My Model Train Collection

I've been fascinated with model trains since I was a little boy.
Here's a look at the G-scale model trains that I've collected
and how my train layout (sometimes) takes over entire house!

Click here to go to my main page

LGB 21576 Santa Fe Warbonnet
LGB 21576 Locomotive & LGB 21586 Sound Car


You've Gotta See This To Believe It!

We used to live in a VERY small house.  The smart thing to do, when I decided to start fooling around with model trains, would have been to get in to H.O. trains, since they're small.  A nice H.O. layout could have easily fit in one room of our house.  But no...  I had my heart set on G-scale...  just about the largest model trains that you can buy!  There's simply not enough room in a small house for a big G-scale layout...  so Kellyn and I came up with a very unusual solution to the problem:  we would set up the trains for a couple of days at a time, and just step around them while they took over all the living space in our house.  Then, after a few days of playing with them, I would put them away for a while.  Usually, our house would look quite normal...  because we don't have the trains set up.  But for a few days at a time, when I'm in the mood to play with trains, our house is crammed full with trains EVERYWHERE!

Here's a little video I put together that shows it quite well:

 

This video has been viewed over four MILLION times!

 


My Christmas Train Video

When Kellyn and I first decided to purchase some model trains (believe it or not, it was HER idea!) our intention was to just run a train around the Christmas tree.  These days, Christmas at our house involves quite a bit more than just a single train going around the tree.  It's now a whole bunch of trains, going all throughout the house!  Take a look at this video of our 2016 Christmas train layout:


My Most Popular Model Train Video

In July of 2015, I posted a video to YouTube of what my train layout looked like at that time.  At that point, the layout was a little less elaborate than it is now.

I've made quite a few videos about my various model train layouts...  but for some reason, the one I shot in 2015, which wasn't my most elaborate layout, has really caught on with the YouTube crowd.  It's had over 70 million views!

Have a look at my 2015 model train video...  the one that's had huge numbers of views on YouTube:

This actually was not the first time I've had a video "go viral" on YouTube.  While it's certainly impressive that my model train video has had over 69 million views, so far...  that's nothing compared to a video I shot back in 2012 of an amazing cruise ship waterslide!  It's my most popular video and has had over 96 million views!

 
YouTube has become a huge part of my life because of something they call "monetization".  I found out, quite by accident, that if one of your videos becomes wildly popular on YouTube, you can make money off it...  by allowing YouTube to run advertisements along with the video.  They do all the work of selling the advertisements, and they split the ad revenue with the creator of the video.  And we're not talking about small amounts of money!  The terms of my monetization agreement with YouTube don't allow me to talk about the specific number of dollars I make from monetizing videos...  but let's just say that for a video that gets 100,000 views you might be talking about enough money to buy a one-way cross-country airplane ticket for one person, and for a video that gets a couple of million views you might be talking about enough money to do a nice Caribbean cruise for two people.  And my YouTube videos have had a combined number of views of well over 300 million...  so you can see why I might be just a little bit excited about posting videos to YouTube!
 

A Variation On The Indoor Layout

This video shows a slightly different layout for the trains inside our California house:

 

Hard Work Pays Off

In November of 2018 I had a long weekend due to the Veterans Day holiday.  Rather than relax and take it easy, I decided to create a complicated new layout for my trains and spent the weekend creating a new video.  It took a full day to build the layout and work the problems out, a day and a half to shoot the video, and even more time to put everything away again and edit the video.  So, it wasn't a relaxing holiday weekend, but it was productive.  When it was all over, I had a pretty good new model train video:

 

The reaction to this video was very gratifying!  All that hard work over my holiday weekend really paid off.  I set a new personal record with this video, getting one million views in just eight days!  Previous to this, the quickest I had ever reached a million views was 11 days.  So, I beat that previous record by a pretty good margin!  I really feel like I've got a good feel now for how to make a model train video that people will enjoy.  The "one million views" video is no longer as difficult to achieve as it had been for me in the past.  I feel like I have found a formula that is working.  I've now got 22 videos that have achieved at least a million views!

