The Hidden Magic Behind Model Railroading

February 21, 2023

Among the various hobbies of the world, there lies a more uncommon one simply called, “model railroading.”

Model Railroading is a very simple hobby, where you simply choose which train size you wish to use, buy a loop of track and an engine, and creatively construct your layout however you wish.

This is Guerriera’s layout, facing the stairs leading to the basement. Photograph Courtesy of Pete Guerriera

Each scale -or the different sizing for the engines and width between rails- represents a different ratio from the standard gauge trains in inches. O scale is 1:48, HO is 1:87, G is 1:24 to 1:32 and N is 1:160.  The most commonly used scales are O scale and HO scale, both not requiring a ton of space and being pretty equal in the price range.  

For more avid railroad fans, there is a subsection of the hobby called ‘Live Steam’ in which the spacing between the track is no less than 3.5 inches and no greater than 32 inches. Pricing for locomotive and rolling stock varies from the lower thousands and upper ten thousands.

Most commonly, the track will be on tables, typically made of 2×4’s as legs and an 8×4 sheet of plywood. However, some people who do not have the tools or room to install a table will resort to putting their track on the ground, these people are simply called “Rail-Ruggers.” This name came from people within the hobby finding that things such as dust, hair and dirt which could usually be found on any household rug, was found in the motors and wiring of the engines, hence the name.  

There are three mainstream model making companies within the O scale universe, those being Lionel, Mikes Train House and Atlas.  As of May 2021, MTH declared that they were closing; however, molds for rolling stock would be sold to other companies, along with a select few products such as their Wifi Interface Unit, and Track Interface Unit, still receiving updates and new variants.

These are Brennan Ledesma’s layouts, featuring both O and HO scale track setups, along with a collection of engines and rolling stock.
Photograph by Brennan Ledesma

Meanwhile HO’s mainstream companies are Hornby, which specialize in making British locomotives and rolling stock. While the American company Bachmann, specializes in more American locomotives and rolling stock, and characters from the hit television series “Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends.”

On average, O scale engine prices can range from $300 to upwards of $2000, meanwhile HO scale engines range from $100 to $600.  Meanwhile, rolling stock for both of them range from $50 to $400 depending on detail, size, and quantity.

There are prominent figures within the Model Railroading community, such as Twitter’s “The Unlucky Tug” known for his realistic takes on the characters from “Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends” or Pete Guerriera, known as “PG3ibew” on tiktok for his daily streams interacting with the hobby fans and showcasing his models running.

Guerriera’s favorite locomotive, a fantasy scheme Chessie System Pacific Locomotive. Photograph Courtesy of Pete Guerriera

According to Guerriera, the best part of model railroading is “Being able to go downstairs after a hard day of work and being able to relax for a bit, whether it was running trains or tinkering with parts.”

Guerriera sees the train community as a powerhouse of knowledge.

“Its great, admitibly I’m not that smart, I am an electrician, but a lot of this stuff is more detailed… electronics like these are not my forte,” Guerriera said. “[If] I’m afraid to take apart an engine, I can talk to more experienced people with these subjects; everyone is very helpful.”

While most people just see toy trains, model railroading is so much more; it’s a gateway to an entire new community. The amount of people you can meet purely from watching a train run around a small loop is jaw dropping. There are so many different kinds of people in this hobby, whether that’s the young people keeping it alive or the old veterans guiding the way.

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    Peter GuerrieraMay 29, 2023 at 8:53 am

    Thanks for making me part of your article. I appreciate it!!