What's Your Personal Modeling Journey?

Thought it might be fun for everyone to share the modeling journey that has brought them to this point...Here's mine...

I started modeling at the age of ten living in San Diego and then eventually Chicago - primarily Fine Scale Miniatures, Timberline, SS Ltd, and Campbell kits. My interest then was the same as today; backwoods logging, sawmills, and light industrial branchline. Other hobbies took my interest away from modeling for the college years but the desire to model was always present and as a young man living in Dallas that love was re-ignited one afternoon while cleaning a closet out and discovering my old childhood dioramas. It wasn't too long after that SierraWest was founded. I spent the next few years learning how to make masters and cast in resin and metal. Today I am working with 3D printing techniques that will keep me up to date technologically speaking. I still am completely enthralled with backwoods logging and hope to one day build a small On3 layout around my sawmill kit. Running a craftsman kit company for 25 years has been so rewarding. I have made so many wonderful friends over the years and have no plans to retire.

A little personal history as well:
I studied Biology at the University of Texas at Austin, received my PADI SCUBA Instructor certification and moved to Lahaina Maui, Hawaii and worked on a dive boat, owned several companies prior to founding SierraWest including a world renowned surfwear clothing manufacturer, and was named the Creative Director of a Nationally known fashion jewelry company at the age of 33. These unique experiences provided the perfect background to operate SierraWest. In the years since starting SierraWest I founded a wildy successful scrapbooking company and proudly advocate for children in Foster Care. To learn more about my advocacy work or to help please visit the CASA of Denton website. If you ever suspect child abuse please call the National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4ACHILD.


  • edited October 2020
    What a great topic. So, I'll jump in here.
    Like many, I was given a train set at a very early age and it stuck with me for many years. At least until my high school and college years. Much of those early years were spent merely running trains around an oval.

    After returning from Vietnam in the early 70's, I was in a hobby shop and saw a kit in a 'yellow' box for the outrageous price of 35.00. I went back several times and finally my wife encouraged me to take the leap and buy it. That first kit was the Fine Scale Minatures Coaling Station.
    I was hooked on building modeling and I built several of George's creations until life got in the way and I had little time for modeling.
    After moving to Florida in the 80's my two boys and I built a layout and they became FSM modelers as well. Gotta tell you that was a great time with the 3 of us sharing the same hobby interest. (one of my boys has recently joined the group here).

    A few years ago my son and I were lamenting the fact that George (FSM) was retiring and my son directed me over to Brett's site. What a find that has been. Not only for the quality of kits available but also the knowledge that's available here on the Forum. Sadly tho, if anyone else is like me, the great bits of knowledge shared are eventually lost in the 'gray matter' or if remembered can't be referenced again easily. Soooo, I began compiling all the bits and pieces of information (Tips, Tricks, and Techniques) in book form (200 pages and counting). Not for publication but merely for me to be able to look at the index and readily find the topic I need at the moment.

    My first kit from Brett was the Railroad Camp and I was posing progress photos and utilizing the advice that followed from those who viewed my build. I always appreciated all comments but especially the ones who offered a different way to do something. I never viewed those comments as criticism but rather as helpful suggestions.

    Lately I've been building a couple of Brand X kits so my postings have been limited to comments of the builds of others. When I get back on a SWSM kit I'll happily post the 'build' as it progresses.

  • edited October 2020
    my story is much more boring. wife #2 told me it was over and she wanted me to move out of the house. much drama ensued, but after a time i had moved into a nice 2 bedroom ground floor apartment. my two sons visited me pretty regularly, but i was boring. to find something that the three of us could share in, i went to a hobby store that was shutting it's doors, and bought an n scale backmann train set, thinking the boys would enjoy it. i also bought a few building kits.
    i couldn't get the boys interested in the least bit, so i decided i bought it for myself. i started building the kits (setting up a "workshop" in the kitchen. i also joined that's what did me in. i started building well over a hundred structures, reading about n scale layouts, and seeing videos of them and i decided that's how i wanted to spend my spare time, so i went to home depot and bought some lumber, sold my dining room table and chairs and replaced with a 4x8 layout table. it was a pretty crappy layout.
    then i met liz and moved in here. she "deeded" me the basement. i built benchwork for a huge n scale layout and got started on it. i joined rr-lines and starting learning about layouts, but i kept reading about sierra west and how good the kits were and especially the castings. after several years of this, and the deterioration of my eyesight, i decided that n was too small for me to work on anymore and listed everything i had for sale. fortunately, it didn't take long to find a buyer (and boy did he get a hell of a deal...), so i loaded everything up into a van, and as soon as the funds hit my account i hit the road and drove from about an hour north of chicago to fort wayne indiana to deliver the goods.
    on my way back from fort wayne i called brett and ordered the dueling shacks and the rest is history.
  • Great thread. What a great way to get to know other modelers on this forum. I was interested in trains as a child. A neighbor friend had an HO train set in his basement that I would visit and help him run the trains. Upon a visit to a local hobby shop I fell in love with the detail on an Atheran freight car. I went home and told my parents I wanted to build an HO RR using my allowance and side job money. I mowed lawns and shoveled snow from driveways. My father said it was a waste of money and that I couldn't!