An interesting thing about this particular video is that my wife came up with a great idea that contributed to its success.  It was her idea to disassemble our dining room table and to temporarily store it in our garage, creating more room inside our house for trains.  A lot of wives would never even allow their husbands to have trains running throughout the house.  My wife not only allowed it, she came up with a great idea for how to do it bigger and better!


Model Trains At Our New House

I retired in 2020 and we moved out of our house in California and in to a brand new home we had built for us in Washington state.  It's a lot larger than our California house was, and that gives me a lot more room to run model trains!  Take a look at this video of model trains running in our new Washington house:

Our home in Washington has a huge back yard!  I had a four-foot wide cement path installed around the perimeter of the lawn, just so I'd have a place to set down tracks and run trains all the way around the yard.  Here's a video that shows my Amtrak train making a run around that cement path circling our lawn:


A Model Steam Train

Most of my trains come from LGB, the big German company that is synonymous with G-scale model trains.  But I didn't like what LGB offered in American-style steam trains, so I bought a steam locomotive from LGB's main competitor, Piko, which has some pretty cool steam train sounds:

It's a variation on the steam train you saw in my Christmas train video, which is also a Piko-brand model train.  Overall, I prefer LGB model trains, but Piko offers some styles that you just can't get from LGB...  and the prices are generally lower on Piko-brand items, too.


Amtrak Passenger Train

Sometimes even a very simple model train video can catch on with the folks on YouTube.  This next video, of an Amtrak diesel locomotive pulling passenger cars, required very little effort on my part.  I just stuck a GoPro on to the side of the train, and let it do a high speed run through a layout I had set up between my garage and my living room.  I've posted over 450 videos to YouTube over the years, but this is one of just 21 videos with over a million views.

This particular model train is somewhat rare!  Only a limited amount were made by the manufacturer, and they simply aren't made anymore.  I was lucky to find a brand new set just before they became almost impossible to find any longer.  It's the fastest train in my collection, and I like to let it run at full speed...  just to see it go!  The sounds seem quite realistic, too.


A very poor first attempt at elevating a section of track

Because our house is so small and these G-scale trains are so big, I've been playing with creative ways to cram more track in to the existing space.  One idea I fiddled around with was elevating a section of track so that it could loop over and around the ground level track.  I only did this for a short time, as an experiment, and don't do this anymore because it's difficult for the larger heavyweight trains to go up a grade.  But here's a look at my very inexpensive trestle arrangement made from 4x4 lumber:

 
 

Eventually I concluded that one solution to the problem of a lack of space for trains inside the house was to run them outdoors.  Here's a look at one of my first attempts at taking the trains outdoors:

 
 
 

Later, I decided that an indoor/outdoor layout offered even more space to run the trains.  Take a look at my first attempt at an indoor/outdoor layout, which also featured a test of an idea I had to elevate a portion of the outdoor track:

 
 
 

Once I proved to myself that an elevated outdoor section of track was possible, I tried the idea on a much grander scale:

 
 

Model Trains in 360 Degree Virtual Reality!

I've seen some pretty cool YouTube videos shot on Samsung's "Gear 360" virtual reality camera...  and after they recently dropped the price by about a third, I couldn't resist buying one and shooting my model trains in 360 degree format:

 

The White Pass & Yukon Route Railway

During a cruise to Alaska in 2014, I got to ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route railway in Skagway.  It was an experience I'll never forget!  The train literally picks you up right at the cruise ship dock.  It was cool to be able to see it right from the balcony of our cabin! 

Here's a time-lapse video I shot from the back of the WP&YR train as we took an excursion from the cruise ship dock all the way up in to the mountains where the gold rush guys used to go.  This video gives you an interesting perspective on how my fascination with the WP&YR started:

I didn't own any model trains at that time, but when I did later get in to LGB model trains, I was very excited when I was eventually able to purchase a White Pass & Yukon Route locomotive that was similar to some of the ones I had seen in Alaska.  Here's a picture of the real thing, in Alaska:

One thing that's really cool about LGB's White Pass locomotive is the digital sound system that's built in to it.  It allows the train to produce very realistic diesel locomotive sounds.  Make sure your sound is on, and you'll see what I mean in this next video...


