Friday, September 21, 2007

Model railroads as a hobby?

I usually get odd looks when I say I'm planning to build a train room. Here's a typical conversation:

- "uh, a train room?"
me: yes, a train room. you know, model trains and such
- "Ah! I see for the kids!"
me: no. for me

From there it usually degenerates into frowns, odd looks, or this sad expression on faces that tell you people think whether I'm right in my mind. I don't mind.

I admit I've been bit by the train bug as a kid, a long, long time ago. I like the sheer massive power of a freight train passing through a station at full speed, as I'm waiting for my train to arrive. The shaking of the ground. The air pressure changes as the train passes through. The noise. The rumbling and clickering of wheels on track joints.

Having a father who built a train layout as I was really small helped, too. I think, the first layout was on our dining room table for a few weeks around Christmas. Or maybe my father moved the table, so we can still eat, while the train is set up. I don't remember much from what the layout looked like, all I know is it was magic.

Not long after that my father started work on a real layout. The arrangement was similar to the plan in this previous post, but instead of a double track mainline is was single track only. I don't remember much of this layout anymore, with the exception of the water manor in one of the corners, but I know he added that only later.

He built the bigger layout when I was maybe 12 years old. I did a lot of cabling and added details like a railroad crossing with functional warning lights, triggered by photo sensors.

So, there are lots of memories, but also much more.

Building a model railroad involves a lot wood working. Most notably the benchwork and supports for tracks and landscaping features. Then there is the electrical work. Making sure everything runs flawlessy.
All of this already requires a lot coordination, especially if you space is tight and you have certain ideas how the railroad should operate.

But wait there is more. In order to keep operating the railroad interesting the tracks on the layout need to make sense, without overloading the layout. There needs to be a purpose to each track. Most of the knowledge for this comes from railroad history and how services were run, factories received and generated freight, or operations in stations worked.

But wait there is more. It needs to be pretty to look at. Landscaping, grade separation, villages, cities, industrial areas, all need to be modeled. Bridges, retaining walls. Signals in stations. One can go into any level of detailing. People in yards, on station platforms, luggage carts, freight facilities, detailing of factories, warehouses, station interiors, ...

But wait there is more. Many locomotive or car models as they come from the manufacturer look fairly bland and freshly washed. Trains are often dirty. There is plenty opportunity to weather or "super" model.

But wait there is more. You can go for really realistic landscaping, proper looking trees, bushes, or grass. How does grass grow along a train track? What about the color of ballast? Once you start looking into this, it more and more becomes an art form, similar to painting. Color becomes important, as well as lighting, to make a model look realistic.

But wait there is more. I mentioned electrical before. You can build all kinds of automation and effects into a layout. Block control to automatically control trains. Monitoring of whether a track is in use or not. Speed modules to properly slow down a train when it looses power (i.e. is supposed to stop in front of a signal), or slowly gain speed. Digital systems often do that, but you can do that with analog, too.

But wait there is more. Since you built a railroad for operation, you should also run it. Invite friends over and have an "operating session". You can go as detailed as putting together an actual schedule with waybills, train consists, etc. and then run your model like a real railroad. Larger layouts can require 5 people to operate, plus a dispatcher who organizes the sequence of trains. A small one like the one I'm planning can probably keep two people busy for a couple hours.

So, in the end what you really are doing here is a create a world, and control everything that is going on in that world. It needs to make sense. It needs to look good, and function well. That's the challenge. Running the trains is the icing on the cake.

Ich werde oft schief angeschaut, wenn ich sage, dass ich ein Zimmer fuer die Eisenbahn baue. Hier ist eine typische Unterhaltung:

- "Ein Eisenbahnzimmer?"
ich: Ja, Modelleisenbahn und so
- "Ach so, fuer die Kinder..."
ich: Nein, fuer mich.

Ich sehe dann regelmaessig Schulterzucken, komische Seitenblicke, oder diesen traurigen Gesichtsausdruck, wenn Leute meinen ich waere nicht mehr ganz dicht im Kopf. Ist ok, stoert micht nicht.

Ich gebe zu, ich entdeckte meine Liebe zu Eisenbahnen als Kind, vor langer, langer Zeit. Ich mag die rohe Energie eines Gueterzugs, der mit voller Geschwindigkeit durch den Bahnhof faehrt, waehrend ich auf meinen Zug warte. Wie die Erde wackelt. Wie der Luftdruck sich veraendert. Der Krach. Das Rumpeln und Klackern der Raeder an den Schienenstoessen.

Es hilft, dass mein Vater eine Anlage aufgebaut hat als ich klein war. Ich glaube, die erste Anlage war auf unserem Esszimmertisch fuer ein paar Wochen um Weihnachten. Oder vielleicht hat er den Tisch auch verschoben, so dass wir trotz Zuegen noch essen konnten. Ich kann nicht mehr erinnern wie die Anlage aussah. Es war wir Magie.

Bald darauf begann mein Vater eine richtige Anlage zu bauen. Der Gleisplan war aehnlich zu dem in einem frueheren Posting, aber anstatt der zweigleisigen Hauptstrecke war der aeussere Kreis nur eingleisig. Ich kann mich nicht an viel erinnern, mit Ausnahme des Wasserschlosses, aber ich weiss, er fuegte das erst spaeter hinzu.

Er baute die groessere Anlage als ich vielleicht 12 Jahre alt war. Ich verlegte viele Kabel und baute viele Details wie zum Beispiel einen Bahnuebergang mit funktionierenden Warnlichtern die von Lichtschranken ausloest wurden.

Es gibt also viele Erinnerungen, aber das Hobby bietet noch viel mehr.


Patzi said...

Between the lines I can read of your deep, deep love to trains and railroads... :-)

Anonymous said...

seit ich regelmaessig mit der S-Bahn oder dem Regionalzug nach Stuttgart fahre denke ich oft an deine besondere Beziehung zur Eisenbahn.

Die Gueterzuege sind ziemlich furchterregend wenn sie mit laut und kraftvoll durch den Bahnhof fahren, ein ICE sieht schon toll aus und ein TCV auch. Seit Juni diesen Jahres kann man von Stuttgart nach Paris oder nur nach Strassburg mit dem TCV reisen.

Am Dienstag dieser Woche traute ich morgens meinen Augen nicht, da steht doch im Ludwigsburger Bahnhof auf dem Gleis des Regionalzuges nach Stuttgart eine Dampflok mit Fahrgastabteilen und zum Schluss so ein Waggon für Fahrräder. Offenbar war es eine Sonderfahrt nach Geislingen/Steige. Das war ein interessanter Tagesbeginn.


Bernhard said...

Eine Dampflok in Ludwigsburg! Wirklich ein etwas anderer Tagesabeginn. Ich habe seit einiger Zeit immer eine Kamera im Rucksack. Fuer zufaellige Begegnungen ... :-)