This interview with Sam D. Teague is all about model railroads. Are you already hooked on building a model railroad? If you are… you will already know why it is one of the most popular hobbies with railroad enthusiasts. If you’re not… you may want to start after reading this interview!
How did you start with model railroads?
I received a Lionel train set for Christmas when I was about 8 or 9 years old. From that point on, I was hooked, and as I had opportunity, I acquired more equipment and even started building layouts by age 12. My interest in trains continued to grow and expand. Eventually, I converted over from O scale to HO. I have continued to enjoy the hobby into my adult years, and my son and I are both model railroaders even today.
How do you create scenery?
The creation of scenery depends somewhat on the type of scenery you are trying to create. Some model railroads have mountains while other have plains or desert scenes. On my current model railroad, the scenery depicts the high plains of the Texas Panhandle.
After the track has been installed and all electricals are in place and functioning properly, the scenery can be installed. I generally start by painting the top of the bench work with a mixture of brown and green paint. This provides a base coat of earth tone color in case the scenery is a little bit thin, and it also keeps the wood grain from showing. After the base coat of paint, ground cover can be added. This includes a light application of grass or turf material to give the ground a vegetative base. Once this is applied, additional items such as trees, bushes, weeds, etc. can be added to the turf base. Once you are satisfied with the look of the vegetation, the track ballast can be installed. All of these scenery items are available in a multitude of colors to suit the style of scenery you are trying to create.
How much room do you really need?
The size of model railroads varies greatly. If you have a large house or dedicated structure, they can be very large. Most people, however, don’t have unlimited room for the layout. You have to decide how much room you have to work with in your particular situation and figure out a way to get the most out of the available space. In my case, I have a 12’ x 12’ room. Not very large, but enough to have a very nice switching layout.
What does a railroader have to keep in mind before they start building their model railroad?
You must realize that you are not going to be able to do everything you want. Even if you are wealthy and have unlimited funds for your layout, you still need to be reasonable and only build as much layout as you are able to manage. The best advice I can think of right now is don’t build too much track. Keep the track design simple. Too much track looks unrealistic and starts to look like a bowl of spaghetti instead of a railroad.
I want to build a layout. Where do I start?
I recommend that you not build anything until you have drawn out a plan of what you want. It’s better to make all of your mistakes in design on paper instead of plywood and track. There are many excellent computer software programs that will help you design and then print out a plan for your layout.
Where’s the best place to buy trains?
The best place to buy your trains depends on how much equipment you need. Local hobby shops are very handy for small layouts, but if you are building a large layout, you will probably need to go with a discount supplier. Even so, many times you just have to buy from whoever has the items you are looking for in stock.
How do you build mountains and scenery?
Mountains are pretty much built just like other scenery except that you use foam or plaster to build up the mountain to the height you desire, then cover with a base coat of paint and ground turf, etc. just like I mentioned above. The mountain will need trees and vegetation that is appropriate for the type of mountain being built.
Where do you get buildings? And cars?
Local hobby shops and railroad supplies are the best source for these items.
What scale should I build in?
The most popular scale in HO, therefore a much wider variety of supplies and equipment is available for this scale. HO is also a comfortable scale for most people to handle. If you go smaller, such as N-scale, it can be difficult to hold and see the small parts needed to build your layout. Pick a scale that is easy for you to see and manipulate.
What was the hardest part of your layout to build?
The hardest part of the layout to build is different with each individual because of their skill level. If you don’t have carpentry skills, for instance, the bench work will be the most difficult for you.