I was member number 72 here in the Fall of 2000 with my original handle, Conrail4Me. I was sixteen at the time, I turn 37 in September. I have spent over half my life on this forum.
The early days were indeed different. There were times when 100 replies to a thread were a big deal and topics could stay on the front page for weeks, not hours. There were topics such as the original Coffee Pot / Caboose thread, Hoenwald, and a myriad of other fun and whimsical topics which usually don't pop up these days or would not fit well with the current forum structure. Something that I have always felt contributed to the growth of the forum was the speed at which the industry was moving in the early 2000s. At that time, the print magazines were still the only real source of hard news and it could take months for something to make it into print. This forum I believe contributed to speeding up the "news cycle" in the industry. I remember threads about the early DCS development and delivery, Lionel's dive into the deep end of the scale model pool (The Challenger and Acela come to mind), and much more.
I've spent countless hours here, and I'm grateful for ALL that OGR has done and continues to do to keep this forum alive and relevant. My sincere thanks to @Rich Melvin who has busted his tail more than a few times putting up with software issues, unruly forum members, and the great Lashup debate. In all seriousness, Rich has done A LOT to make the mechanics of this place function and he along with the rest of the OGR team deserve kudos.