World’s Greatest Hobby: OO Memories

Tri-ang model train collection at the Milton-Keynes Model Railway Society

Tri-ang model train collection at the Milton-Keynes Model Railway Society

On a recent trip to England I happened on a model railway club while visiting Bletchley Park (I wrote about it here). It was the Milton Keynes Model Rail Society. These guys had several layouts on different gauges, scales and themes. One that really caught my eye was a Tri-ang layout. I almost got misty-eyed as my first electric trains were Tri-ang.

We got started with Tri-ang when Andrew, my younger brother, got a CN set for Christmas (my dad was a closet railfan and model railroader). I got playing with it and was hooked. I went to Consumers Distributing (now I’m *really* dating myself) and bought the CP set. We fooled around with it on the carpets for a while but didn’t do much more. The next thing I knew, my dad found a slab of plywood and spiked down some track. We went to our local hobby shop, bought some brass Atlas switches and fibre-tie flex track and we were in business. As I recall the slab was about 30″ x 40″. We had an oval with switches but I can’t recall the exact configuration, it was fairly simple in any case. I later got a CP Pacific steam engine with working smoke and blind flanges on the centre drivers for my birthday. I read a book on how to build station so I bought some balsa and built it. I used scotch tape for the windows and a drinking straw for the chimney. I took a block of wood and it became the raised platform on which it sat. We bought some lights from the hobby shop and had working lamps on the platform, a light in the station and street lamps in the painted parking lot. We scenicked the whole thing with coloured sawdust and ballasted the track. It was, in effect, a complete working layout.

An example of a Tri-ang Canadian prototype

An example of a Tri-ang Canadian prototype

None of us knew what were doing, the curves were *way* too tight, I don’t believe we had any passenger cars so the passenger station served no real purpose. I didn’t know the North American stations, especially small ones, don’t have raised platforms. We didn’t know that brass rail isn’t as good as nickel-silver, that our equipment, being OO scale wasn’t really compatible with the Atlas HO track, that fibre-tie track isn’t as good as plastic ties and that coloured sawdust isn’t the preferred scenic material. We didn’t know any of that and yet we had fun. Sure, you couldn’t pull a complete train around the too-tight curves and the huge flanges on the Tri-ang locomotives used to bump over the frogs on the Altas switches but we had fun with it. We also learned a lot in the experience. The most amazing part to me, when I look back, is that there was no sense of ‘we can’t do that’ or ‘that’s not the right way’. We didn’t know any better so we just went ahead and did what we wanted. How many times since have I thought ‘I can’t do that, I need to (fill in roadblock here) first.’ So maybe I learned a few things but maybe what I forgot was that sense of fun and that ‘go for it’ sense of adventure and isn’t fun what model railroading is really supposed to be about?

Props to my friend John Longhurst whose blog post here got me started on this journey down memory lane.


One Response to World’s Greatest Hobby: OO Memories

  1. Jo-Anne Lynagh says:

    Really enjoyed this. I never had a model railroad myself but I loved looking at them in store windows and imagining I was on a trip out west. We did live by the tracks in Grimsby (I’ll leave you to figure out what side) and I never tired of the sounds of the passing trains. Jo-Anne

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