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 our small house!

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LGB 21576 Santa Fe Warbonnet
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 65 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 56 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!

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 260 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 my 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 15 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!

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  61-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 seven 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 very many views on YouTube, I also thought I did a pretty good job of putting together this video about Thomas running with some of the other trains at my 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:


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