Friday, October 19, 2012

Still working

Well, Dick reminded me (as usual) that I'm waaayy behind on updating my blog. This is largely because I've been busy with True Line Trains stuff, including Twitter (@TrueLineTrains) and Facebook ( Oh, and planning for Trainfest in Milwaukee. Unfortunately it means I will miss the NHRHTA Reunion this year (and I was out of town for the fan trip in Essex).

But, I have managed to work on a few models. I haven't gotten as far as Chris and Pieter, but I've been working on the F&C NH Rebuilt double sheathed box car, the Westerfield NH rebuilt single sheathed box car, and the F&C B&O M-15L/K double door wagontop box car.

I've also been working on the trackwork for Stanley Works, and should be able to connect that into the main layout soon. I'm also pretty close to finalizing my plans for the changes I'm making to the east side of town.

I will try to get a proper update together with pictures this weekend.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Layout plan updates

I know. Waayyy too long since the last update. It's been a busy summer with construction, vacations,  and stuff for True Line Trains.

But I've managed to pull up some of the east end of town for reconfiguration. And this week the laundry is officially out of the basement. So now I can look at the Berlin Line extension more specifically and hopefully get working on construction soon.

The rest of the layout worked well, and ultimately I'd like to be able to start basic scenery and all after the first of the year so I have something more to show by June.

It will be at least a couple of weeks before I can make too much progress, but once things settle down at TLT I'll be looking at it more seriously.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Grand Rapids!

Yep, it's been a while for an update. I've been working on the home projects primarily, plus a week's vacation. I'm heading out tomorrow for the NMRA Convention/National Train Show with Darren. Stop by the True Line Trains booth to say 'Hi!' if you're there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I felt like working on the layout

OK, so I had a little time last night and decided to work on the layout a bit...

More pictures later!

Monday, July 9, 2012

More planning

Well, that's the primary railroad activity right now. Other projects are keeping me busy at the moment, but as soon as I complete the big one (moving the laundry upstairs), then Chris and I will get started on additional benchwork.

So that's what the planning is about. I have a pretty good idea of how it will play out. Where the Whiting Street Yard is now will be the block between Whiting and Park Streets. This includes part of the Stanley Rule & Level division of Stanley Works with one siding, Fafnir Bearing (one siding), and the New Britain Gas Light Company, also with one siding. All turnouts will be to the right of the closet door this time so the lead will be visible instead of under the rest of the layout. The door itself will be removed, with the portion above the layout behind the backdrop. It's a small closet and not used for much so I can deal with it being a crawl-in.

I'm particularly excited about the Gas Light Company. Because of where it's situated it's a perfect place to flare out the shelf to allow more space to build the company.

Beyond this will be the swing up section to allow access to the basement, and the track will go into the utility room. The Whiting Street Yard will be rebuilt in a better representation. It will include at least 3 yard tracks, two house tracks, and two bulk tracks. From there it will head into staging.

That should all be pretty straightforward. It's the other major change that will be a bit more interesting. I want to lower the upper deck above the east helix. Clearance will be at the absolute minimum (2 5/8" is what I think I'll settle on). This will allow me to eliminate all but 3' of grade on the mainline for switching purposes, which will help a lot. In addition, the first 3-6' of the helix will also be level, and I'll be adding a (curved) crossover for switching moves. Of course, I'd like to do all of this while pulling up as little track as possible.

It also depends on my ability to reroute the Berlin Line enough to get the clearance there without resorting to a steeper grade.

I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to get to all of this, but I'll probably start whittling away at it a little at a time. I can start removing the track when I get a chance, and remove the upper deck. We can build the new deck for the Berlin Line at that point. Then we'll see what we need to do to reconfigure the helix.

I've ordered some curved turnouts to see if they might work for the crossover. Otherwise I'll have to build it.

So that's it for now, I'll have to take some before, during, and after pictures once I get moving.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I picked up some of the Tru-Color paints recently. From what I can tell, I really like their colors. They are a solvent (acetone) based acrylic. I've got a handful of other paints, but not many. I picked up a several Scalecoat and Scalecoat II paints, but found that I didn't care for some of the colors. Particularly the Pullman Green. Also, the majority of the paints I have are somewhat old, and I've found they aren't working as well as I'd hoped.

The Tru-Color paints are based off of the well respected Accupaint line. In addition, being a new paint line, I know that the bottles haven't been sitting on a hobby shop shelf for 10 years. In addition, they are releasing a whole series of box car brown/red colors, matched from actual color chips courtesy of Ed Hawkins.

