What have you learned from this hobby/what has this hobby given to you?

What have you learned from this hobby/what has this hobby given to you? Technical or sentimental, let's hear your story. Whether it's how to calculate wattage, that time with your grandpa or dad is too short, or that the hobby gave you a career that provided a home for your family, let's hear it.

As I rediscover this hobby in my thirties, with a primary focus of spending quality time with my children and providing them with some fun memories, I also  wish to pass on the hobby, skills, and knowledge that I've learned from others over time.  I was thinking of all of the lessons, skills, and technical knowledge that I have learned primarily because of this hobby that my dad and grandpa introduced me to when I was a toddler. 

Things I've learned:

-proper wiring, basic circuitry 

-the difference between amps, volts, watts

-carpentry skills

-watching the trains at eye level is awesome

-run the trains in the dark once in a while

-use the right tool for the job

-maintaining locomotives

-real railroad history 

-Grandparents are gone too quickly. I was 12 and 15 when each of my grandfathers passed away.  There are many conversations I wish I could have with them now about the hobby and mostly life in general.

-This forum has an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise from every walk of life.

Well that's a start at least.  I'd love to hear your input as I work to pass on the hobby, skills, and knowledge.

All the best,






Original Post

So many things....

electrical knowledge

wiring skills


scenery modeling

basic mechanical repairs

carpentry skills


many more I am sure.

This has been a great hobby for me and I enjoy it all even though my wife says that I get too frustrated over some things.



First and most importantly, the hobby gave me quality time with my Dad. From the time I was very little, I was always interested in the trains, and fortunately, I had a Dad who wanted to include me in his hobby, which eventually became our hobby. I watched him build his collection, helped him build 3 different layouts, and when the time came for me to build a layout that was "mine," he was there to help. Priceless. 

Secondly, the hobby has been a fantastic means to make great friends. We've made some great friends going to York, and also thanks to forums like this, we've also met people we probably wouldn't have met otherwise. 

Beyond these 2 most important things, the hobby has given / taught me:


--basic electrical knowledge

--basic mechanical knowledge

--confidence to make other repairs around the house (I replaced the belt on a clothes dryer not too long ago--and it was all the years of tinkering with the trains that gave me that confidence.

The list could go on and on........

TCA # 90-30847

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My dad died when I was five and my Grandfather on my Mom's side of the family died when I was twelve.  I consider both of these men as the greatest men I have ever known not just because the were my early mentors in this great hobby but also because they were the kindest, gentlest, most patient and most courageous individuals in my life.  Thanks to them I immersed myself in the toy/model train hobby early in life and have never looked back.  I have learned more about wiring, electricity, electric motors ,circuitry, carpentry, track planning/laying and detailing a layout with scenery than I ever possibly imagined.  Most importantly, over the course of a stressful  twenty eight year career in law enforcement it provided me with peace of mind.   I have been truly blessed.    

 I've mostly learned that when it comes to this hobby, there is no end to the things I don't know.

 As for what I have gotten out of it, it is very hard to quantify. Trains are one part of my hobby, which is toys in general, but  trains are definitely the main focus. I drifted into it 20+ years ago, after I had made a mess of my marriage, my job and my life. They provided a great outlet for me, as I struggled to fix all 3. I pulled it off, started a family, and have been able to share my hobby with my sons, and start traditions that I hope they will remember long after I am gone. 20 years ago, trains and toys really were therapy for me, and there is no way of knowing if I could have made it without them. Now, I enjoy them too much to stop.

Chris R.

Hammonton, NJ

Can't believe this hasn't been said yet: I've learned that there is a prototype for EVERYTHING

Zach S.

"Most of my trains are eligible for medicare"

Collecting and Operating postwar and prewar trains since Christmas 2014

 Member and Volunteer, Lake Superior Railroad Museum

I have learned there many kinds /types of people in our hobby .   

To buy what you want & who cares about resale value!   Just run trains & have fun ! 

There are  millions of people in our hobby with different scales of trains & skill sets! 

There are people with some money & some with lots of money in our hobby ! 

"PATIENCE".....Jim McGehee

"I've mostly learned that when it comes to this hobby, there is no end to the things I don't know.".....SCRAMBLER81

"I've learned that there is a prototype for EVERYTHING".....BANOMNJR

May I add, look closely at what I am buying.  Been burned a few times.  Like SCRAMBLER81 I find this hobby provides an outlet for me.  I've been known to get lost in my own little world.  But it's okay, they know me there.....LOL 

Dan Padova


"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill


JD2035RR posted:

Things I've learned:

-proper wiring, basic circuitry 

-the difference between amps, volts, watts

-carpentry skills

-watching the trains at eye level is awesome

-use the right tool for the job

-maintaining locomotives

-Grandparents are gone too quickly. I was 12 and 15 when each of my grandfathers passed away.  There are many conversations I wish I could have with them now about the hobby and mostly life in general. 