    Moving ahead several years my first wife bought me a promotional trains set from Lipton Tea, which I set up around the Christmas tree. That re-sparked my interest. I bought Campbell's Supply Co. and that started my structure building passion. I also started Campbell's Brett's Brewery and then life got in the way. It sat un-completed for 20 years on my workbench right where I left it. Upon my retirement from teaching I dusted it off, picked it up right where I left off to finish it.

    At one point in my life I wanted to build a layout, even built a house around the basement for it! Lost interest in that and just kept on building structures and dioramas. I collected Campbell, FSM and of course SW kits over the years and my wife says I'll never build all of them in my lifetime. But I'll try! I have also amassed a large collection of detail parts that I love to incorporate in my dioramas.

    I also like to scratch build structures and make one of a kind dioramas. I sell my dioramas on ebay and other venues as I started to amass too many and started running out of room to display them.

    I have learned much from this forum and enjoyed seeing everyone's work. It is inspiring! Thank you all for the kind words on my builds and sharing your work.
  • These stories are so enjoyable to read and I really appreciate everyone taking the time tom post theirs.
  • Well after reading these great stories I figured I may as well share my journey. Like most my dad got me a trainer for Xmas when I was eleven alone with a 4x8 table with folding legs . It was great but in time I lost interest and started to build model cars . That hobby interest stayed with me till I was 18 when a friend whose father was the last station master for CP in our village took me and another friend to see a layout which was unbelievable, never seen anything like it ,brass engine to no end and it rain flawless, the bug was back .
    As a teenager when you saw the cost of kits back then ( late 60,s ) it was scary but the cost of wood and windows and doors and such were less money so scratch building it was . I started to make buildings for a non existing layout , I got quit good and people asked me to build stuff for them .
    Like most you get married, start a family, house , hotrod lol , did I not mention cars became a passion also . Something had to go so it was the hotrods sigh . Year's passed and finally after getting our first house I was able to start a layout and met other train modellers. As I had mention before I custom built a lot of stuff for folks over the years which was great but also a burden so I stopped doing it . Year's pass , I got divorced, Bachman came out with ON30 ,so I sold all my HO and switched to O scale. During this time I started to see the nice kits by Brett and others and may as well get my feet wet and bought the tool shed as a start , fantastic kit and of course have the truck repair that I am working on and in the wings there is Oneils.
    Just building dioramas for now maybe a small layout in the future.
    I am 68 and hopfully the eyes and hand dexterity don't leave lol . My story in a nutshell !
  • My modeling story is actually a nutshel since I only began modeling in 2012. I was 52 back then. Al my life I had been a boy scout and later a scouts master until I was 47 !!! ( hence the scout hat in my profile photo )

    After that, I was looking for something else to do and by accident, I came across a french railroad magazine dedicated to building railway engines and wagons. That drew my attention and I started building brass kits. Never held a soldering iron in my hands, but I guess I am a quick learner and soon I started a layout in the metric 1/43,5 scale. All my rolling stock is build, everything else on my layout is scratch build aswel. ( look at my posts besides the SW posts)

    Then I wanted to include a sawmill in my layout and discovered SW. Lucky me, but what a bummer it was in 1/48 scale. The American O scale. Actually, I never even heard of that. Yes I still was a complete novice, dummy, rookie, and all that stuff...

    So I took the bull by the horns, or better the telephone of the hook and gave Brett a long distance call. France -Texas... I wanted to learn more about SW, the sawmill and the man behind all this. ( I had some bad experiences with. ordering with small companies.
    That is , ordering, paying and getting nothing )

    But here, with SW, I followed my gut feeling, which said this was an OK guy, an OK company with good quality stuff, and placed a massive order with Brett . Including the Sawmill. I decided I rather build a second layout in the 1/48 scale than had to let this go by. So I did. That is, for now I'm building the kits and then I will do the actual layout concentrated around the Sawmill, the focal point.