Having come back to the hobby after painting RPG miniatures for about 20 years, one thing I have found that I don't like is paint pots. I had a full set of Reaper paints, and both they and Vallejo use small dropper bottles. Vallejo has released some railroad colors in the past, but they don't have a huge selection. Anyway, the dropper bottles make it easy to mix to specific ratios but just counting drops. There is virtually no clean-up, and the paints keep for a very long time in bottles like these.

So I've transferred the paint to the same kind of bottles. I was going to write up what I've done, but I found a great blog entry when looking for a source for the bottles:

 It's from an RPG/War Gaming blog, but like the military modelers I find that there are a lot of things we can learn from the RPG miniatures guys as well.

Incidentally, it's vital that you use the LPDE bottles for Tru-Color paints since they contain acetone. It's not very expensive to do this, I highly recommend it. Since the bottles are only 1/2 oz, and the Tru-Color paint comes in 1 oz (supposedly) bottles. I've been able to make a second set for Chris. I have found that the amount of paint in the original bottles is somewhat inconsistent. I haven't graduated the dropper bottles to see if I'm getting the full 1 oz. Considering that for many colors I'll need very little, and others I'll be buying a lot more, it's not a big deal to me.

Now I've got to practice painting...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Photoshop fun

Just playing around with the Sony camera and Photoshop Elements. Here's a picture converted to B&W in the camera with a Photoshop vintage photo filter applied.

This is with a 26mm equivelent lens. I should have the 24mm equivelent tomorrow. Part of what I'm trying to achieve is the same 'feel' as the prototype photography, not just the scene. Speaking of whick, no ballast or other scenery, and the Landers, Frary and Clark factory is still just the simple paper mock-up.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The track gang showed up!

I wandered downstairs this evening, and found myself testing out the track layout for Stanley Works. After two stints in the basement tonight, most of the track is laid:

In the picture you're looking (roughly) east. Of the two sidings in the foreground, the one on the left will be inside a building, the one on the right next to it. These tracks really should be a continuation of the two sidings seen entering the backdrop.

Those two sidings are inside the rolling mill. In reality, there was a single track that went through the rolling mill and across Curtis Street.

The very sharply curved track is the locomotive track for the Stanley Works HK Porter fireless 0-4-0. There is another industrial siding next to that one.

Just beyond the corner is a runaround, with the left track also serving as an industrial track. Just after these converge at the other end will be a gate and the end of the Stanley Works property. New Haven crews will drop off and pick up beyond that gate, and the Stanley Works crew will do all of the switching in the factory.

There are a couple of missing tracks, but I think it will be enough for operations.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Testing Cameras Part II

I decided to go ahead and pick up the Nikon so I can test them side-by-side. So, here are a few shots with the smallest aperture (f/8.3 at 24mm) and ISO 100. The exposure is much shorter than the Sony, (because the aperture is larger).

So the quality isn't quite as good, particularly the F&C kit. In fact, I couldn't do the same exposure for that one because of the computer screen and bright light behind it. The Sony has a touch screen so I could pick exactly where to focus the shot, and the long exposure worked great. With the Nikon the brighter background threw it. In addition to the quality of the pictures themselves, the depth of field is slightly better with the Sony (to my eye anyway).

The other thing that is evident is the wider field of view. The Nikon has a 24mm equivalent wide angle, where the kit lens with the Sony is 26mm. There is another lens available for the Sony that will match that, and is of a higher quality than the kit lens. However, after seeing these, while the 24mm will be beneficial, it's not essential right now.
So I'm still undecided, but leaning heavily toward the Sony at this point.

Testing cameras

I need a new camera. Mine has been broken for some time, and I've been relying on my phone. The pictures are OK, but not nearly good enough for something I would be posting on the True Line Trains site, or for a magazine article. It's been acceptable for posts to the webpage, and family pictures.

So, since my needs have changed since my last camera (a Sony DSC F-717 purchased 9 years ago), I've been investigating the options. In particular, model photography is a much higher priority. Family snapshots are OK with the phone, particularly since I always have it with me. For more specific family events (vacation, etc.), I'll bring the camera along.

There are several classes of digital cameras available now. For the most options and best pictures, a DSLR is hard to beat. The one area it suffers is its size and portability. I'm not all that concerned about size, except for when it comes to being able to get it 'in' a layout. The lens typically sits too high to take a layout picture from a model person's 'eye-level.'

