Model Trains, Forever

Geek Culture

I was completely obsessed with model trains as a kid. At that time at the dawn of history, there were no video games, no computers, no Legos, no transformers, no nothing. In fact we didn’t even have a TV growing up. So model trains were all there was for building worlds. I spent countless hours on my plywood table making a plausible world with what I had, which was not much, because in addition to all the previous things we didn’t have, I also didn’t have any money. Model railroading then, as now, is dominated by adults, who could buy lichen, or tiny figurines, or telephone poles. I had to make anything I used, from nothing. It was a blast.

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These days with so many other options, model trains aren’t very exciting. I know that if I were a kid again, I’d much rather play Age of Empires, or Halo, than make mountains out of paper mache. For instance there’s Microsoft’s Train Simulator, sort of like their Flight Simulator, but on tracks. IMHO you have all the downsides of trains (stay on the tracks) with none of the upside of world building. On the other hand, no kid I know can turn away from a really big model train layout.

I still have all my original O-27 gauge Lionel trains, which I occasionally bring out at Christmas (and have resisted selling off on eBay). My son and I have several days of fun with it. I’ve been contemplating setting up a run around the perimeter of my studio, just for geeky laughs. So I’ve been trying to re-immerse myself back into this hobby subculture, and trying to get my kids interested in it as well.

I’m looking for suggestions for geekdad activities short of turning our basement into a vast model railroad club. I’ll pass on the good stuff here. So far I’ve found all the guys at

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