    So now you know the journey behind Robert.G. ... :wink:

  • this is a great thread. i didn't get involved in modeling until my mid fifties either. late to the party as usual.
  • Here is a column I wrote some years ago that tells an important part of my modeling past.

    I found an old newspaper clipping that almost brought me to tears. Every couple years, I do an online search for my father, and every once in a while, I find something that wasn't there before — a picture, a patent, a newspaper story. My dad has been gone for well over 30 years — and since he was a violent alcoholic during my childhood, and I left home at 16 — our relationship was usually rocky. I miss him terribly and think about him a lot, although once, in a drunken rage, he tried to stab me with a large kitchen knife. But that's another story, so back to the clipping.

    In the faded image, my father is shaking the hand of the mayor of Montreal, who is jauntily attired completely in white, including shoes, boutonniere, and is holding a fancy cane and hat. My father is 15 years old and looks like a young Lawrence of Arabia, taller than the mayor and blade thin.

    It's during the Second World War and my dad has just set a new model airplane record, winning against 550 adult and teenage contestants. He did this more than once, becoming Canadian National Champion three times. He told me some of the stories of his youth as I was growing up, but he wasn't a communicator about himself, although he could lecture on the intricacies of polishing valve inlet ports on an MG engine for hours.

    Lately, I've been realizing that our lives don't actually exist as such. When something occurs, it can be documented with film and photos, but that is still not truth, just topical veneer. Our memories, for what they are worth, exist as much as anything else does.

    What brought this to mind was emailing the driver of Domino (see previous column, November Falcon) and having him write me his version of the car accident in Hull. Although we both agreed on much of what happened, there were differences.

    For instance, he remembered a different Buddy Holly song and thought the driver that rammed us had just had a nasty fight with his girlfriend, running from her apartment shirtless, and then gunning his hot rod in our direction during a bout of blind rage. Whichever version is true is less important than which seems more real and more poignant. I prefer his version to mine.

    Over the 33 years my father has been gone, I've remade him many times in my mind, and I'm now older than he was when he died, which seems like uncharted territory somehow. Although I haven't tried to alter the memories of what occurred between us, I suppose it's inevitable as my point of view matures.

    That said, my memories of my father are priceless to me, and when I find a stray bit of information online that validates his past and substantiates his history, I'm excited. The Internet has become a kind of archeological resource and that's fascinating. Mating these snippets to memory can feel like truth, and that's what matters. I wonder how many of us try to find more about our pasts, either unearthing disappointment or satisfaction?

    I know one of the secrets to my father's amazing success at building model airplanes. He copied the exact wing foil from a DC-3, which was a brilliant design for its time. How smart for a 15 year old! I still have his aluminum templates from his most advanced model wings, and his last completion, a Wakefield, is as yet unflown. I can never decide if he would want me to fly it, risk possible damage or loss, or keep it pristine. Within my indecision I have done nothing for 30 years but stare where it now resides on the top shelve in our library.

    As a boy, wanting to please and impress my father, I began to build models as well. I tried some planes and plastic car kits, but my fascination has always been trains, particularly steam trains. During my late teens my father and I lived in nearby towns in northern Vermont. When I wasn't painting pictures, or earning money painting houses, I was building model train structures, freight cars, and even a narrow-gauge steam locomotive, all from scratch since I had absolutely no extra money. Without a lathe, I turned everything with an electric drill, and invented different techniques as I went along. One interesting model, 87 times smaller than the prototype, was of the Fisher bridge in Wolcott, Vermont, the last wooden covered railroad bridge still in use during the late 70s.

    When my father saw a number of these models, he decided I should enter them in a contest. So one morning, we left Vermont for Granby, Quebec, a scenic two-hour drive and the host city of a huge NMRA meet with model railroad enthusiasts from all over eastern Canada and the U. S. I was very nervous to attend, having never entered any kind of contest, but I faithfully filled out all the rather complicated entry forms and carefully packed my models for the journey north.

    Because of his past drinking, we had rarely done anything together. For instance, I can't remember us ever playing even a single game of catch, so this outing was big stuff for me. At that time he was sober, and continued to remain sober until he died, which came much too soon after our trip to Granby.

