The big news out of south Florida is the return of passenger rail. This new link will connect Miami to Orlando, with visions to extend connections to Jacksonville and Tampa. Passenger rail will soon be returning providing Floridans a choice in transportation.
I live next to this rail corridor. Although no stops are currently planned near my house, I can hope that one could be built in my lifetime. I can only dream of the time when I can walk down to a station and ride the rails.
This expansion of rail inspired me to pick up one of my childhood hobbies: model railroading. As a kid, I spent hours building and playing with my HO Scale railroad in my basement. My green Burlington Northern engine hauled freight and passengers along the infinite loop of my set. This tiny diesel was the star of numerous cargo trips and star of epic derailments. This was all endless fun watching this tiny model travel around its tiny railroad world.
This week, I stalked the halls of eBay looking for all of the pieces to construct an operating train set on a shoe string budget. Railroading is a lost art, so it is difficult to find pieces that are not destroyed or over priced. RC toys without wires and flying drones are what are really cool today. They have taken over the hobby shops. This makes it difficult to find the basic parts to build a railroad amongst the car and plane white noise.
My search illustrated how so few people have been exposed to the rhythmic hum of rails. It takes a lot of research to understand the facts and fiction for rail. Remember that almost every American has taken a ride in a car, but only a comparable handful have taken a ride on a train. The halls of online sales are full bizarre understandings of train sets.
My research and eyes, led me to an upgrade from my HO days into O Gauge. The Classic American look and feel of the Lionel Company grabbed my attention. All the little moving parts, service packs, smoke, and whistles, celebrate the pinnacle of American railroading.
After some competitive bidding I pieced together a set from sellers from across the country. These large scale trains are big enough to have realistic detail, and enough complexity to require maintenance. I purchased a vintage Lionel Steamer. This 1950 model is as old as my house, and chugs and smokes as if it was new. Only something so well made, could last all of these years at the hands of children and adults.
My railroad is facing many of the same challenges as the real railroads. There is a dispute as to where the train can be placed. My suggestions of placing a track on the wall surrounding the living rom was immediately thrown out by the natives. After some compromise, we agreed that the I could use the dinning table, but would have to take it all down when not in use.
My railroad struck a deal with the locals. The hobby is ok if it does not get in the way of other things. This is the generally agreed to policy my my new rail line. This policy is also the common place for rail. It is difficult to understand what this really means, until you start using the train. For me, this means that I need 15-20 minutes to set up and take down my model. Otherwise, dinner will be served on the TV trays. For big trains, it is a matter of how many times you have to cross the tracks, or wait for a train to pass. For me it is cool to see the trains carrying people of goods down the rail, while others see this as an obstacle in their race across town.
My hope is that everyone in my house will be as memorized as me with this model line. Once the rhythmic sound of the rails start rolling in my house I hope the love will grow and I will be granted a more permanent location.
For me, my model rail is an escape from the daily grind, and a great activity for Eddie to grow into. Big rail is an escape for many from their cars and the highways, and provides hope that this grand transportation system would return to America.