I've also been very intrigued by the various super-zoom options out there, particularly the Nikon P510. Right now it's probably my second choice, and I will probably test one out in the near future. But right now I'm trying the Sony NEX-5N. This is a compact camera with removable lenses. It also has the same size sensor as a DSLR, which is a huge plus in terms of picture quality. It's also a very fast camera, from start to first picture, and in terms of shutter lag. This is important for pictures of kids.

For the model photos, it's small, and allows a very small aperture (f/22), which in layman's terms means that it keeps things at different distances in focus better. The problem with photographing models is that you are both very close (in terms of the lens to the subject), and yet you need to keep things in focus over a range of several feet between the closest object and the farthest object. Having a very sharp focus on a very small part of the model is one of the things that immediately identifies the subject as a model.

Anyway, here are a few test shots using the aperture priority setting of f/22, ISO 100, and a long exposure determined by the camera automatically based on the other two settings.

I'm not an expert by any means, in terms of my knowlege of photography, or the results. But I'm pretty happy with these results. The downside is primarily the need to purchase additional lenses in the event that I want more zoom.

I suspect I will try the Nikon camera before I decide to keep this one. From what I've read, this is a better camera overall, but with my skills and audience the Nikon one will be more than sufficient in photo quality. The only real question is whether it can take model photos like these. Because the sensor size impacts the effective aperture, I'm not entirely sure what the minimum aperture is on the Nikon. Their specifications indicate f/8, but with a smaller sensor this number may be different from the 35mm equivelent and might compare well with the Sony.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Layout Tour and F&C Kit

Well I didn't get around to taking any pictures at the NE Proto Meet. But I had a great time. The layout tour went very well. The only issue was that I found out our coffee maker doesn't work. But 18 people signed the guest book and everybody seemed to really enjoy the layout.

Chris hung out up on the deck to direct traffic and chat with the visitors. As expected, they came in a few waves, but never too many to accomodate.

Since the meet Chris decided that we should build the new F&C NH 36' wood box cars. This is a re-release of the old NHRHTA model, although Steve says it's all new castings and it's a one-piece body. Here's most of the parts after flash has been removed:

The coupler height is way too low (about 0.07") and the trucks don't clear the crossties. Here it is after the addition of 4 red and one gray washer. I'll build up a bolster by drilling a hole to accomodate a styrene tube to build up a new bolster. I also had to modify the coupler box and file the coupler opening a bit to get it to fit properly.

More later.

Friday, June 1, 2012

NE Proto Meet Day One

I had a great time today at the Proto Meet. Showing off a few of the TLT models, meeting some new people, saw a lot of old friends, some amazing models, and Chris and I gave our NH Steam Clinic.

A few of the regulars stopped by for a quick dinner, then I was off to band practice. I'll have to find out how the slide shows were this evening.

The plumber is finished in the basement, so it's time to get it ready for the layout tour on Sunday. Chris and Pete will come by early to help out.

I'm looking forward to another day tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Preparation and Planning

First off I'm still preparing for the Proto Meet. I'm out of ink in the printer, so that's a project for tomorrow. I'm printing up some informational things as well as photos to put around the layout for the tour.

The bigger challenge, however, is that the addition isn't complete yet. So I'll clean up the basement as much as I can. I'm sure a couple of folks will stop by on Friday to check things out. There may be construction in progress then. The same applies to Saturday, including having a few of the guys over for dinner.

It looks like Saturday night (after our church concert), and Sunday morning I'll be doing a final post-construction clean-up for the layout tour. I'm assuming, of course, that they're only working Friday and Saturday.

In the meantime, I've started some planning. After this project is completed, we're going to move the laundry out of the basement. That means that the ex-laundry room will be available for some expansion. The first thought is to try to squeeze in the New Hartford branch. I think that it would be possible (but cramped) to try to do New Hartford, Collinsville, and potentially Unionville. One thought would be to have an intermediate staging position to allow me to alter the consist to accound for Plainville work.

The major issue with this approach is that the ex-laundry room is still the utility room and requires working around the furnace, hot water heater, etc.

I will definitely be putting Berlin line staging in the room as well, although the intention would be for that to be hidden behind the scenicked New Hartford branch. But a few things occurred to me as I was taking measurements and visualizing the space.