    We arrived at the enormous convention center, the meet featuring a variety of related events besides the model building contest, but even that was on a magnitude I didn't expect. Hundreds of models were laid out on long tables, grouped by type—steam locomotives, diesels, freight cars, passenger cars, cabooses, structures, dioramas, and so on. I entered five of my models, and as my father and I walked around awaiting the judging, he told me a few stories about his airplane contest days.

    One story that stood out was how his grandmother had held her ancient black umbrella protecting his airplane from a rain squall during one important contest, herself getting so wet that she came down with a severe cold a day later. His grandmother had raised him after his own mother sent him away at the age of ten. The only time I ever saw my father cry was after the phone call that revealed that she had died.

  • But back to the contest. I won five blue ribbons and what was called a "new modeler" award for a first timer. As my dad and I were heading toward his car with my models in our arms, the contest chairman ran up:

    "My gosh," he said, "Where are you fellows going?"

    "Back to Vermont."

    "You're not staying for the banquet?"

    We shook our heads. I knew the banquet tickets were $25, which was a lot of money for a supper in the 70s, and beyond both our budgets. Well . . . the chairman must've sensed that, and he "found" us a couple spare tickets. "Do you think I was going to stand there and call your name six times and have no one to collect the awards?" He winked in that friendly Canadian way.

    We devoured two massive slabs of prime rib, twice baked potatoes, iceberg wedges with Roquefort dressing and lemon meringue pie—all my dad's favorites. Oddly, I was more delighted that he was so pleased than I was from winning so many ribbons.

    I still have the joy of that memory between us. Writing this just now, I admit my eyes dampened and my throat tightened.

    By today's overly precious standards, I doubt my father would be considered a good parent. He never supported my artwork verbally or otherwise and thought my ambition to become an artist ridiculous, but did that stifle my creativity? He spent only limited time with me, yet our few great moments together are probably the most cherished of my growing up.

    For Christmas he many times gave me parts or tools he needed for his prized car: "You can help me work on it," he'd say. When I began to sell paintings at 14 and 15 years old, he borrowed the money and it was almost impossible to get him to pay it back. Even his drunken rages—he never actually hurt me physically—prepared me for the frightening things in life, which we all eventually need to accept and try to understand. Life isn't usually fair, and it isn't usually all that kind.

    Although I'm well aware that this is an unpopular opinion, these days I see way too many parents coddling and spoiling their children. This creates expectations in the child that can never be fulfilled and leads to many problems later on in their lives. The assumption of entitlement and a lack of accountability is dangerous to a productive existence.

    But that doesn't mean you can't hold a battered black umbrella over your son or daughter's model, the cold rain soaking you to the skin, if that selflessness means winning the contest. And what's the real contest for? It's for a family memory that will last past lifetimes and will always confirm the same unassailable truth: love.

  • Great thread Brett. Thanks for sharing everyone. Very cool stories.

    My grandfather was a huge model railroader but not really much for structures and this aspect of the hobby. His portion of the hobby was focused mostly on trains. He and my uncle were both members of a local train club. I knew of model railroading but I had no interest in it and if I'm being honest I still don't have much interest in the trains aspect of the hobby. I think of trains on a layout the same as a waterfall or a vehicle, just part of the scene and the overall setting. He passed when I was 14 or 15.

    My grandparents lived in a split level home and my grandmother couldn't go up and down the steps to let the dog out so I went to live with her for a few months to help her. All my grandfathers train stuff was in boxes in his workshop in the lower portion of the house. While I was waiting for the dog to do his thing I started looking through all the stuff. He had a copy of the book George Sellios put out on his railroad the F&SM. I was fascinated with it and the idea that you could build a little city in your house with any and every detail you could come up with. I read it for a few days and I called my uncle to ask him about the hobby. He took me to an old hobby shop that had some boxes of wood kits in the clearance box. I ran through every old Campbells, SS LTD etc.. kits they had. I consumed every craftsman kit I could get my hands on. This was the 90s so the higher end craftsman kits were out of reach to me. This is the time when FSM kits were $800-1000+ on Ebay.

    The only thing that I was more obsessed with than models when I was kid was playing guitar. When I was in my late teens early twenties I started playing guitar a lot more and stopped modeling entirely. I eventually got married, bought a house and had some kids. I was practicing with a band 2 nights a week and playing out usually both weekend nights when my first son was born. Sometimes I didn't get home till 5-6am. We were playing extremely technical and demanding music and I couldn't really put the practice time in at home and I felt like I was stagnate so I ended up quitting the band. I don't really sit still well and I needed to refocus my energy on something else. I built a workshop in the basement, started a layout and started getting back into the hobby. Now instead of annoying my wife with whatever latest guitar technique I've mastered I'm annoying her with some peeling paint technique or something.


