Thursday, December 17, 2015

Model Trains and Miniature Gaming


I noticed that it has been a while since I posted up anything and seeing how we are coming to the end of the year I better get posting. Another reason for the slow posts here is that I started a Twitter account, @TimTjkulinski and I have been pretty active with posting up pictures over there. Anyway, now onto the post.

Well back a few months ago, March 1st actually, I entered back into the world of Model Railroading. This was a hobby that I was into heavily back in CA and was very active with my HO Modular Club. After I moved to Phoenix in October of 1999, I had grand plans to build a layout or join a Modular HO club out here. Well things never really got off the ground, first I couldn't find a HO modular railroad club and also I was in a two bedroom apartment waiting for my current house to be built. The dream of building my own layout quickly faded into history. I then switched over my hobby time to gaming as my main hobby.

Now flash forward about two years ago and I found a blog called Wargames and Railroads which is about another fellow gamer that is doing both hobbies.Now I do not know this fellow blogger, but his story matches mine with gaming and model railroading. In fact he is working on scratch building a old west town called Calmity for his 28mm old west gaming. I highly recommend this blog, he does some great work and painting.

Then about a year ago, another blog popped up on the radar called Thunder Mesa Mining Co, which is a freelance railroad in On3 scale based on Big Thunder Mountain railroad. Dave Meek is the owner and he is another amazing modeler. He has captured the look and feel of Big Thunder railroad at Disneyland remarkably, and I give him high marks since I worked many days on Big Thunder in my Disneyland days. Well thanks to Dave's layout, I was inspired to get back into Model Railroading again. I tried to get my buddy DrunkenSamurai back into the hobby, but he was done with it and was happy to leave the thought of model trains back in his memories (which may be a good thing as I have come to find out! ) But another buddy, Da Greenskins was more than happy to jump into model railroading.

Now Da Greenskins and I had to make some choices about where we wanted to go in this new hobby. We were both getting into this with nothing, Greenskins was starting out as a newbie. I was a veteran but had given all of my stuff to a couple of friends in CA that are still into Model Railroading. Now Greenskins loved the look of N scale, but I was really wanting to go into On3, like Dave at Thunder Mesa. After spending many trips to our local hobby stores (and getting prices shock!) we decided to venture back into HO. Now with that figured out, what era to do? We decided on a time set in the late 80's & 90's, since both of us had memories of trains during this time, we decided this would be the best place to start.

With that I started planing my layout for my game room. The big decision I had to wrestle with was would I be able to have a layout and a game table in the room or would I need to take down my gaming table (6'x4')? Well after thinking about it and with my wife's input, I decided to keep the table and build a switching layout along two walls. I have always enjoyed operations rather than round and round style layouts. So this past March I started the reconfiguration of the room. I had to loose my gaming display case and a nice size dry erase white board, but I was able to get a L shaped lay out being 7.5' on one side by 9', not bad for a small switching layout.

With that figured out I needed to come up with an area to model, which was rather easy, I would model a portion of the Southern Pacific Anaheim branch line that runs along the 5Fwy in California. Specifically I wanted to model the area along Artesia Blvd and Knott Ave in Buena Park/Anaheim. This branch line is still used by Union Pacific and if you ever drove down the 5Fwy in Anaheim, you have seen this branch line. Back in my Disneyland days, I used to drive by the Anaheim Wye and SP would park a ton of different locomotives there. Cool thing was you could walk right up to the locos and take all kinds of pictures.

So with that figured out I started looking at gathering the materials for the layout. My good friend Bill in CA, built me the modules for the shelf layout. A trip to Home Depot had me bringing back the brackets and shelving for the layout. And a few trips to the Hobby store had me acquiring track and roadbed. The part that gave me sticker shock was the rolling stock and locomotives. Remember I gave away everything so I was starting over again. So after thinking about which locomotives I wanted, I picked up a brand new Athearn SW1500 in speed lettering.

My first locomotive in over 20 years!

Now when I was into model railroading, this locomotive when new was only $35.00, now this time around, it cost me $95.98! Wholly crap, now I see why DrunkenSamurai wanted to leave the idea of model railroading in the past! Although since I didn't need more than two locomotives, I justified the price and plunked down my money and brought this little beauty home with me. Now to be honest, when this kit first came out, it cost $35.00, but then I would drop another $30 to $40 in detail parts. This kit has it all so there is no buying all the detail parts. So in reality the price is not as bad as I thought at first, but it is hard to justify it in your head!

My favorite switcher of all time!

My second locomotive I purchased was another Athearn, a GP40-2 in Kodachrome scheme. This was a proposed merger of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific which both companies thought was a done deal, but the government had other ideas.

SP Kodchrome GP40-2

Both New Locos

Now I needed rolling stock, but after seeing the prices of locomotives, I was scared to look at what a boxcar would be. The hobby didn't disappoint, box cars were now starting at $25.00 a car and up. Something that I noticed right off the bat was that there were no more "shake the box" kits anymore. Athearn, MDC and a few other companies had either went under or up detailed their kits and were now charging more. Another thing was the art of detailing locos and rolling stock was now pretty much gone. Everything was ready to run and all detailed out for you. Something happened to the model railroad hobby along the way. Now customers wanted everything already done for them and it seemed the model railroad companies were more than happy to put out detailed kits all ready to go, you just had to have the cash. Once again I started thinking DrunkenSamurai was right, but then I realized that he said he still had his stuff.

So off I went to my good friend to see if I could get his stuff. After a few months of asking, we settled on a price (my FOW Airborne force plus $80.00) and we had a trade. The great thing was he had more than enough of the older kits I wanted. I also got 5 more locos in the deal, three more Athearn locos (GP 35, GP38-2 & GP40-2) as well as two Frontline GP9s. Oh and when I got my modules from Bill, he gave me another Athearn GP40-2!

GP40-2 from Drunken with SW1500

My rolling stock now numbers about 50 cars or so and my buddy in CA is going to send back a bunch of my old cars that as he put it "were just in storage on his layout until I came back".

Some of the 50+ cars from Drunken!

More Rolling Stock

And a few more!

So, where am I now? Well I still need a few more switches for the layout. I also need to figure out controls for the layout, am I going DCC or standard DC. I think right now it will be standard DC, Bill once again is hooking me up with one of his old throttles. There then is wiring, scenery and detailing to do, I have a long road ahead of me, but this is a long term project. My goal is to have the track all laid by the end of January so that I can test out the track plan.

Oh and I have to disclose that my wife was not too happy with me going back into this hobby especially when she saw the cost of it now. So now I need to spread my hobby funds over two hobbies and sometimes make the tough choice of which to spend it on. But both hobbies can live with each other and they are a perfect balance for me. So you will be seeing more Model Railroad posts here at Cursed Treasures in the future. Now, how do I expand this layout???