My story is a familiar one, and at 77, I have plenty of time to reflect on my teenage hiatus from my toy trains. I was 16 in 1958, and had made a decision to let my dad sell my American Flyer S gauge "empire" (5 engines and 28 cars plus several Lionel and AF operating accessories) in order to buy a brand spanking new Webcor Royal Coronet reel-to-reel tape recorder. My best friend had one and the idea of recording the hot tunes of the day off the radio to dance by was irresistable. I also had four girl cousins, two of whom were about my age, who, in turn,  had  a number of female friends I could hang with and listen to recorded songs and dance. Listening to music, girls and dancing quickly supplanted the trains. Since I lived in the borough of Queens and went to school in Brooklyn, and with the els and subways, I had no need to drive or own a car. Taking a date to Radio City Music Hall or a Broadway show was easily accomplished with public rail transportation. Those dates into NYC often ended with a Staten Island Ferry ride and some "making out" on a discreet deck! Entered college at 17 and after two years, a three-year enlistment with the US Army. After my service time, went back to college, married and had two children. A few years into marriage, I started a small collection of Rivarossi HO steam engines, which I displayed in my college office as I was then an Assistant Professor of English. It was not until 1972 at age 30, that I found myself drawn back to toy trains, starting with a new Marx set. This eventually led to Lionel and the TCA (1974) and the rest, as they say, is history! What are your stories of trains, interrupted?

vita sine litteris mors est  (Seneca)

Original Post

My story is simpler but no less interrupted.

A Lionel train set was purchased for me at the age of four. By my eighth birthday I had a train table, a Santa Fe F-3 freight set and a Lionel steamer to run. I kept the O gauge trains for a few more years but then decided to change to HO. So, my father gave the Lionel trains to the son of a co-worker. I reworked the layout for HO but quit model trains a year or so later and my interest became flying model airplanes, which led to a career in engineering. Around the time my son was ten years old, we briefly updated the HO layout but quickly put it aside. I again began to take an interest in model trains when my children had gone off to college. I attended a train show and had to leave with something, so I bought an HO Big Boy locomotive thinking that I might resume modeling in HO. However, at the next show, I saw and purchased an MTH Premier New York Central Hudson and have continued in O gauge ever since. The interruption was only forty years...


Same song, next verse. My Father worked for Southern RR. Of course I had to have a train set. In 1963 I got the X200 Texas special. In 1965 I got another set from Sears with a steam engine, a floodlight car, two manual switches and the #346 culvert unloader. It was all attached to a 4x8 piece of plywood. Train time was rare as I had trouble moving the plywood to play. In 1970 we moved to Alabama. My rolling stock never left the moving box. The plywood, with my track, was hung close to the ceiling in our garage. Fast forward 49 years. I saw an O27 set in a yard sale for $60.00. I thought my twin Grandsons might like to play with it when they visited. I put the oval on a hollow door on my front porch. My Grandsons could not be tempted away from their electronics. However the hook was set in me. After two days I placed the door setup on sawhorses in the center of our living room. My patient wife tolerated this arrangement for two months. Next a spare bedroom was taken over. When we learned company was coming, my lovely bride bought a 8x8 building for my railroad. I dug deep in my parent's basement to retrieve my 1960's stuff and plywood layout. It is a growing railroad with no end in sight.

Great topic.

My parents and Aunt Ruth gave me a solid foundation in Lionel trains and accessories throughout my childhood. They gave me as Christmas and birthday gifts the 027 train set headed up by the 2065 baby Hudson steamer, #41 US Army switcher, yellow trolley, gang car, ZW transformer, # 626 B&O center cab diesel, barrel loader and operating barrel car, and several other operating cars and accessories. I still have them all in good operating order.

These trains were set up around the Christmas tree during the holiday season and put away each year, but when I was 10 years old, my dad bought the graduated trestle set and put together a beautiful trestled layout on a 4 by 8 plywood board with grass paper, permanently set up on saw horses in the basement.