  • I am just now starting out on what I intend to be my second act of building. The last thing I built was a scratchbuilt passenger station 32 years ago, preceded by an FSM sawmill that my dad let me build. I can still smell the Floquil paint and am only now realizing that I have to find a different product. I'll be reading Brett's paint thread to learn new options.

    The things that eventually got me out of the hobby are: girls->college->grad school->career->home ownership. But the hobby kept me out of trouble for the time I was with it.

    These days I am re-learning the craft by practicing on some very small kits and reading these boards to learn from the masters. My time is limited, given a fulltime job, a separate consulting company I own, and being a dad to two toddlers. I am lucky if I get 20 minutes a night but I am fighting to get that time and make good use of it. I purchased Shelby's Marine kit on eBay a couple years ago (for a heckuva premium) and I intend to join it up with FSM's Emporium Seafood, RSM's Delwins Boats and Brett's Riverfront as part of a large river & lake layout. But until then I am going to keep playing with little kits (work sheds, outhouses, rail offices) so that I am make my mistakes on those and pick up new techniques. But if anyone knows a link to a good thread on building piers with lots of barnacles and slimy stuff I'd appreciate the help.
  • The prelude is sorted and beyond the scope of this venue and the epilogue is in development stages but closer than the day before!...Picked up a copy of Model Railroader some years back, I would guess 2009, and found an article by some guys in British Columbia featuring a northwest logging narrow gauge railroad. The detail and realism of both the scenic work and the structures blew me away. I read the pages and came across the listing of manufacturers of the kits used and SierraWest Scale Models caught my eye as one of the premier structures on that layout. I thusly went to SWSM website and was further impressed with the scope of Brett's kits. I thought...I wonder if I could build one of those kits...I mean like the pictures I was seeing...hmmm. I remember calling and speaking with Brett before placing my first order, but can't recall what trivial matters I was bestowing upon him. Brett was most helpful and I decided on a simpler kit for my first go, the Tool Shed. Since that time I have posted all my builds here, which I believe currently stands at nine. I have plans to build all Brett's kits including all previous releases. Have secured these kits in my stash and am working towards that goal...will report how that goes, or someone will, in the epilogue that will follow!...Ken
  • As a teen, I built a lot of model cars and airplanes. Nothing too elaborate, but I enjoyed the detail work. After college my wife and I started but never finished a 4'x8' model castle with a mountain, moat, etc. It was just too much for a small apartment.
    I always liked model railroads, but never really had the time, money, or space for it. Well, now there are no excuses. I have built a large room, started laying out the tracks and need some buildings. As an artist, my wife is also interested, so that helps.
    I really searched a long time for that first great model to fit my OCD when it comes to building things. When I found the O scale sawmill, I knew this was going to be great. So far, as ya'll know, I am just getting started with serious, high detail models. The Truck Repair is my first. Unsure what path I will take on the road to completing every single O scale model Brett has, but time will tell.
    Hopefully soon, I can start putting down the roadbeds, track and electrical for the trains. Really looking forward to this journey.
  • I guess I go all the way back to the early 60's...if you count the trains that go up under the Christmas tree....we always made a new train setup every year.....HO......the plastic kits prevailed....hade many Ho layouts...some small...some too big all thru my teens. Got into HOn3 in my late 20's....and realized it would cost way too much to do what I really wanted....but during this time I started building wooden craftsman kits along with Walthers stuff. As my eyes started getting "smaller" and fingers getting "bigger"...I actually went way in the other direction....G Gauge Bachmann geared locos....I've always been a logging fan. I soon got introduced to On30 about 15 years back....and I was hooked. Started scratchbuilding a lot of stuff...until I ran into Brett at a show in Foxboro and I again was hooked...on Sierra West.....Still scratch building.....have about 40 unbuilt kits including Stoney Creek, Crow River, Kitwood Hills, several others. I do the Trains too.....mostly geared logging and a hand full of rod locos......doing Dead Rail.....working on the layout as time many of you may have noticed...I tend to model in'll see my posts.....then I disappear for months on end....even retired I'm far too busy even with the Rona.....I actually got back in the shop tonight for about an hour or so....Keep an eye out....I have some free time soon.....
  • Great thread Brett!

