A Journey into Model Railroading Part 2

A Journey into Model Railroading Part 2

By Cory Ramsey

My model railroad, 2022-23 version, started out costing a couple hundred dollars, which quickly became a couple thousand dollars before I could say “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.” Because it never becomes just the train itself to be replicated in HO scale. The entire world has to be created in HO scale. And the sellers of the stuff making that fake world look like the real world charge prices at full scale. 

My simple railroad endeavor started innocently enough. I didn’t even go to Hobby Lobby. Have you seen the cost of a “new” set these days? The last one I had purchased in 1992 ran about 50 or 60 dollars. Now that same set is 300. Are the tracks laid in Golden Spikes like the Transcontinental Railroad? 

I had no idea current day toys (models) ran that high, and that was without the diorama part that must needs come later. So, I went to Ebay and found a used set. A steam locomotive from the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis (N.C.&St.L). stable. That’s the outfit out of Nashville, circa 1845, that was later acquired by the L&N. It was also one of the very lines to reach my far western Kentucky hometown of Hickman. 

So, as model lines are prone to do, nostalgic and meaningful for me. I received the set in the mail, in its original box and seemingly untouched. A catalog mail-in form slipped out when I opened the set up. It said I could send in for the new 2003 models. This set had sat for 20 years.

But then, not much had changed in two decades, except prices. I put the track together, laid the locomotive and cars on the rails, and plugged in the power transformer. And we were off. Railroad man again for the first time in 30 years. 

Wouldn’t it have been great, and cheaper had I just stopped right then and there. But wait, there’s more. Along came grass, and a mountain, and a tunnel, and don’t forget a bridge. A railroad crossing gate. Roads. Trees, and my goodness, how the little trees can nickel and dime a man. Then, Woodland Scenics. That’s a Missouri outfit who makes the best looking buildings any model railroader could ask for. Fully built, awesome looking turn of the century structures that make my set look like either 1905, or 2005 with old 1905 buildings. I have factories and feed mills. Churches next to farm houses. And a wish list of future structures, all at nearly 100 dollars a pop. But why not? Only the best for my HO scale dreams.

An old L&N diesel currently sits near my model downtown on this December day. In the pretend world, the L&N hasn’t become Seaboard yet. And it’s still a long way off from the CSX colors. In the pretend world, the limestone depot down in Bowling Green is still open, and passengers are waiting for the next trip north or south. In the pretend world, a nostalgic smile is worth every penny.