An Article by Barry Smith
I’ve been into HO scale model railroading since 1958 (I hate to count the years now). This grew out of the Lionel train set put up each Christmas around the Christmas tree by my father.
When I really started getting into the hobby in adulthood, it was a struggle for many years as I worked by myself, making every mistake in the book. At times, I would lose interest, but an undying love of trains would always bring me back. Starting with a sectional track on the floor, upgrading to a 4’x6’ sheet of plywood, then a 5’x9’ layout, I kept on going, learning as I went. Forty years ago, my wife and I purchased a home. Thanks to a very understanding, wife I was able to build a shelf layout in the bedroom. Then a tunnel appeared in a wall and the track ran into the hall. Another tunnel and the track was in our daughter’s room, and finally, our son’s room. My kids were understanding too. I still live in the same house today, the layout runs 58’ and is a point to point.
I had long given up on 18” radius curves and code 100 track. A train switching along a branch line had caught my fancy. Short trains fit my layout better than long trains found on mainlines. I created my own fictional railroad, the Limpia Canyon Northern, set in the year 1990. Why 1990? The variety of rolling stock! Back then, we still had 1960’s cars mixed with more modern cars (and little graffiti). I could operate on my layout what I observed on real railroads (at that time), and in 1992 I went to work for a regional railroad, becoming a conductor/engineer. Although I no longer run real trains (I’m retired), the LCN continues to run along the walls of the bedrooms to this day. The kids are grown and gone so there has been some post-kid expansion, but it is basically the same layout.
Over the last three decades, the model railroad world has seen a lot of change. What has been the biggest change in my mind is the incredible increase in detail of HO scale locomotives and freight cars (as well as price). The “shake the boxcar” kits of the 1960s/70s have been replaced by the much more detailed, ready-to-run cars and locomotives of today. Individual grabs and ladders, air hoses, pin lifters (coupler cut levers), scale stirrups, the list goes on, makes today’s rolling stock so much more detailed. On a branch line operation like mine, freight car and locomotive detail are important to me because I get up close to the layout.
The variety of freight cars available today was undreamed of 30 years ago. Yes, I am a freight car junkie and am always on the lookout for a new car type to feature on my layout. Over the last five years, ScaleTrains.com has provided a number of very detailed cars that I now run on my layout. I’m always figuring out how I can incorporate these beautiful cars to my layout, including my Rivet Counter™ Carbon Black Covered Hopper Cars.
When the ScaleTrains.com Bethlehem Steel Corp. F68BH Finger Rack Flatcar was released last year at TrainFest, I decided my steel fabrication plant would now be getting some inbound shipments of rebar. Since the ScaleTrains.com Finger Rack, the company has announced two more flat cars, the F68CH and DH cars, which I have also pre-ordered for the layout. I look forward to bringing in loads of steel plates and beams with those cars in addition to the rebar.
I can’t take credit for the rebar load. It is commercially produced by Protoloads and can be purchased here: http://www.
I look forward to more years of running trains on the LCN and additional detailed rolling stock from ScaleTrains.com. Thanks for sharing my story.