    My dad loved trains. He and I had a small 8X8 ho layout and played with it for many happy hours.
    About 40 years later I negotiated an around the room layout and the plan was to do a logging layout.
    Needed a sawmill.
    Looked at a bunch and then found my way to SWSM.
    I never would have guessed that I would get so into my first build and I’m now in the homestretch of the “Loco and Service Shops”. I am totally hooked.
    The plan is to incorporate the Loco and Service Shops and the sawmill and a number of other kits as well.
    Should just take 20 or 30 years to get it done!
  • I really appreciate the participation here. I have received soooooooo many positive comments. If you're on the fence about posting go for it, be bold! We want to hear your story and enjoy your journey with you!
  • I got into the hobby very late. Around 2014, even though I was working and traveling, my wife knew I needed an outlet from work. She mentioned she saw a train club layout at a local strip center and thought I might want to join. I went by and immediately fell in love with the layout. The president of the club was very good at weathering rolling stock. It looked real good and he taught me how to weather. In Spokane, Washington, there is a train swap meet twice a year. In March, I attended the show and started purchasing items for my layout. Toward the end of the meet, I found a table with some already-built kits. The gentlemen at the table told me the kits were built by a person who had recently passed away. I purchased Duluth Plumbing for a great deal (around $75) and took it home. At this time I had already decided that plastic kits were not for me. Even though you could make them look good, they were still plastic. I built a few wooden kits, but my building technique was very basic and it lacked the realism I was looking for. Back to Duluth Plumbing. I studied the build and was amazed at how real it looked and how well it had been weathered. I started researching the kit and that's when I found Sierra West. However, I was intimidated by the kits until I found Karl Allison's tutorial on painting castings. I contacted Karl and he is the one who convinced me to build the Wood Cutter's Shack.

    Outside of Sierra West, most of you old timers know that I have started and broken down two layouts. My intent was to build a layout with predominantly Sierra West kits. However, it just wasn't meant to be. In my fourth house since starting with Sierra West, I have given up on the dream of building a Sierra West layout and am now concentrating on building Sierra West dioramas which I will give away to family and friends. I also want to be an ambassador for Sierra West kits and help spread the knowledge to everyone who, like me, are intimidated in building that first kit. I want to convince them that they too can obtain great builds. Again, I want to thank three persons who helped me the most along the way - Brett, Karl, and Bill Obenauf. Phil
  • lots of great stories here. ed, what's yours?
  • I was given an AF set from my grandfather at the age of two, yes two. I would sit and watch the train circle the track for hours. Every year this was set up, on a board the day after Thanksgiving. Every year something new was added. When I was about 12 years old I started doing yard work making my own money. This led to me building in HO. I had a layout that slid under the bed on casters. This lasted until football, cars, and girls came along. Once in College I started to build models again and came back to trains. My new wife actual let me set up a 1 x 8 foot layout in the living room, after we were just married in 1971. I was building FSM kits then. I was lucky to meet up with some great local modelers at the hobby shop. There was an article in RMC, by a local modeler, and I got to meet him. He was modeling in HOn3, so I switched from my standard gauge layout to this gauge. I built a small logging, mining layout in a 6 x 13 foot room in the garage, In California we do not have basements. This was later expanded to a 13 x 24 foot room in the same garage. In 2001 I switched from HOn3 to Sn3. I have built two Sn3 layouts now in the same room. About six years ago I bought an O scale SW tool shed, then the rigging shed, then just about everything else in O scale, including the sawmill. These kits are now on dioramas under the Sn3 layout. It has been a great journey for the last 70 years.

