As a young child during the 1950s, I remember the excitement of the holidays and asking my father to take me to see the trains layouts in the major department and hardware stores of the time. I also clearly recall a vacation trip to Chicago and visiting the Museum of Science and Industry to see the model train exhibit and spent the better part of the visit being mesmerized by it. I visited it again some 50 years later and had much the same feeling.
My father, seeing my keen interest, purchased a Lionel switcher work train set for me the following Christmas. It was pulled by a 1615 steam switcher locomotive and had a Bucyrus Erie crane car, gondola with barrels and caboose. He set up a loop of track along with two manual switches on a 4X8 sheet of plywood. Scenery was a pressed cardboard tunnel, a bridge and a few Plasticville building. Two years later for Christmas, I received a Space and Military set with a missile launcher car, exploding box car and two flats cars, one with US Navy helicopter and the other a miniature submarine, all pulled by a NW-2 switcher.
It was apparent that the layout needed to grow. It just happen that following this holiday season the local hardware store decided to eliminate its toy department and had a large amount of Super O track to sell at a bargin price. My father, being a remodeling contractor at the time, also had a client with two heavy-duty regulation size ping pong tables that no longer went along with his wife's idea for a makeover of the family recreation room. Out of these two events was born my 10'X9' Super O empire. It reigned for over five years until my father's new job as a construction supervisor required the family to move regularly over the next four years during which time the trains went into storage.
Other than periodic and partial resurrections at holiday times the trains resided in storage at my parent's home. With the passing of mother six years ago, my father now gone for 30 years, I moved them to my own attic. Surprisingly upon unpacking, I found them in remarkably good shape given the time that had passed. I began the task of restoring them, thinking that building a new layout might be something enjoyable to do in retirement.
Now in semi-retirement I enjoy revisiting this interest of my childhood and remembering times spent with my father building a Super O empire. The arrival of a grandson two year's ago has also spurred my passion to play with trains again. I am purposely rebuilding my new layout in modular format, so to make easier the ability to hopefully pass along my trains to another generation.