First, I can provide locomotive storage/staging in this room. I was planning on trying to squeeze it into the main staging, but this would work better.

Second, I could put a turntable at the end, or a cartridge system, for turning the steam locomotives. It's not essential, but an option.

Third, I have the hookups in place, so I can install a utility sink and move the spray booth into this room, using the existing dryer vent.

I was also looking at how I'd rework the current Whiting Street Yard to connect to staging here. That's when a different approach came to mind. I could model some more of the Berlin Line industries, and build the Whiting Street yard in the utility room. This would allow me to extend this line. I could even go so far as to model down to the Berlin wye. The advantage of this is that YN-3 does the work in Berlin, as well as Cremo brewery.

So I wouldn't be able to extend the New Hartford local run, but I'd get work for another train in exchange. In addition, I would have additional work for the New Britain switching crews between New Britain and Whiting Street Yards. It would also be a simpler project to build, although I'll now have to rethink the spray booth/sink option.

I'll have to take some more measurements and draw up some plans for the various options.

So here I was thinking that I was just preparing for the Proto Meet and now I'm back to some layout planning. I won't even mention what ran through my mind regarding the helixes...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Landers Frary and Clark

Dick mocked up the east end of the Landers Frary & Clark factory. This is where an arch allows the siding to enter the factory premises after crossing Elm Street.
Here's the arch that we're working on:

Here's the Sanborn map that shows the general arrangement inside the factory. Obviously, I won't have room for all of this. But a single siding hidden in the wall will be enough. The plan is to leave this portion of the wall open, with the factory (or portions of it) a removeable front to access the track if needed.

Here's another view of the entire front of the factory. I will have to compress it slightly, but it will still be the dominant feature behind New Britain Yard.

It appears that the geometry will allow me to penetrate the building and hide a siding in the wall. (I'm not sure why the pictures have the moire pattern on them).

It looks like to the left of the section with the arch, the factory will continue for another 37 window bays.  

Photo Library Night

We had a good night at Photo Library last night. It was a relatively small crew, and Charlie, Chris and I were working on pulling, scanning, and inserting photos into the NE Proto Meet clinic. I think it's coming together well. We'll have around 100 slides (mostly non-published), for the presentation.

I'm still working on going through what we've got and putting together the Powerpoint now. Charlie will be scanning more of the negatives we pulled (they take a lot longer to scan). Chris and I will get together for lunch next week to iron out the details and make sure we'll be able to get to whatever else we may need to complete next Thursday night.

Here's a teaser (it's the cover photo):

Right now it looks like we're light on J-1 and L-1 photos.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NE Proto Meet -or- Deja Vu

Well, we're less than two weeks away! The NE Proto Meet is coming up quick and I've got to complete a clinic and get the basement ready for layout tours. To make things more interesting, we have a rehearsal on Friday night for a church concert on Saturday night, so unfortunately I'll be missing the slide shows on both nights.

I'll be manning the True Line Trains table, so stop by and say, "Hello!"

I'm also featured on the Model Railroad Hobbyist and Model Railcast Show podcasts, both of which are available on iTunes.

Here are some past posts regarding the Proto Meet:

So, it's only about 3 years late for the layout tours (and still far from anything resembling 'finished').

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pictures from Middletown

Testing out the blog. Here are some pictures from Middletown. Somehow Chris and I missed spotting these tracks (the old coal dealer) last time we were there. We'll go back to take measurements later.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Layout pictures

Since I'm still a ways off from having real layout pictures, I compiled some of the ones I've posted and others into a slide show under Layout Construction Photos.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Uh...I don't know

Or maybe, "That's never happened before." These are the recurring themes of Operation Session

v0.12 (still in beta).

v0.1 was some simple testing by myself here at home.

v0.11 was Joe coming by to test operations with a simple switch list

So last night was v0.12 with six guys (in no particular order - Dick, Pete, Pieter, John, Dave and Tom) with sample waybills, and a theoretically properly staged layout for a simple session.

•Waybills are set-outs only, we're using the tried-and-true pull one car for every one you set out.
•Three trains (OA-6, NY-2, and EA-2) have already dropped off cars overnight.
•Two local crews are assigned to the 44-tonners to work New Britain.
•Passenger service is suspended for the day.
•NY-4 and HDX-5 are expected sometime in the morning.
•Switching crews are Tom and John, and Pete and Pieter.
•Dick and Dave are running the additional freights.

