25 January 2007

A Blog About Nothing

Too often I get so wound up in pertinence, the desire to write something earth-shaking, that I forget the purpose of this humble little blog is not to change the world, but just remember my little corner of it. Oftentimes I will go for a week or more because I can't think of anything relevant to write about. Kind of like right now.

I'm sure that exciting and important things are occurring even as we speak, not only in my little corner of North Carolina, but in the world at large. Such things are no doubt being covered in other blogs and news stories in media both large and small by persons of greater importance than I. Let them carry the water, so to speak, and if I see something that catches my interest be sure that I will say something.

The biggest thing on my mind right now though is when can I get my adult children back out of my house so I can reclaim my train room, and more importantly, once claimed what will I do with it. Right now my layout is on a 4ft by 8ft table, which to some might seem big enough. The model railroaders reading this will agree that there is no such thing as "enough" real estate.

My plans are to construct benchwork around the perimeter of the room with an "island" off of one side, making an E shape. My problem is how much room to dedicate to standard gauge N scale and how much to dedicate to narrow gauge N scale.

I got into the narrow gauge N scale (Nn3) scene innocently enough I suppose, I have been a fan of the East Broad Top for many years now and a train enthusiast for longer than that. I started collecting N scale when I was in the Navy because I could set it up on a board and slide it under the bed in my barracks room. It didn't take much space, and was easily dismantled and stored when I was deployed.

I didn't collect much at first. A Bachmann starter set, the Jupiter 4-4-0 and freight train because I had the same set in HO as a boy. Before I knew it I had a Prairie Flyer set, another 4-4-0 but this one with passenger cars. One day I took the big step - an MRC throttle with pulse control. Really made the 4-4-0's perform. Then came the Long Hauler (now it's called the Explorer) with it's twin F-9 diesels, the Empire Builder with it's big 4-8-4 Northern locomotive, and not long after that, much to my shame, a locomotive by itself, not as a part of a set. Another Northern, in Union Pacific livery, with the Vandy tender and gray paint.

I didn't realize then that the Bachmann sets, even though they looked innocent, were gateway sets. Pretty soon I knew I had a real problem. I started collecting big steam, then Spectrums, then I got into the high dollar stuff. MicroTrains cars, Atlas locomotives, you know, the big stuff. Before you know it I was buying stuff off of Ebay and sneaking it into the house behind my wife's back. I even started detailing my locomotives, and repowering them with gearmotors.

That's not the worst of it though. The worst of it was when I saw Z scale and realized that it was about 3/4ths the size of N. Since narrow gauge is 3/4ths the size of standard, more or less, it stood to reason that I could use Z scale locomotives to build my beloved East Broad Top.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I wasn't the first to think of it! This only made the problem worse, because now instead of having to scratch-build everything I could get kits! If I had been forced to scratch build, I would have had to go a bit slower. Since I could get kits I could dive in headfirst.

Once again I started out small. A converted Bachmann 4-4-0. Then a scratchbuilt Mogul on a Marklin chassis. A narrowed Bachmann combine. A Republic Locomotive Works flatcar. A MicroTrains boxcar. Two feet of dual gauge track from JHM.

Then I got into it big time. I found out from the Ntrak books that a Bachmann 0-6-0 switcher shell fit nicely onto a Marklin 2-8-2 chassis and made a dandy Mikado that almost looked like an East Broad Top locomotive. Before you know it I had built combines and passenger cars from MDC and Bachmann standard gaugers, I had built an EBT boxcar and caboose from RLW kits, then some hoppers, then an honest-to-goodness EBT Mikado kit. Marklin turnouts from Ebay (expensive and JUNK) and Peco flextrack make a double-loop roundy round on a 3x5 board with two dead end sidings, and MicroTrain's new sectional track serves nicely for a test track.

Now I want some jigs so I can hand-build turnouts in narrow, standard and dual gauge. The narrow and standard run about 1 C-note a pop, the dual gauge is one and a half per (two required), so it will take some fast talking to convince the wife that I need them.

I kept telling myself that it was no big deal, that I could quit any time I wanted to, but even then I knew I was only deceiving myself. Now it's time for me to admit it, to myself at least.

I am The Scoundrel, and I'm a train junkie.

I even bring trains to work now to fiddle with between service calls. My co-worker expressed an interest in them until I told him how much I had paid for the Mikado ($100 for the used Marklin mechanism, another $100 for the kit, not including trucks and couplers).

He's going to stick to guns.

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