Good points.

I still don't grasp electricity well, but I learned a lot about carpentry when building the benchwork for the layout (the first time I've ever done any woodworking other than something made hold in your hands).

I've learned to plan 10 times more than any action. That saved me an incredible amount of time and money.

Start your layout as an overall concept and STICK to it. That saved me a lot of money, too.

If you know someone who lived/lives in the area you're modeling, ask them everything about the place. My parents are both in their early 80s, but I was smart enough to ask them countless detail questions. I'd never have gotten how farmers built fences in the Blue Ridge area in the 40s, how few people had electricity then, or the fact that bear and deer were totally hunted out and gone from the area for years before that timeframe. What did the mailboxes looked like? How well were moonshine still hidden? I never would have gotten that info from a book. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

But one of the things I was surprised to find was a big one that people get angry when you bring it up: That people in this hobby are amazingly pleased with very little. People in this hobby gleefully accept substandard, incorrect and overpriced rolling stock and kits and will do anything short of violence (as if most train fans could even harm another person) to anyone pointing that out. I didn't expect that as I, too, bought into that when I was first in the hobby. I only noticed it after I'd been away for a long time and came back.

I've learned that:

-  you can't take it with you.  The "auction sites" can prove that.

-  there's always a new one coming out that I don't have.

- the higher dollars spent don't correlate to a higher quality product.

-  the postwar and prewar will greatly out live me.  The others I'm not so sure about. 

-  if it's that ugly 3 rail track, then I can give a large box of track to a child and as long as the ends meet, the train will run. 

-  track type, electronics system, era modeled, paint scheme, fuel tank size, windshield wiper placement, etc: if you like the way you have it then it is the correct way.

-  in terms of the best train show for: quantity of O gauge stuff; $ spent per customer; sheer variety; size/# tables; number of days; best organized/ran; the EDTCA York show sits in the top 23 positions on my chart. (I've been 22 times I think.  I'm going out on a limb that this next one will be good also).

-  there's a bad apple in every barrel.  There's also a bunch of good, helpful, friendly ones in there willing to help you out with tips, advice etc.

-  we live in the greatest country on earth.

I have learned:

To keep learning you never know everything about this hobby.


The hobby has given me:

Many hours of relaxation and peace.   That's exactly what I thought it would do.

I did have my frustration and break things moments but, that's a different question. lol


Still having fun


LCCA 29005 and  TCA 13-69595

WOW.  What a great topic, including and especially the original post.  I can't recall ever going through an entire thread and clicking "Like" on almost every single post.

All of the things that have been said above apply to me, so "Me too."

This hobby has also taught me something about beauty and the satisfaction that comes from creating or acquiring and running something that is pleasing to the eye.  

Just one good example of what I mean by this would be the mesmerizing beauty of a long string of postwar aluminum passenger cars snaking through an O72 "Ess" curve headed up by a Santa Fe ABA.

Thanks to everyone who contributed such wonderful personal perspectives.

Steven J. Serenska

I can state authoritatively that toy trains have a calming effect on me greater than drugs or alcohol.

Sex, however, is still much better (and a lot more comfortable than crawling around on my hands and knees in a concrete basement).

"You have to grow old. You don't have to grow up". Ray Bradbury

Model Trains wiring forced me to learn about electronics and later computers.

Selling and repairing computers made me money to buy more trains and real estate income properties.

Building model houses helped me learn to build and repair real houses.

Real houses and apartments buildings rental income allowed me to retire at 49.

Now I have time and money for more trains.

Between the model trains and building electronic stereo amplifiers from kits, I learned a lot about electricity. High school physics and basic chemistry were fun subjects thanks to my electrical knowledge and my Gilbert chemistry set! Even had an RCA receiving tube manual when I was a sophomore. Learned electrical soldering in my teens and even heavier duty soldering in sheet metal shop in high school (Brooklyn Tech).

vita sine litteris mors est  (Seneca)

Much has been said above, but this hobby has caused me to be more interested in history, in traveling to explore history, and in trying to capture and encapsulate history in a model. Why else would l and my brother and one of his kids been standing in a partially collapsed D&SL railroad tunnel up above the Moffat Tunnel?

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

For me what I learned this is a thinking person hobby you can lay track set up a layout run trains, But you have to think about that, Its the creativity that comes from your mind that is the best thing I ever learned.  You see people say all I do is run trains but you think about how you are going to do that, Unlike video games were you react and just move your fingers this hobby is different you learn skills that you can use in your life, and for me its about keeping me thinking and dreaming about building the perfect layout  

Basic electricity, after wiring my layout I did the lights in my bathroom. (now when I turn on the lights they blink and the fan chuffs - kidding of course)

Knowledge of scale/gauge

Some scratch building



etc., and etc......




TCA - 10 - 64769

Active Ferroequinologist

Collector of 40' scale boxcars

Collector of NYC steam in all gauges

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