My Model Train Collection
I've been fascinated with model trains since I was a little boy.
LGB 21576 Locomotive & LGB 21586 Sound Car
You've Gotta See This To Believe It!
We 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 have come up with a very unusual solution to the problem: we just set up the trains for a couple of weeks at a time, and step around them while they take over all the living space in our house. Then, after a few weeks of playing with them, I put them away for a couple of months. Usually, our house looks quite normal... because we don't have the trains set up. But for a few weeks 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 50 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 50 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 94 million views!
A Variation On The Indoor Layout
This video shows a slightly different layout for the trains inside my house:
My 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 350 videos to YouTube over the years, but this is one of just twelve 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 60-year-old guy... and it's just me and my wife and dog 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 actually got off to the fastest start of any video I've ever posted to YouTube... 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 four 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:
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:
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