Welcome to the Caboose Hobbies Beginners’ Newsletter:
Thank you for joining us in our first beginner's newsletter – Caboose Steps. The Caboose Hobbies staff will write articles on a variety of subjects throughout the year with you, the beginner, in mind. Today’s newsletter will be a short introduction to Caboose Hobbies, Railroads in general, and a brief overview of Model Railroading Today.
First, I’d like
to tell you a little about the World’s Train Store, Caboose Hobbies.
The store is located just south of downtown Denver, at 500 South Broadway. If
you are familiar with that area, we are just across the street from Sam’s Club.
Caboose Hobbies has a staff that is always eager to serve
you. Please see our Home Page for store hours. Now that Caboose Hobbies' products
are on the Internet, you have access to more than 80,000 regularly stocked train-related
You can also order a wide range of items available through us on Special Order, or upcoming Reservations. Our telephone number is (303) 777-6766. Please call us for current or future stocking information!
Next, let’s cover a little railroad history. What are railroads, but "railed roads." While the railroad was not invented in North America, it was certainly used to great advantage in the U.S. We can get an idea of where railroads came from by visiting the Library of Congress web site, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/rrhtml/rrintro.html.
"Railways were introduced in England in the Seventeenth Century as a way to reduce friction in moving heavily loaded wheeled vehicles. The first North American "gravity road," as it was called, was erected in 1764 for military purposes at the Niagara portage in Lewiston, New York. … The earliest survey map in the United States that shows a commercial "tramroad" was drawn in Pennsylvania in October 1809… "
Early in United States history, most commercial transportation was by dirt trail or by waterway. Wagons, horses, sailboats and small barges were most common. Steamships first used steam engines for propulsion around 1787. The first commercial tramroads (A horse or ox drawn carriage on wooden rails.) were often used to haul granite blocks from a quarry. Some tramroads or railroads were built parallel to an inland waterway, or a canal. It was not until 1826 that John Stevens demonstrated a steam engine could be used on a railroad. The Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) RR construction started about 1830. By the time the tracks were extended to Fredrick, MD in 1831, the first American built steam engine was being used for propulsion on a working railroad.
From 1831 until about 1956, Steam Locomotives were the primary means of locomotion on America’s railroads. From humble beginnings, steam ruled the rails until dieselization. The first successful Diesel-Electric combination was the "Pioneer Zephyr". EMD’s (Electro-Motive Division of General Motors) Pioneer Zephyr (PZ) was the world’s first diesel-electric streamlined train, which debuted on April 7th, 1934. The PZ broke records with its historic 1,015 mile run from Denver to Chicago, in 13 hours and 5 minutes. After that, Alco, Fairbanks-Morse, EMD and General Electric (GE) were in a race for the highest horsepower ratings of the rails. The first "Covered Wagons" or ‘F’ series locomotives produced by EMD were introduced in 1939. This marks the "1st Generation" of diesel power. The "2nd Generation" of locomotives was heralded by GE’s U25B, and EMD’s GP-40. The EMD "Dash-2" series was introduced in 1972. The Dash-2 was accepted as the "3rd Generation" of diesel-electric propulsion. The Dash-2 series introduced modular electronic components that controlled the locomotive. The refinement of computer controlled locomotives is now know as the "4th Generation". Now, in the year 2000, the horsepower race is back on. GE’s AC 6000 CW Dash-9 and EMD’s 6000hp SD-90MAC are today’s Iron Horses.
Finally, let’s talk about Model Railroads. Today’s state of the modelers’ art is nothing short of amazing. A modeler today has a wide variety of materials and technology to work with. Here are some thoughts about a few aspects of Model Railroading Today:
The easiest way to get started in the hobby is with a Train Set. Most train sets come with a locomotive, a few cars, track and a transformer to get you going. There are a few train sets that do not come with transformers, and/or track. Read the box carefully to see what is inside. Other train sets come with buildings or other specialty items. At Caboose Hobbies, you can make your own train set out of store stock, and receive a discount on that purchase. Just ask any of our very friendly sales staff to give you the details.