The interruption for me started around the age of 16 or 17. The timing corresponded with my interest in girls and the music of 1966 through 1969, particularly a very pretty blonde I had a secret crush on in high school, a very pretty brunette who I had a crush on and who lived in a small town near Princeton, NJ that I would meet at Penn Station in NYC and took to Rockefeller Center, Broadway Shows and La Crepe Restaurant, and The Doors.

The Interruption lasted until after I met a different very pretty brunette at age 25, married her at age 26, and then the Interruption stopped shortly after we had our first child when I was 35 years old. That is when my same childhood trains were set up around the Christmas tree each year.

When I was in my early 40s, we had a son and a daughter, the train collection grew, and 3 different 027 basement layouts were built at different times. 

Around 1996, when my daughter was 10 and my son 7 years old, I switched from 027 to 0 Gauge track and switches, and began building my current basement layout that I have tinkered with ever since. Arnold

In my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

Second Verse-Same as the first....I'm Henery the 8th...... Oh wait different forum

I'm sure several themes will emerge through out this thread.

My story started with an HO layout that my dad and I built when I was 8 in 1970. It was a 4 X 8 board with a
4 X 6 L for a yard. It had two tracks with the inside loop elevated with a big suspension bridge. Every Christmas and Birthday came with train gifts from my family. One of my Uncle's was also into model trains and he and my cousin would love to see them run. I built up quite a collection. Ironically one of the first sets I got was a Lionel HO PA Alco streamliner passenger train.
Several years went by and in my teens we built a bigger layout in our basement, 12X8, I recall. In between we had set up my dad's tinplate trains on the floor that he had from his childhood. The second layout was all mine I did all the track and wiring and was always tinkering around. Before I go to much further, can't forget the Aurora race cars and Hot Wheels and track that occupied the basement floor too.
The layout came down when we moved after I finished High School. I kept much of the bench work and track in sections in our new house but like most, college and girls occupied my time. Got married in my mid 20's and always put a loop of track under the Christmas tree. Started a family and bought our house in 1997 and thought I'd finally start an new layout.
My daughter (now 21) was not really interested in trains. I made various attempts to get my son interested in trains. He loved Thomas the Tank and we bought him tons of the battery op trains with the blue plastic track. I think I played with them more than he did. Well it took up until 3 years ago till I finally did start a small 4X8 layout. I went with O gauge because I always loved Lionel trains growing up but since we started in HO I never switched.
The sad part of the story is that I'm estranged from my family for various, mostly stupid reasons, and I not sure if I'll ever see my old trains again. I'm hopeful that I can get them and my dad's Lionel's as well one day. I can say that I'm having as much fun now as I did back in my childhood days. The difference now is after a rough day at work a nice glass of scotch and some time running trains clears my head.

Now I just need to get the kids out of the house so I can build a bigger layout


Three Rails Are Better Than None 

Same plot, same outcome, different characters and a slightly different story line.......Dad ran a small string of hobby shops and was a Lionel dealer. He also bought and sold antiques, so trains were naturally part of the program. When I was old enough to have a paper route, I massed my collection with trains I literally found in the trash....when I went to work for Ford, of course career, family and moves kept the trains on the back burner. However I never got rid of them......they stayed in boxes and totes and occupied any available closets in the houses we owned....up until dad retired, I did spend Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays doing repair work for him on the work he either had or had taken in for his the bug was always biting forward another 20 odd years..after my wife and I finally settled in our last home, and we were empty nesters, she surprised me with plans for the addition to the house all for me and a dedicated train’s a dream come true!!............Pat