Thomas The Tank Engine

The truth is that the main reason I make so many YouTube videos about model trains is that the ad revenue from the videos is so lucrative.  It not only pays for the cost of all the model train equipment, but also for some pretty great vacations!  So, to try to maximize the revenue, my model train hobby sometimes heads off in directions that it probably wouldn't, if not for the ad revenue.  A perfect example of that is the addition of Thomas The Tank Engine to my train collection.

I'm a  63-year-old guy...  and it's just me and my wife here at home...  no visiting grandchildren.  So, Thomas The Tank Engine is probably the last kind of model train I would normally think about adding to my collection.  But Thomas & Friends are HUGE on the Internet...  so I thought I could probably generate some decent ad revenue if I added Thomas to my collection and made a video about him.  Take a look...

I had a feeling that my Thomas video would be popular on the Internet, and it sure was!  It got off to a real fast start...  getting a million views in just the first 11 days after I posted it and another million views after three more weeks!  And it keeps chugging along, pardon the pun...  it now has over 33 million views!

Adding Thomas to my collection wasn't even my own original idea!  The suggestion came from one of the subscribers to my YouTube channel.  When I actually listened to him and took his advice, he was pretty surprised!  And it was such a big deal to him that he put together a YouTube video explaining how his suggestion led to me adding Thomas to my collection and creating my very popular video.  Here's his video, which is very creative and entertaining:

Although it hasn't had as many views on YouTube as that other Thomas & Friends video, I also thought I did a pretty good job of putting together this video about Thomas running with some of the other trains at our California house:

I also really like this next video which shows Percy and Thomas doing a high-speed run on my layout.  Pay particular attention to the camera work as the trains speed along the outside of my house.  Thanks to a very difficult shot involving a GoPro on a long selfie stick, I was able to get a shot that makes it look a little like the camera was flying along side the trains.  Check it out:


How Did This All Start?!?

You might be wondering how this whole fascination with model trains started.  It's a long story!  Let me see if I can give you the short version:

In the 1960's, my parents had an O-gauge train set made by Lionel.  It featured a Santa Fe locomotive painted in the classic red "warbonnet" paint scheme.  I used to LOVE playing with that as a kid.

In the 1980's, when Kellyn and I first got married, we had dual incomes and no kids and so we had a little bit of money to play around with.  She wanted a train to go around the Christmas tree, so she encouraged me to buy some model trains.  Since I had grown up with Lionel, that's what we bought.  But I always found them a little frustrating, since they had a tendency to derail quite often!

By the 1990's, our kids had beaten the model trains up pretty well, and no one was interested in them anymore, so we sold them to a guy I worked with.

During the 2014 Christmas season, Kellyn suggested that it would be fun to have a train around the Christmas tree again.  Not wanting to experience the frustration of frequent de-railing, I decided it was time to move up from Lionel and O-gauge and make the leap all the up to LGB and G-gauge trains.  I bought a starter set for around $300.  All it did was go around in a circle of about six feet in diameter.  That got boring real fast, so I bought some extra track and a few other goodies and expanded to a somewhat more elaborate layout around the Christmas tree:

 

An Inventory Of My Locomotives

#

Name or Description Type Manufacturer Model # Control Color Fun Facts As seen in this video

