, the TMR has patiently become familiar with the digital operation of things. He has also spent numerous hours to figure out how to hook this and that up to whatever. The trains do no longer derail and nothing uncouples anymore. Everything he had hooked up is working as it should. The TMR is now very proud of his achievement. He deserves to be proud. He has gained and earned his status of being a successful TMR.

The events told are samples of several different individual situations I had witnessed over time. Your own sequence of events varies according to your particular situation.

Model Train Shows usually attract fairly large audiences. The visitors are comprised of people from every level of knowledge and expertise in model railroading. The majority of the audience, however, is not aware of how much time and effort goes into putting a good and functional layout together. They are unaware of the unsung heroes among the TMRs.

One Response to The Typical Model Railroader

  1. Ernest H. Robl says:

    I have known several adult women who told me that they would have liked to have had model trains as a child, but their parents would not consider it.

    When I was selling photos, postcards, my self-published books, and a few other items at the Raleigh, N.C., train shows over several years, a number of years ago, I always noticed a woman who came to the show alone with her young daughter.

    So, there are women who like trains, too.

    – Ernest

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