The Water Level Route.......You Can Sleep

Seems everyone remembers WHEN they started. I Do NOT. I always remember at Thanksgiving my dad disappearing into the basement every free moment he had. Windows were taped, keyholes filled, there was no way of seeing what was going on. Christmas day all I wanted was to go to the basement. NOOO we had to eat and open stockings first. Then we could go and see the trains Dad had worked on so hard. All Lionel. Then had to go upstairs to open presents which I didn't care about at all. I wanted the trains. At around 12 years old I came home from school one day to find my father building a 4x8 layout with some tiny track on it. I ask what was going on. He explained to me he had traded all our Lionel in for HO as we could do more in less space. It was true as Dad was up to three 4x8's the last year it was O gauge and still starting secretly at Thanksgiving. Held that into high school and slightly beyond. Was up to nine 4x8 sheets the last year (permanently up). I remember girls but also know they had to split time with trains. If she really cared about me I got train stuff from her at Christmas. I go married at 21 and the new wife let me put my trains up the first year and that was it. 17 years later the wife left the children and I for an old boy friend. 10 years later ( I had to raise 2 children by myself so no train time) with my daughter graduating high school I started to date and received my gift from God for being obedient to him. My current wife and I started to date and married a year later. Move ahead 14 years and my wife and I visited and open house at a home that had a layout of O gauge. I heard the sounds of the new stuff and had to be dragged screaming form the place. Two months later "WE" purchased 2 MTH sets and put up an eight by 16 layout. It wasn't even done (or started for that matter when she said OK you can expand. It now occupies 625 square feet with a Mianne Lift gate and Millhouse 34" Turntable. She is Scenery manager and I do the trains. We are absolutely in love with the trains and each other (after 19 years of marriage). The Lord has Blessed me so much, I am in fantasy land. There is nothing better than O gauge trains and a wife who does the hobby WITH you.

A side note: About 12 years into the first marriage my older brother, Father and I went to a train show. We stopped at a table and were looking at a Santa Fe ABA Passenger set (minus the tail car) like we use to have. Dad stared a long time at it and we left. We we got outside and my dad, who was a solid rock for me all my life, turned to me with tears in his eyes and said "I'm sorry I traded your trains in for HO". I had to explain to him I still had fun and we had built bigger and better layouts with more so it was OK. I now know, at the age of 65, that my dad devoted his trains and time to me and that is what I cherish. Sadly neither my son or daughter, or my other son and daughter (2nd marriage and adopted daughter) are interested in trains. BUT THERE IS HOPE - My younger daughter (actual blood daughter) has a 5 year boy named Henry and MAN DOES THIS KID LOVE TRAINS! Got him three sets already. Hmm Maybe Dad is still alive in me!

My story beings at age 3 in 1956 with a Monon AA diesel Marx set that was lost and re-acquired in the 90s. In the following video, you can see my with it (represented by a Marx trestle bridge) at about the 50 second mark.

In 1958, at age 5, the Lionel era begins and you can see this starting at about the 2 minute , 8 second mark and layouts continue on the video until 1963.

I continued to do Christmas layouts every year until 72 or 73, but they got progressively small and short-lived.....pictured by the floor layout in my room.


I the late 60s, I dabbled with becoming a rock star. However, though I was enthusiastic, I lacked an essential ingredient: talent. After graduating high school in 71, I became much more serious about schoolwork and then spent 1975-79 in Buffalo New York, getting a medical degree.

I then moved to Baltimore where I started a residency in internal medicine at University of Maryland Hospital. One Saturday in the  late winter of 1980, I saw an ad for a Greenburg Train & Toy show at Towson State. I went and my interested was immediately rekindled......

Here is a floor layout in Baltimore in the early 80s:


I haven't stopped since.....I married in 84 in Philadelphia and we moved to Richmond in 85. Here are a few pictures of my 1st layout in Richmond in 86.

IMG_0212IMG_0213IMG_0351 [1)scan0004scan0006

The layout in 92-03:



....and the rest is history....the OGR Forum making this a "social hobby", another move in2004 with a new layout starting in 2011.....and in 2009, joining a newly formed local modular group in central Virginia.

