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Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday By Request

This week’s request is from Seamhead Gypsy who sent this challenge:

Where or how does one know specific train schedules?

For about 2 years now I've been gathering ideas and trying to teach myself some of the nuances of model railroading. Thus far my only accomplishment was two years ago when I made a temporary setup under and around one of our Christmas trees. For me the fun was using the glue other materials to make the scenery where my little winter town was set. I tried (wanted) to do a polar express theme last year but never could find enough info to be authentic enough.

FBR is for me to continue to do research. I want to see the trains so I can be sure that I have the right details.

There are actually a few questions in there, but I’ll try to help!

The first thing I did was to ask my railfan guru, David, a few questions to make sure I have my facts right. (Always check your facts, then if you’re wrong, you can blame someone else!)

I sense that you want more the opportunity to see the detail on the trains for modeling as much as how they run, so I have some suggestions.

First off to see the trains in action, I’ll suggest find some local railfans and ask to hang out and observe when they chase trains. It worked for me. No, falling in love with them is NOT a requirement, especially if you are a married dude and most of them are married dudes. The whole romance of the rails thing works best if there are 2 single people who are mutually attracted anyway. But seriously, look for guys hanging out near the railroad crossing, the extra antenna on the car lets you know there’s a good chance it’s a railfan. Let them know you’re an aspiring model railroader and you are looking to learn.

If you don’t want to be so bold, try learning about signals. Get familiar with the railroad and get a feel for when the trains come by. There are great books and online resources for learning what the different signals mean. I’m still working on that. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than figuring out baseball signals!

When David and I got out, we use those things. He’s also on the phone all the time with other railfans, some who work for the railroad or for a shipper who works with the railroad. When a dispatcher has a minute and calls a friend to tell him where the train is, it’s NOT insider trading! The big companion when we chase trains is the scanner. The same way a scanner tuned to police radio can hear what’s going on, a railfan listening to railroad communication can figure out what crossing the train will be at next. Understanding the jargon can be challenging sometimes too!

If you are looking to see some trains up close to really see the detail, I recommend a train zoo! A train zoo is what I call a train museum. Rina started to enjoy trains seeing them up-close at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. There’s SO much to see there, including a few antique locomotives you can walk right up to and take photos. There are some train zoos that also have a train that runs, a tourist train. I know in Ohio there is the Ohio Railway Museum just north of Columbus in Worthington. They have a train that runs there for a reasonable admission, great for getting kids into the trains too! There are lots of train zoos in the US. Google “Railroad Museum” and the state where you’re looking to find one. There’s a good chance you might not have even known there was one near you.

The last thing I’ll suggest is seek out a local model railroad club or train hobby shop. Ask questions. Most railroad club members are passionate about their hobby and won’t take much prying to get them talking about it. I’ve always found that the best thing is, to humble yourself a little. If I say up front that I’m a novice who wants help, I find more often than not, I get help.

I hope that’s some decent information to get you moving in the right direction, Seamhead Gypsy. If you seek more, you can always drop me an email!


If you’d like to give me the next Friday By Request, send me an email! I’ll write about, photograph, scrap or do poetry or song lyrics. Think the idea is just too crazy? Send it to me. I might still be able to do something for you! The first person to send an email as of now will be next week’s Requester. You get to challenge me and a link to your blog if you want it. I hope you’ll join in!


A Vintage Green said...

Very helpful post for railfan info. I am bookmarking this post to check back again. Seems we are 'getting interested' in trains at our wee house.

Lindabee said...

My hubby is into Lionel and MTH trains big time. He has a layout in the basement room that is 16' square.
He gets two magazines - Classic Toy Trains and O Gauge Railroading. I mostly look at the pictures, but he reads them from cover to cover. I'll post some photos on my blog.

seamhead gypsy said...

Thanks Nani! I never thought of looking in the train museums for details. I'll have to follow up on that. I think I need to also make a stronger effort to attend a train show. Like most things here in my neck of the woods there is always significant travel involved though. That's just the price to pay for living in a town where everyone knows your name.