Hi, my name is Gary Robinson


Hi, My name is Gary Robinson

Like many of us, I started out in model railroading with a Lionel™ train set under the Christmas tree. The Union Pacific passenger set, with two FAs and three matching cars running around an O-27 oval, with that big W transformer with two controllers and the diesel horn, Plasticville™ town man that was IT. I still have it somewhere, hopefully to be brought out and set up soon in my new home.

My first HO locomotive was a Mantua 0-4-0T dockside, also still in my collection, with an Ulrich drop-bottom gondola car kit. Later a Lionel (HO!) New Haven passenger set, with BOTH locomotives powered by rubber band drives. We didn't have a permanent place for the HO layout, so the track kept separating when we ran it, and the passenger cars would uncouple on the sharp curves, at any but the slowest speeds. Finally, after my brother was born, we built a double-decker layout that folded down from a wall in the basement. Not two layers of trains, but one of trains and one of slot cars.

I went through Boy Scouts, sports, cars, and girls, and all that didn't leave much time for trains. That period was followed by college and a stint in the Army, where I was stationed at a NATO base situated in an active, but closing, coal mine. Tank engines shunting cars day and night kept my interest up. I saw many European layouts during my stay, thanks to my Dutch landlord. Most were small, but highly detailed, and operated flawlessly with Fleischmann or Marklin equipment. In addition, we were only a couple of hours from Madurodam, and visited there often (see http://www.madurodam.nl/default.asp?lng=en). This was my first exposure to "large scale" model railroading. Well, okay George, "garden railroading."

When we returned to the 'States I still had the railroad bug, so I began to dig out (from storage) and reclaim (from brother and nephews), my old trains. I had a layout in the basement on the back of a ping pong table. This didn't satisfy me, though, and I ventured into N scale for the first time. I had first seen N scale at the YMCA while working there as a lifeguard in college. One of the residents had a three-foot by four-foot layout he built, that was on display in the lobby for a time. That had prompted me to buy a Postage Stamp™ set, I think it was by Rapido, or maybe Aurora. This was located, and a 4x4 foot layout was quickly designed and assembled, with the passenger line running the outside loop, the freight running the inside, and a branch line through a river canyon. This was my first experience with creating Hydrocal™ mountains.

California in 1977 was a shock to an Easterner like me. Where were the basements? Boy, these secondary bedrooms are SMALL! What's a model railroader to do? Well, in our first apartment (less than 700 square feet), I bought a roll-top desk, so I could work on kits and leave them scattered around the desk in various stages of assembly. By closing the top, Neva (and guests) didn't see the clutter. That worked until I had more kits built than I could fit in the desk. And I still had no layout.

Several moves and two kids later, I found myself in North Carolina. While in NC, my son Tim started to show an interest in model railroading, and we built a 5x5 foot HO layout in his (big!) bedroom. The layout was in two sections that stored together in a box, but we never stored it. This layout served us well for several years, and was only recently discarded, after I became a member of Poway Station and began to build modules. Unfortunately, my first two modules were destroyed by water damage before they were completed, and a move into a new home has delayed their reconstruction. But they will be re-built, and I'm planning a home layout as well, trying to decide whether to go back to N scale so I can fit everything I want into it. The home layout will be based on the High Bridge branch of the Jersey Central, and if in N scale, will include several Ntrak modules for High Bridge, with oNetrak modules for the branch line. It's pretty ambitious, but I wouldn't be able to fit HO into the space available. If I stay in HO, I'll have to decide which sections to model, and which to imagine.

Today, I model the Jersey Central (CNJ) and many of the other East Coast roads with which it interchanged, in the early 1950's. I have some newer equipment that I run on the club layout, as well as some equipment from other roads that wouldn't show up on the CNJ. I intend (at least at this point) for my home layout to be prototypically based, down to accurate representations of the buildings that existed in that time frame. We'll see what happens.

Stay tuned for further developments!