So right off the bat there are problems with the controllers (MRC Wireless, latest firmware upgrades). Locomotives aren't responding consistently. This is never really resolved for the night. I will be in contact with MRC to look into the issues.

Theories - too many locomotives. Although I have had all 4 locomotives (with sound) idling before, I don't think I've ever had them all running. But, issues started with only two locomotives running and two idling. We tried swapping throttles, and I also switched the base from 'All Throttles' to 'Cab #1 to #8".

The answer? Uh...I don't know. That's never happened before.

The majority of the issues seemed to revolve around this. There was one section of dead track, I added two feeders and that was OK.

The Whiting Street Yard seemed to have a lot of control issues. John and I tested the voltage, and it seemed to be a lot lower there (which didn't make a lot of sense). Later testing looked OK, I haven't tested running a locomotives over there yet.

So again, the answer? Uh...I don't know. That's never happened before.

You can tell there's going to be a pattern here, so I'll skip ahead.
So what about the session. Overall I think is was good. I knew going in that sorting cars to be delivered would be a challenge to somebody who doesn't know where all of the industries are. I think the crews worked that out pretty well, although it will improve with future sessions.
Because of the design of New Britain Yard itself as a single-ended yard, and the unfortunate need for the grade and curve at the end of the yard, things got a little bunched up.

My understanding is that there was a long siding on the west side of town where eastbound trains dropped cars, another on the east side for the westbound trains. In addition, I'm pretty sure the Holyoke freights dropped their cars in or near Whiting Street Yard. In the current configuration, these strings of cars are all left in the center of town, which makes things more complicated.

So, for future sessions I will use the two sidings I have for the OA and EA freights, but I'll stage the NY freights in Whiting Street Yard. I'm not sure how I'll manage the Holyoke freights coming into town since the exit from the helix will eventually be hidden track making it impractical to back those trains to the yard. I may engineer a staging track (with an unfortunate lift-out) for the Holyoke freights. This would have the benefit of eliminating the turnout in the helix (and a second one on the Berlin line).

This will also have the benefit of spreading out the switchers at the start of the session. In addition, the first freight to come in during the session is NY-4 which will also drop off cars at Whiting Street Yard. So each switching crew will have two cuts of cars to classify and sort.
In the meantime, I need to work on figuring out the electrical and control glitches and complete the trackwork on the west side of town.

So work will continue. There will be a lull while a construction crew builds a new bedroom for Emily. I'll have to protect some of the layout from the construction. So it gives me some time to work out the details of the changes and updates, and then to get things ready for the NE Proto Meet in June.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tank cars

Well, inspired in part by some tank castings I just received from modeler Tom Madden, based on an article by Tony Thompson, I've been building some tank cars this week. The other reason I've jumped into these now is that I'm building the P2k ones I had on my shelf, and these are cars I feel comfortable building without making any modifications at this time. Most of the other cars (box cars in particular), I'm finding I want to make modifications  as I build them. Usually running boards, adding missing details, etc.

While the theory is that I'll build styrene kits as is, to match the RTR versions I have, and I'll make modifications later when it comes time for weathering the cars, in many cases it's tough to do that.

So, in the last four evenings I've built five kits, and have two more about 75% done. The first five were all Time Saver kits, which helped. These two, plus an additional four I plan to complete this week, are full kits.

Not all is perfect, I've found it quite difficult to get the hand rail installed without it being wavy. I'll decide later if it's worth replacing. My guess is I won't do that until I've completed a few kitbashes or resin kits where I have no choice but to do the hand rail myself.

So here they are so far -


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Updates? What updates?

OK, so I haven't posted anything in almost a month. It's been a busy month, and actually quite a few things related to model railroading, but not much on the layout itself.
I've continued testing on the layout, but what I really need to do is complete enough basic waybills to set up a real test operating session. Dick will also probably be helping me create some mockups of the major structures, which I think will improve operations as well.

I'm finding that the track is expanding quite a bit (in an often cold basement). Cutting gaps with the dremel fixes the issue, although it requires installation of more feeders since I haven't completed all of them yet. Bill was telling me he had the same issue when he first built his layout, and that time and cutting gaps resolved the issue.

I had a great time in Springfield, picked up a number of kits and stuff, and saw a lot of great people. I'm looking forward to getting together with Gary soon, he was the final assigned conductor in New Britain Yard for the New Haven, and also grew up in New Britain.