So, I will say that I was interrupted from 73-74 to 80....




Photos (17)

Nice thread topic! Thank you guys for the stories.

same plot, same story here.... Grandma was responsible for the train spark for me. I started a little bit later then most others. In my very late childhood/early teen years, grandma took me to the Lionel visitors center in MI, during one of my summer breaks from school. I was hooked ever since! Later that year for my birthday, my folks got me a little O27 starter set. Grandma soon followed suit, and got me some goodies. 

My grandma really spoiled me rotten honestly. One item that really stands out was a MTH premier Empire State Express. I remember lusting over that engine in the catalogs at the time. She surprised me one birthday with one she purchased through a young eBay at the time. I still have it. In fact I am waiting on it’s return from the local shop. It is getting a Protosound 3 conversion, from originally being proto1. 


I had a carpet central in the basement for a while. The trains were played with daily, up until around driving age. As normal cars, girls, work, and a little partying eventually took precedence over the trains. I had a couple blips of going back to the trains shortly during those times. I worked at a grocery store, and brought home some trashed pallets to build a layout with. Picked up 2 4x8 sheets and got the trains up off the floor in the basement for a while. They mainly collected dust after getting up off the floor though. 

Eventually moved out, and came down here to FL. Met my girlfriend shortly after, and we moved in together. I remember talking with my folks back home, and they were telling me of a couple leaks and puddles that had happened in the basement. I thought crap.... I gotta get the trains outa there before something happens to them. I also had to pick up one of my cars that was still up there. 

So we ventured back up to MI later that year (I wanna say 2012) to retrieve some stuff. I packed all the trains in the back of the truck, and had the car in tow back down here. That’s another long story in itself lol. The truck broke down in TN/GA and we had to pack it all into the car. Luckily the car got us home, and the truck was towed down a week or so later. 


We didn’t have any space in the house we were living in at the time, for the trains. Once in a very great while I would set a loop up for a night, and run one. I would set a loop under the tree, and run my first starter set around the holidays. The rest stayed packed away in a closet. 

Almost 2 years ago we moved into our new house. We are a bit more settled here, and hopefully this is our “forever” home. Shortly after moving, my family came down to visit. All the train boxes were in our sun room. My sister made the comment, you should put a layout here. Guess what happened?? LOL That week while they visited we got some lumber, and an 8x8 was constructed. 


A Legacy SD70 was also purchased and added to the roster that week. The rest is history. These past couple years have been a blast. The wallet could be doing a little better however! lol

My hiatus from the trains was around 14/15 years. It was worth the wait though. 




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First Lionel set arrived Christmas 1955 and went up around the tree each Christmas afterwards with an additional piece or two through either ‘62 or ‘63 when I received a Marx HO combination train / road race set.  The following Christmas I received an Aurora HO race set and that pretty much terminated any interest I had in toy trains - either O or HO.  

Fast forward to 1989 and my oldest son’s first Christmas.  Family tradition dictated he had to receive a Lionel train from Santa Claus so I stopped on my way home from work one evening about two weeks before Christmas and purchased a Lionel freight set.  I took off a few days before Christmas and after putting my son down for a nap; set up the new train on the floor in my wife and I’s bedroom - “just to make sure it worked”.  As soon as I smelled the smoke and heard the whistle; it was as if something had snapped in my mind and I’d been “bitten by the bug”.

Christmas night; I dragged my childhood Lionel stuff down from the attic and tried running it but; nothing wanted to work.  The next day I took my stuff to JR’s Hobby Depot in Houston where Jerry serviced everything and got them working and then proceeded to convince me I needed about a half dozen new freight cars and some more track, switches and a bigger transformer.

And thirty years later, I’ve still got the bug.  😁


There was never an interruption. From my earliest memories, I've always been fascinated with trains. Though I had train sets earlier (that I played to death) I've had HO model trains as a part of me since I was 10 years old. Sometimes I was more active than others, but always trains.


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