    Mike S.
  • Wow- this is a great thread. I'll compose something similar but I will have to edit it down because I usually tell everybody I meet my life story shortly after I meet them. In the meantime I have told most of it in my autobiographical (some word, huh?) threads. It's what bi-polar people do. Model building is very consistent with bi-polar. Modeling is what get's me out of down times and I am a prolific model builder and even sometimes creative in my hypomanic spells. Brett is a creative and skilled craftsman-I am the equivalent of an art forger. I'll be 80 next year and my eyesight is better than ever and I don't even need other than safety glasses to build stuff. My hand tremors proved to be short lived as they apparently were the result of a chemical imbalance from a med I used to take. I don't drink any more, but I don't drink any less. Actually John Barleycorn and I broke up about two years ago and I'm down to my hockey playing weight and walk 2-3 miles per day. So here I go- I'm switching to On30 not because of physical ailments, but I love the detail you can achieve- thanks to building Brett's O scale Tool Shed I'm all in. I'm in the process of finding a home for my soon to be finished HO layout that is about 90% SWSM dioramas. I'm giving it away and/or selling it- first choice is donating it so that it can be seen by those interested. More on that soon. It is probably presumptuous but I really don't want to have the family have to deal with it someday. See what I told you? The rest is probably on one of two threads I have going here or on Bookface. In the meantime I am stock-piling Brett's O scale kits and a few of Roger's, Doug's, and Wild West's. My lovely wife of 52 years and the mother of our five terrific kids has told me that I can have the now seldom used dining room table instead of just a corner of the kitchen counter for my work area. I like to stay near my wife and little puppy, the fireplace, the TV for replays of big plays of any baseball game, and used to be the occasional glass of a good Willamette Valley Pino Noir when I build. The rest of the story later.
  • edited October 2020
    Like a lot of you, I got into trains when I was a kid as I saw them pretty much every day when my parents commuted about an hour each way up the 210 freeway in southern California. There was a rail served Miller brewery right by the freeway, and in the 90's there was a freight mainline that ran up the middle of it, though it has been since replaced by the Metrolink. I go pretty fond of seeing the Santa Fe and BNSF paint schemes in the area.

    One of my Grandmas got me a collection of n scale stuff from a yard sale for my birthday, but there wasn't much track to put anything together, and being the baby genius that I was, i fried the power packs by hooking 3 of them together because I though it would make the locos go faster. Eventually my parents bought me a legitimate train set for Christmas probably before I was 10. It was a figure 8 setup with a circus train and a ton of plastic structure kits. I wasn't patient enough, and lacked good tools back then so they didn't turn out too hot, but i had that setup on a hinged 4x8 sheet of plywood in my bedroom for a few years. I had a few years worth of model railroader and rmc subscriptions, but the coolest thing I had was John Olson's Building a Model Railroad with Personality book. That was my first look at what a craftsman could do with a model railroad. It was page after page of mind blowing photos all done on a 4x8 layout with a 2x6 extension. One of my freind's dads invited me over to checkout his HO layout and it was mind blowing. He had lit many of the structures for night time running which was super cool for a 10 year old. My parents would take me to a couple of train shows, and the one I remember the most was a guy giving me a switcher diesel locomotive for free telling me it was mine if I could get it to work. I think he was originally asking 30-40 for it. Regardless, I had it working the next day which was a huge confidence boost for a kid. My layout eventually came down when I was in middle school and I got into other hobbies like rc cars, model rockets and playing drums.

    Fast forward to about a year ago. I was trying to get back into some hobbies since I had so much free time as I was no longer in school, working and playing college hockey all at the same time since I had graduated about a year prior. I dabbled in rc car racing for about a year, but was looking for something else I could also do on my own. I remembered how awesome Olson's book was but for the life of me i could not remember the name of the book, so I went digging online and eventually found it and bought a used copy. Along the way I discovered what craftsman kits were, and down the rabbit hole I went. To be honest, I had never even heard of FSM so I was pretty late to the party compared to a lot of people here. One of the first hits for craftsman kits was SWSM, and I was blown away. A month later I had my first kit, the railroad camp, that I purchased off ebay. It's been down hill since then. I have 9 sierra west kits on the shelves, with 2 more on the way. It didn't help that Brett decided this year he'd release some of his out of production kits. hahaha. The second SWSM kit I purchased was from Brett himself, and when I called to pay I immediately knew he was from California when he called me "dude".

    So far I've completed 3 small craftsman structures, and I'm working on my first FSM kit but it's been a slow roll as I just moved to the east coast for a new job during the pandemic, and will be applying for a another new job which requires a ton of study unfortunately. The good news is that I should be buying my first home in about a year, where I plan on starting out with a small 4x8 or shelf layout to start learning the tricks of the trade. In the mean time, if covid lightens up, I plan on hitting up one of the local Virginia model railroad clubs to run some trains and learn some skills.

