Planes, Trains, Bots & Games (and a few gadgets too)

The Hobby Guy

September 22nd, 2006 at 12:33 pm

Virtual Railroading? A Real Hobby?! C’mon!


My Dad worked for Conrail, and he really loved trains and the railroad in general (not the management or the government management of the railroads, but that is another story.) Growing up, we always had a train layout in our basement, and we always spent time building, running, and growing our train layout.

My dad is passed for over 11 years now, and I have my own family, my own house, and it seems the time and energy to have a model train layout is always a challenge. We have a N-scale layout in storage, not finished of course.

Both my sons are into trains as much, if not more than, I was at their ages. Thomas The Tank can be found playing on a TV anytime of the day in our house. We have all the wooden railway toys, passed from one son to the next, and we have just about every other toy Thomas train in the house.

During the holidays we always make a visit to the Union Model Railroad Club’s Show, which in my opinion is the best show in the country. I have been going to that show for over 18 years, and it is the best presentation of model railroading, and railroading in general. We also make at least an annual visit to Northlandz, which is touted as the worlds largest model railroad. It may be, but for us it is just amazing!

The lack of a physical train layout in our house has not stopped us from playing with trains. (Yes, for all you die hard model railroad fans, I did say play; that’s what it is, relax and enjoy, and just play.) We are V-Scalers. We regularly build layouts, run prototypical operations, try out new rolling stock and engines, and model typical railroad scenes. We just do it virtually. Trainz 2006, Railroad Tycoon 3, Railroad Tycoon II, and Lionel Train Town are all part of our model railroad hobby.

Sometimes I do miss mixing up all that hydrocal plaster and soaking newspaper to make mountain ranges, but V-scale railroading does have its advantages. The biggest advantage, and the coolest thing for me is that I can now ride on the train! Well, sort of, I can view and operate the train from the cab. Also, it takes up no space and we can have as many miles of track as we like. We can have trains and layouts that vary from the French Alps, to the Pacific Northwest.

There also many new dimensions with V-scale railroading, for example in the Railroad Tycoon series you need understand the economy, business operations, industry, and the stock market to win. For my 11 year old, it has been a great teaching tool, beyond just the fun of it. In my opinion, play is the greatest teacher of all, and for an 11 year old to understand these concepts (and kick his dad’s butt) is great.

The layout may be virtual, but the time spent with my sons is real. The greatest thing I remember from building model railroads with my Dad was the time we spent together and the talks we had.

As the weather turns cool here in the Northeast, so do thoughts of trains and building another layout. I began discussing with my son, how our newley finished basement is missing a train layout. He agrees. However, not so sure the wife does. It’s going a bit better then my sales pitch on why we need a garden railroad.

So in the meantime, we will stick with our V-Scale.

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  • 1

    [...] In past posts I have talked about how the model railroad hobby has gone virtual and how much fun modeling in V-Scale is. Now, Auran, the maker of Trainz and Trainz 2006, is releasing Trainz Classic. Trainz Classic is going to start out with a focus on The New York Harlem Line, Grand Central, and Metro North Commuter Railroad. This is exciting for me as my father began his career in Grand Central working for New York Central and over the years worked much of this line, including working for Conrail, and finally retiring with Metro North. It should be interesting seeing this virtual recreation of a railroad line that I grew up around. [...]

  • 2

    I have never herd of V-scale. It sounds cool, I have O Gauge. I have been building my layout for about 7 months now and I have had a grate time doing it. The size of the table that I’m putting it on is 23 feet X 14 feet. I have a video of when I started on my website at http://www.modeltrainsonabudget.com . I need to put another video on there, but it will come soon.

    Robert Pitt on February 18th, 2008
  • 3

    Virtual model railroading can also be a great way to try out various track configurations before you build a real (ie., non-virutal) model railroad.

    Dave Campbell on September 7th, 2009
  • 4

    I think model railroading is basically obsolete – maybe collecting antique trains is ok, but with computers, there is reason for it anymore – kind of what happeded to slot cars.

    Lloyd Bishop on December 31st, 2010

 

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