Steam engineSteam engine traveling on the HO-scale model railroad.One of my many “garage projects” is model railroading. I will have one section here on my Northwest Sisu Garage website dedicated to this. It will include stories, photos and videos, where I periodically talk about the progress building my model railroad. I don’t know at this point how often I have time to provide articles and updates, maybe something from once a week to once a month.

This first article is about how I became interested in model railroading, and my first steps into this fascinating hobby.

I have my whole life been fascinated by technology, loved to play and tinker with mechanical stuff, been drawn like a magnet to anything motive, such as automotive power. I have a special affection to locomotives.

In my early teens, being so poor, we made our own toys. We made boats out of styrofoam, powered by twisting rubber bands. Later, when we became a little smarter, we extracted electrical motors out of broken toys, to make battery-driven boats.

Toy train around the Christmas tree.Toy train around the Christmas tree.Reading books and magazines, and paging through mail-order catalogs, the pictures of trains around the Christmas tree always caught my attention, but I could only dream of owning one.

Once I grew up, and life become busy with work and other aspects of adulthood life, the interest I had in tinkering with toys was left behind to the memories of the childhood days.
I didn’t lose interest in trains in general, though. I travelled by train quite a bit, it being a common form of transportation in Finland, as well as in Europe as a whole.

It was always exciting for me watching trains, and ride in them. Those trains were either electro-diesels, or electric trains. I didn’t have any exposure to steam engines, other than maybe seeing one at some museum-setting.

When our kids were young, we had a Thomas the tank engine wood train collection set up for them to play with. I really enjoyed building the tracks for them, experimenting with all kinds of configurations. I didn’t think of it as a form of model railroading, though.

Not until early middle-age did I get exposed to actual model railroading. One of my brother-in laws had been collecting Lionel model trains since his childhood. When I saw those old classic Lionel engines, it really sparked the interest in me for the first time to seriously get into model railroading.

Not long after seeing those Lionel trains, At our local mall,  a seasonal Christmas store had a post-season sale. One item was a Lionel Christmas train set, with the price heavily reduced! I bought the set, and it has often been set up around our Christmas tree during the holiday season.

I came to the point where I wanted to build a model railroad. I would have loved to build one at the O-scale, but the limited room I had was probably best suitable for N-scale. So, I decided to compromise, and go with the HO scale! (O-scale = 1:48, HO = 1:87, N = 160)

Many model railroaders, especially with limited space, start out with a 4x8 feet layout, one reason being that it is so easy to just pick up a 4x8 plywood sheet from the local lumber yard or home improvement store.

I started out with a 7 feet long table, due to the space restrictions, but widened it from the typical 4 feet to 5 feet.

HO scale Overland Limited by Bachmann.HO scale Overland Limited by Bachmann.I picked up a Bachmann Overland Limited HO steam trainset from a local hobby store. The set included everything to get started: the train, power supply, and tracks.

So that was some background to my interest in model railroading, and how I got started.

One might think this is about adults playing with toys. But it is far from it! It is a hobby, just like any other. A way to flee from the everyday grind for a moment. It is also a great way to learn various skills. I have been learning a lot about electronics, mechanics, using hand tools, etc…

In my subsequent articles, I will talk about the successes, and the mistakes, I made in building my railroad “empire”, how my railroad has evolved over time. In the next chapter, I will talk about my first train table, the cool experiments I did, and why I scratched it and started all over. Stay tuned!