Saturday, 4 August 2012

Episode 1: A Lost Hobby & Brief

Pre Amble:

I’ve always been into trains. I wouldn’t call myself an anorak by any measure and I couldn’t tell you the names of ‘important’ locomotives… (well apart from the Flying Scotsman, but everyone knows that one) but I love travelling by train, be it Intercity, Underground or International. I also like cars, and for that matter roads but I will always feel slightly bitter about how the automobile killed, or at least damaged, British Railways. Look out of your window on any odd rail journey and you’ll see empty spaces where branch lines diverged, where goods yards used to exist or abandoned platforms at your local station. This is sad. But this is what I like about railways, the sense of a romantic history which the M11 just can’t provide.

A Lost Hobby:

When I was younger, although maybe not as young as you might think, I had a model railway. It covered my floor space and no doubt p*ssed off my parents a fair amount with the constant addition of more track and the need to go to a model shop in Chelmsford every Saturday. It was pretty great, and it was also pretty big. I did leaf through model railway literature with the long term goal of nailing it to some wood and doing it all properly but that never came around. Instead, and rather tactically, my parents got a loft conversion of sorts in the form of laying down floor boards over roof beams. The promise was, clean up my floor space of track and trains, and replace it with a table in the newly floored loft. Once the job was complete I eagerly went to assemble my new layout (now with more fresh track as there was even more floor space to play with, in the loft). Whilst I thoroughly appreciated the efforts to relocate and encourage my hobby, unfortunately said parents forgot to factor in a number of variables:
  1. There was very little height in the loft, and what height there was, was further limited by the camber of the roof. Certainly no room for a table and definitely no room for me to stand up.
  2. As this was not a proper conversion of such the loft was still susceptible to weather. Namely too hot in summer and too cold in winter.
  3. Next was the unbelievable quantity of dust.
  4. And finally there was promise of folding ladders being attached to the loft hatch. This was scrapped due to the builder claiming ‘The hatch is at a funny angle and we can’t put folding ladders in.’ What I took from that was we had got a quote from an idiot who couldn't suss out how to problem solve.
Even with these problems I merrily went about setting up my layout in the loft, now on the newly laid floor boards. I tried to make do and enjoy the extra space but the heat, dust and fact I had to move ladders about the house to get up there was making the hobby I used to enjoy hard work. The final nail in the coffin was when I went off to university and it eventually got boxed up, presumably so my Dad could fill up the space with old CD players, empty hi-fi boxes, and naturally – lots more dust.

Spin on 5 years and Leah and I (Leah is my girlfriend, who seems to be copping quite well with the fact that her boyfriend bloody loves trains) were a bit bored and elected to drive to my old house to relieve my loft of my other childhood hobby of Lego. When we got there we discovered there literally was FAR TOO MUCH lego which had been arranged into brick type (which Leah deemed ‘unfun’) and put in FAR TOO MANY boxes. This disappointed Leah so my attention turned to my trains now all nicely boxed (I’m actually pleased at the job my Dad did at dismantling it all – it’s probably because he loves boxes) in two large wooden crates. Eventually Leah allowed me to take home 1 small oval of track and 1 train + wagons. This was excellent fun. Naturally it wasn’t enough.

The next few days and work lunch breaks were spent planning and researching folding/splitting/portable model railway board solutions. Eventually I came up with a plan.

This blog is about that plan, picking off from where I left off and building my own model railway. 

Post Amble: (More on what I'm trying to achieve).

Apart from cataloguing the construction of my model railway the secondary aims of this blog are as follows:

  • You don't have to own acres of attic space to build a layout. Kids, this is about showing your parents that there ARE alternatives to having your layout on your bedroom floor, and parents and adults this is about showing you there IS room for a model railway no matter what space you have available to you.
  • You don't have to be a complete locomotive number collecting anorak to enjoy a model railway. Rather luckily I already have a large quantity of rolling stock left over from my childhood. If you're literally starting from a blank canvas, and you want to build a rural village station set in the 1930's - brilliant. You can look up what locomotives, and railway companies existed at this time and buy accordingly. But if you're like me, and just love trains of all ages and eras - and want huge steam trains operating next to the Eurostar - by all means this is OK too. Remember the most important part of your layout is the trains themselves! So buy ones you like, and if they are not quite historically accurate to the rest of your model... So what.
  • You don't have to be a DIY expert. I am merely armed with Google and my own logic. If you do your research you won't have to have a degree in woodwork or engineering to build something that (hopefully) looks good. This project isn't about creating a model that would appear in a magazine. Those kind of models take years to perfect, and whilst I am inspired by them and appreciate their art I want something fun and usable. It's important to remember that the people who make these absolutely brilliant layouts often have been building them their entire life. I haven't, and this blog is for the inexperienced first time modeller, like myself. 

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