Train Collecting

If you're looking for a hobby to entertain your child, try a train set. Before you know it, the entire family will be hooked - even Grandma.

There are many reasons for individuals and families to become interested in train collecting. Some buy only certain cars and never build a place to run them. Others want to run their trains every day. Some want to recreate a bygone era and only collect steam engines and the accessories to go with them. These collectors often have a large outdoor layout with water towers, cranes, sheds and coal cars, just to name a few. Mountain tunnels, bridges and villages make a miniature world where they can run their trains and let their imagination soar. They leave the cares of reality behind and for a few hours control a world of make-believe.

When you have a purpose set firmly in mind, begin to make your choices. You must consider space, for that is an important factor. Will your collection take up a whole room or just a small corner? Are you interested in an outdoor layout or just an engine or two, some track and a few accessories? What is your budget? Will you purchase the whole layout at once, or will it take time to build your collection?

After you have answered these questions, there is yet another. What gauge will you collect? If you already know, that's fine. If not, you must spend time browsing through hobby shops and train catalogues. Most proprietors of hobby shops will be able to supply you with books, magazines and information on train collecting.

Creating a layout can be a delightful chore. In fact, you are creating your own little world. You can have rolling hills, farms, villages, mountains and mountain tunnels, or large cities. You can even change the seasons by buying a variety of trees. Fruit trees, pines and even those with rustic autumn colors are available. You can also install streetlights, telephone poles, roads, cars and people. Like I said, this is your imaginary world and you can make it anything you choose.

One collector I know has his Lionel setup around the layout of a country fair complete with people, animals, food concessions, a working Ferris wheel and a carousel. It is a marvelous sight to see this train set in action. Both the Ferris wheel and the carousel are working and both play music. This man used to work for the railroad and adds to his collection on a monthly basis. Recently, he added a lift bridge to the layout. This is an attractive addition and adds a touch more reality to his set. Cars leaving the Fair on the main road must sometimes stop and wait while a ship passes up a canal. A spectacular layout and since he plans to use his entire rec room for his hobby, he has room for many more additions.

Men, women, boys and girls from 1 to 100 are avid train collectors. My grandsons, I believe, are two of the youngest.

Brandon, the oldest boy, fell in love with trains when he received a soft, battery operated one as a Christmas gift when he was seven months old. He would sit and play with that train for hours, chortling with glee each time it changed direction. When the batteries were low, he would wail in protest. We soon learned to keep a fresh supply of batteries on hand.

When Brandon was just over a year old, he discovered "Thomas The Tank Engine." This bright blue train with his smiling face would capture the heart of any youngster. Thomas had his own TV show. Then, we discovered that Thomas could be purchased from a shop in our city. Many of his friends, as well as track and accessories where also for sale. The manufacturer was adding new items to the list monthly. What a great opportunity for small children. While they played with their favorite TV characters, they could build their imaginations and learn at the same time.

When Brandon turned two, he received his first train set. It was a small circular track that included Thomas and two other engines. He spent many happy hours with that set. Every Christmas and birthday thereafter, Brandon has received accessories for his train set. Each time, his squeals of delight upon opening his present lets us know that we have made the right choice.

When Brandon was a little over two when he was blessed with a brother, Jordan. Brandon would share any of his toys with his brother except his beloved trains. As Jordan grew, he too wanted the trains. Screams of "Mine," and wails of protest rang through the house when Jordan got hold of a train and Brandon snatched it away. We now realized that Jordan was going to be a train lover too. So, we began buying him trains as gifts. Soon, he had a small collection of his own.

Brandon will be five soon and Jordan turned two last August. Last year the children's father built them a beautiful, pine table for their trains. They have an engine shed, a roundhouse, a turntable, two bridges, a crane, a barrel loader, a stop-and-go station, trees, people, plus engines and cars galore.

This past Christmas I bought "The Flying Scotsman" for Brandon and "The Circus Train" for Jordan. When they opened their gifts, their faces beamed. You would have thought I had given them a million dollars. I knew I had made a good choice. The new trains were a welcome addition to their set.

I enjoy watching the boys play with their trains. They spend countless hours pretending to be conductors, engineers and stationmasters. Their trains carry passengers, logs, coal and often have races and crashes. They carry the boys to a magical world. They use their imaginations instead of sitting in front of the TV. As young as they are, they are both well versed on the subject of trains and can answer questions about steam trains and diesels that set my head spinning. Brandon knows every part of a steam engine and has a good idea of the workings of it as well - rather magnificent for his age.

Train collecting is a great hobby for anyone. The boy's trains enthrall me and one day, when I retire, my rec room may hold a giant Victorian village, complete with buildings, streetlights and people, where a steam engine thunders down hills, through tunnels and over bridges. I feel this would be a most relaxing and delightful hobby.

© High Speed Ventures 2011