What to do with your train set? It might be a good idea to anchor it to a permanent structure. While there are Dioramas (small scenes with a railroad theme) and Modules (rectangles that are usually about 2 and 1/2 feet deep, from 4 to 6 feet long), the most often used way to run your models is on a Layout. There are several ways to construct a layout for your train to run on. Many people attach the track of their first train set to a piece of plywood on legs, known as a Table layout. This is a good way to begin. The Mushroom layout can be a room-sized, four layer way to run trains. The Shelf layout is narrow (about 6 to 12 inches deep) yet long, featuring mainline runs, switching and detailed dioramas. The Coffee Table layout takes up only a small space and will provide hours of fun.
Modern model railroads are more realistic than ever. Computer Controlled Interfaces (CCI) play a large part in operations on some model railroad layouts. Digital Command Control (DCC) allows us to run different locomotives on the same track, at the same time, even in different directions! Be it a small start-up DCC unit from Model Rectifier Corporation (MRC), or huge systems by Wangrow, Northcoast Engineering, Digitrax or Lenz, (to name just a few) controlling your model railroad locomotives has never been more enjoyable.
Scenery technology has changed over the past few years. No longer should modelers be content with heavy plaster and wire constructs. The new Foam Core scenery by such companies as Woodland Scenics is making layout construction lighter, faster and more realistic. Animation effects, such as the Hobo Junction lighting kit by GRE Lighting or the Operating Bascule Bridge by Walthers add to the overall enjoyment of today’s model railroad layout. Speaking of products, let’s take look at the Walthers HO Scale 2000 catalog section headings. We would be remiss in not pointing out that there is a myriad of new products available. Some of those product categories include: Locomotives, Passenger cars, Freight cars, Track and Accessories, Signs, Structures, Figures, Vehicles, Paint, Tools, Books and so much more to add to your model railroad experience.
There are MANY books on various aspects of model railroading out there. Several books are directed at the beginner. A few of the best beginners’ books are the ones that describe how to complete a certain layout by following an exact plan. There are also specific knowledge books, such as track planning books. There are even books on how to super-detail your locomotives and cars. Others advise on bridges, electrical, or painting aspects of model railroading.
You decide how much detail, or realism, is important to you. Some people like to super-detail EVERY piece of rolling stock, giving a museum or contest quality appearance to a group of models. Others like to apply the same theory to scenery: Every rock and boulder or blade of grass is modeled accurately. Some modelers enjoy laying trackwork by hand, spiking each piece of rail individually. Other people study their layout and try to improve their operations (switching, mainline running, fast clock, etc.) to a more realistic level. Again, you decide. It is your railroad. The alternative is to Free-lance, use your imagination, or ’make-up’ everything. A railroad on the Moon or Mars might be your preference!
Two words of caution for the beginning Model Railroader:
Number one, from the Repair Department: Do not lay track on the carpet or floor if you don’t have to. It is very easy to get dust, fuzz, trash, or pieces of iron in your models. Your models may not run well after that, or might require extensive repairs.
Number two, from the Return Counter: Plan ahead. The joy of model railroading may not last very long if your plans do not match your resources. You may have an entire barn’s worth of space, but how much time are you willing to put into it? It is better to succeed at a small layout than to have a giant enterprise sit there and do nothing.
Many people may start this hobby and think, "This will be my only layout." Don’t overdo a first layout. Your first experience may just teach you the basics! Techniques you will use on later masterpieces are best learned on a first layout. Don’t be afraid to rip out a portion of your existing pike, if you find a better way to do something. Perhaps your first layout may not satisfy your need for switching, a time period or geography. Be patient. Model railroading is a mutiple-discipline hobby. One does not learn how to make trees, wire an electrical panel, place adequate lighting and cut wood to support the layout overnight. It takes time. Above all, learn new tricks. Consider your layout a "work-in-progress".
The Caboose Hobbies Staff would like to thank you for reading this edition of Caboose Steps. We hope you enjoyed it! We’ll pick it back up next time.
Happy Model Railroading!