Although I admire those who have spent decades building a large model railroad, I've never been able to commit to such a large project. There are just too many wonderful subjects to model. If it runs on rails, I love it and I'd like to build it all from scratch. After the flush of youth passes, one realizes that, while this is impossible, at least a few smaller projects can be undertaken. I had started out with a modest sized HO layout in my basement, but eventually an addition was built on our house. In the northern part of the country, a full basement costs only a little more than a crawl space, and the increased cost is quickly recovered in savings on heat. Given my love for scratchbuildng, I knew I could never fill my new space with an HO layout.
I then started a small traction layout in O scale. I'd always been fascinated by the Middleton books with their photos of trolley and interurban cars shown in wonderfully nostalgic scenes- most steam railroad pictures show little more than the engine and perhaps a train. The small layout would give me a taste of a larger scale without committing to a life long project. Since my real hobby interest is construction and model building, it didn't take me long to realize that larger scales had many advantages. My Bay Path Traction was followed by an O scale switching layout- this eventually became a project railroad for Model Railroader. Both railroads were built to modular standards against the chance that they might someday be included at a modular show. Liking to work alone, this never did come to pass, but the switching layout has traveled to many shows. A permanent extension for this based on the west end of the Boston and Albany is in rough scenery stages now. An On2 quarry railroad is also underway.
By this time the obvious had sunk in. I'm happiest when I'm building small railroads. I can change themes and scale almost as easily as my interests do, and I can transport them to shows with a minimum of fuss. It's nice to occasionally have something new to bring. A small layout is an achievable goal, actually getting finished to the last little piece, and fine detailing is much more feasible on a small model than a basement empire. They are also rather easy to get rid of if my basement ever becomes full (not including junk). Operations may be limited on a small layout, but I find I tire of this part of the hobby rather quickly. My son and I would operate the HO layout on occasion, and he had worked out a very realistic and interesting operating scheme, but I always secretly felt that I'd rather spend my free time building things or railfanning.
I hope you will enjoy your visit to my basement. I hope you find my photos interesting and perhaps learn something from my experiences and mistakes. You may hopefully even come away inspired to get to work in your own.
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