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.