    I love the build threads that you folks have put up, so keep up the great work!
  • Really enjoying reading everyone's love of trains. This seems to fit perfectly.
  • Here , here , well said . This forum is the best !
  • yes it is. it really is.
  • Couldn't agree more Ed
  • I guess mine was pretty typical. A Lionel set when I was about 6. A Revell HO set when I was 8 or so. A break until about 14 or 15 and a brief journey into N scale that involved an actual layout and the first structures I ever built, old Atlas plastic kits. At 16 came the drivers license, and a long sabbatical as the more pressing interests of cars and women came to the forefront. College, military service and a career followed before disposable income got to the point of being able to support the hobby the way I wanted to do it. I attended a clinic at the local hobby shop and got involved with a club that had older craftsman level modelers in it. I picked up a ton of knowledge from them, but gravitated to locomotive and passenger train models, mostly, heck all brass. I became a painter for hire which financed the hobby through raising kids, had a home layout for a while, then had to move from Alabama to Wisconsin. I joined a great club in Milwaukee, and at that point decided a large home layout would be redundant. Around 2002 or so I stumbled onto the SWSM website and discovered Quincy's Salvage. I had never had a kit speak to me the way that one did. Sadly it went out of production before I could afford it, and I built other kits by other manufacturers and got a pretty good grasp of working with wood. In 2015 I took the plunge and bought the Loco & Service Shops. This was followed by the release of O'Neill's which spoke to me like Quincy's Salvage had years earlier. I ended up buying O'Neill's almost on the heels of the Loco & Service Shops and started it following Ken Karn's Forum Build thread. Things were going well until life tossed me one of those little surprises in the way of a job change. I went from being a desk jockey to a road warrior. This gave me more money for kits and such, but much less hobby time. Life is kind of perverse that way, isn't it? In doing these kits I find the biggest challenge is to keep the momentum up, and the new job made that impossible, so O'Neill's got put away for a while. Things finally leveled out and started to get back to normal, and along came Covid! For all it's negative effects it did give me loads of modeling time and I'm back at work on my kit again. I've had a few challenges with it, but nothing that can't be handled. I've also picked up the Brass & Iron Foundry, and even a Quincy's Salvage on the second hand market. I'm thinking of combining all three on a small layout or just a diorama. I've got a couple of years to go until retirement, and enough kits to last me, which doesn't mean there won't be more!
  • That's life , sounds like a lot of our journeys have went down that path .
  • edited April 2021
    Great thread here.
    Maybe I will jump in here and hopefully not bore anyone.
    Have enjoyed this hobby for many years. Started with Builders in Scale and many others.
    I am a retired Mechanical Engineer from an aerospace company that designed IFE equipment for Boeing Airbus and others. IFE means InFlight Entertainment.
    You set in you chair on the aircraft and have a monitor in front of you to enjoy games movies and much more. I designed the Mechanical part.
    I started out 50+ years ago pumping gas at a gasoline station and was approached to do drafting work and progressed upward without a college education.
    I progressed as a senior draftsperson on a drafting board with a drafting pencil (no computers back then) drawing schematics for the electrical folks on D size velum paper.
    I started to get bored drawing resistors/capacitors/diodes..etc and connecting each here and very boring.
    I also did PCB board layouts on Mylar using Tape on mutable layers.

    I was offered a position back in the early 80's to help a Mechanical Engineer do his drawings after his design. This was where my Mechanical experience started.

    Everything I have learned was self motivated and working with my coworkers to help me progress.

    The rest is history. I climbed the design ladder without a college education.
    I got lucky working with good experienced people that brought me in and guided me at young age to see me grow and have no regrets spending much money to go to college

    I have learned so much more building Bretts Kits and suggestions from all on the forum.

    And now I am retired at 70+ with my beautiful Wife who supports my hobby and surprises me with Brett's kits that I'm addicted to and enjoy all the folks on his forum.

    Gezzz...this sounds like a :smiley:


  • My lifelong journey started at the age of eight. My father would take me to the hobby shop and would let me buy one model a week. That was my pay off for doing my chores. I started with the Aurora monster kits. And then came the trucking era . My whole room soon became full of 1/24 scale semi trucks and trailers. I used to take pictures with the Polaroid camera and send them into magazines for contest. Never winning anything but it instilled the competition in me. I never actually stopped modeling even through my first marriage. Fast forward to 1989. I discovered my first model contest in Tampa Florida at a local hobby shop. I walked away with a third place and thought that was so great. The competition bug hit me hard. I build dioramas and have done pretty well on the model show circuit. I build all types of dioramas. Then came across 1/87 scale ,I was hooked. I don’t do trains but I love the scale. I’m working on an O’Neils fabrication which should be done by this summer. Model Palooza 2021 here I come.
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