Bill and I went to operate Perry Squier's layout. It's an awesome layout of the Pittsburgh, Shawmut and Northern in 1923. We had a great time, and yet another variation on Time Table and Train Order operations which has given me a number of things to think about in regards to my layout.

Lastly, and what has taken up a lot of my time aside from Emily's quarterly round of routine check-ups with her doctors, is that I am now officially working for True Line Trains. I've been building the website for about a year now, but I'll also be working on getting product out in the US. There are a lot of great products on the horizon, and I'm looking forward to the work. It's part time right now, and not enough to replace unemployment (in fact, we're still working out the details), but I'm excited.

So that's the news, such as it is. I'm really working to get something together for the layout for an update. Hopefully in the next week or so...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quick update

It's been a crazy month, along with a bad cold that Emily started with and just about all of us have had now. But it has been too long since my last update, so...

I've finished another P2k flat car, and I'm about 80% done with an IMWX and an Intermountain box car. Since I'm currently just trying to populate the layout, the approach is to complete them as packaged. If there are items that I know are incorrect (like running boards) I'm leaving them off. I'm not adding additional details at this time. Instead, I'll work on the finer details when I pull the cars for weathering, just as I will with the RTR cars.

Along with the few freight cars, I've completed my first 'real' sound decoder installation. I had previously installed the MRC 'drop-in' decoder for the Atlas S-2. I say 'drop-in' because it did require milling a part of the frame and soldering wires to the decoder.

Anyway, John G. offered to install one of the Loksound decoders I got for the 44-tonner for me, he installed one in his W&R 44 tonner as well. Fitting the decoder and speaker was actually the easy part apparently. It needed additional wipers for pickup on all wheels, as well as the addition of more weight.

Since John was installing that, I figured I might as well see if I could install the decoder into the Bachmann 44-tonner. In a recent Model Railroader is an article covering installing this decoder in that locomotive. In that case the author milled away part of the weight to allow room for the decoder and speaker. I wanted to avoid that since it needs to be able to pull as many cars as possible up a 2% grade. So I did it a little differently. In addition to the decoder I installed two(!) speakers without milling the chassis, and I added an additional 3 oz of weight. The next step is to paint both locomotives. I also need to make handrails for the Bachmann one, unless I decide to use the ones that came with it.

I think the next locomotive I'll probably tackle is the I-4, since I need to have a passenger locomotive. The I-2 would be a great choice as well, it's just a question of which one I want to make modifications to first. After that I'll do the T-2-b and I'll have enough locomotives to run full sessions.

Speaking of operations, I've also been working on the Waybills for the layout. The system will be heavily based on Tony Thompson's efforts. But they are coming along nicely. I'm trying to determine what I'll write about here since there is already a lot of great information on Tony's blog.

The other news is that Chris is well along on his layout. I spent two days working on laying track and dropping enough feeders to run a train. We managed to get a lot of work done. What has taken me several years to do we've managed to do in about a month on his layout.

So, there will be a lot more information and pictures on the progress in the near future. This will be a very busy week leading up to Springfield, but perhaps shortly after that I'll be able to get back to more routine updates.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

1974 - Where it all began...

Well, 2011 appears to have been the year of the photo. At least for us. From all of the grandparents we received a lot of old (and some more recent) pictures. Dad found some of the old 8mm films and put them on a DVD and there's a progression from the wooden push train set to a plastic version. I don't recall if it was push or battery powered. The films are fun, and our childhood was surprisingly well
documented. For some reason, though, 1974 is missing.

My baby books also have a lot of great photos, but none of the trains. No pictures have turned up in Basking Ridge (c1975-1977) where I know I had my first 'layout' in O-27 scale.

But in my brother Brad's book there's this:
That would be Brad on the left, me in the middle, and Dad setting up what was his Dad's Marx set. I still have it, but for some reason it's missing the just the locomotive as I've got the tender. I might just see what I can find in Springfield this year.
So this was the beginning. It's sandwiched between a picture of talking to Santa and Christmas morning, 1974. If I recall, Brad and I got our first HO scale trains in Christmas 1978 after moving to Ridgefield. Brad received an Atlas B&O cab locomotive, and I got an ATSF geep of some sort. He got Athearn passenger cars to match, mine were Tyco freight cars. Dad built an 8'x8' layout in an extra room in the basement, and I don't know if Brad ever went down to use it. I haven't found any pictures of that yet either.
But here's the first. I'm sure we'll come across more over the years.