1

Thomas The Tank Engine Steam Bachmann 91421 DCC Blue Annie & Clarabel are the passenger cars he usually pulls https://youtu.be/MxbZNYjp0V8
2 North Pole Express Steam Piko 38215 DCC   Christmas train with matching passenger cars https://youtu.be/3g3cr1rw3HU
3 Porter Steam LGB 24771 DCC Black The least expensive DCC-controlled locomotive that LGB makes https://youtu.be/0-btJRsbxQs
5 James Steam Bachmann 91403 Analog Red One of Thomas' friends. https://youtu.be/7QO9F04yGQM
6 Percy Steam Bachmann 91422 DCC Green One of Thomas' friends. https://youtu.be/_0WcTmVIxuw
7 Toby Steam Bachmann 91405 Analog Brown The tram engine.  One of Thomas' friends. https://youtu.be/9zV1KXegfH4
49 Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe steam locomotive Steam Bachmann   Analog   Normally pulls a Valvoline tank car.
Previously owned by the Klaustermeyer family.
Given to me in 2018 by Jim Klaustermeyer
https://youtu.be/jAfUQUmCsIA
52 White Pass Steam Piko 38219 DCC Black Trainworld and Piko sent this to me for free
I have some WP&YRR passenger cars, and quite a few WP&YRR freight cars
https://youtu.be/GiPk6ogOo7c
106 White Pass Diesel LGB 25554 DCC Green One of two identical White Pass diesel locomotives I own.
I bought the second one to compensate for a defective sound card on the first.
https://youtu.be/uZHlIzFvu-A
107 White Pass Diesel LGB 25554 DCC Green I saw the real thing during a visit to Skagway, Alaska!
My model has a defective sound system that malfunctions at high speeds
https://youtu.be/1Eb6Xc-fF74
202 Santa Fe Super Chief Diesel LGB 21576 & 21586 DCC Warbonnet My favorite model train!  I also have the matching passenger cars. https://youtu.be/H7F6FQsrnLA
500 Amtrak Diesel MTH 70-2100-1 DCC Silver Dash 8, very fast, essentially identical to #868 and #911 except paint scheme https://youtu.be/5JRBGDg1xp0
707 AT&SF Steam Piko 38212 DCC Black The first high quality locomotive I bought.  Has a burned out headlight. https://youtu.be/HPQ-IFV9PNw
868 Santa Fe Diesel MTH 70-2117-1 DCC Warbonnet Dash 8, very fast, essentially identical to #500 and #911 except paint scheme https://youtu.be/GOhU0ZsqIbw
911 First Responders Train Diesel MTH 70-2115-1 DCC   Dash 8, very fast, essentially identical to #500 and #868 except paint scheme https://youtu.be/yHsC7JkB9rs
9370 BNSF Diesel MTH 70-2136-1 DCC Orange The real BNSF locomotives are a common sight where I live https://youtu.be/w-xu3yvzKi0
LD1 Rhaetian Railroad Steam LGB 20273 DCC Black Release of smoke from smokestack is synchronized with chuffing sound effect https://youtu.be/-Y2I18MYTw8
- Coca Cola Train Steam LGB 25194 Analog   I also have matching Coca Cola rail cars https://youtu.be/1wspjzvudeQ
- Emily Steam Bachmann 91404 Analog Dark Green She's very fast!  She came with a tender and I own some matching rail cars https://youtu.be/SKF65s0PEJw
- Clean Machine Steam Piko 38501 Battery Yellow Track cleaning locomotive.  Piko & Trainworld sent this to me for free https://youtu.be/jm3fdX0PJXQ
- Winston ? Bachmann 91406 Analog Red Track inspection car.  Sir Topham Hatt normally drives it. https://youtu.be/9zV1KXegfH4?t=26
- Glenbrooke 2-6-0 Mogul Steam Bachmann 81486 DCC Brown Modeled after a Baldwin narrow gauge steam locomotive from the late 1800s https://youtu.be/X7bK8EJz1wY
- Paxton Diesel Bachmann 91408 Analog Green One of Thomas' friends, a new item for 2021 in G-scale https://youtu.be/cPMLSS3KDNc
- Devious Diesel Diesel Bachmann 91407 Analog Black Another one of Thomas' friends, a new item for 2021 in G-scale https://youtu.be/cPMLSS3KDNc

 

This video shows 21 of the 24 locomotives in my collection:

 



There is a LOT more to this web site than just this page!
Please explore the rest of the site by viewing our table of contents,
or by clicking on one of the quick links below.

JimZim.net Main Page        Meet Jim Zim        Cruise Ships          All About Our Cocker Spaniels

 
Copyright 2021 Jim Zimmerlin, Pasco, Washington.  All rights reserved.