The History of Olin’s Trains

This was originally going to be the introduction to the train table entry, but it got long enough to be its own story…

Olin is a train fanatic. He could only say “choo choo” for most of the first three years of his life, and while he has started differentiating a bit more now, he is still very much in to trains. Especially of interest is watching the wheels go around and coupling/uncoupling cars. For quite awhile, we stuck with the Tomy Thomas blue tracks (they don’t make the blue stuff any more, you can only get it on eBay, but it has much more durable and flexible connections than the new tan stuff) and Trackmaster engines/cars. Those were satisfying for awhile, but Olin has recently been pining for an “expensive” train set.

When tax return time came, we indulged him with a Bachmann EZ Track starter kit. He wanted a steam engine, so we got the Civil War edition. The hobby shop we went to – Everything Hobby in Rochester, MN – happened to have a slightly smaller, used Santa Fe freight starter kit for a pretty good price, too, so we got that “for AJ”. I had an old dining room table that we dragged in to the basement for the base, and I got a sheet of 4’x8′ AC plywood to use as the tabletop. It was just the right size for the two tracks to run side by side… For an afternoon. It didn’t take long for AJ to lose interest, so we combined the tracks and made a bigger loop, then invested (And I do mean invested, holy cats are model train pieces e.x.p.e.n.s.i.v.e!) in a couple of basic turnouts to make a ‘branch line’.

Unfortunately, the steam engine from Olin’s kit happened to be very fragile/finicky, and he broke it pretty much immediately. As well as, you know, losing all of the wheels and breaking most of the freight cars that came with the set. To be fair, everything to do with model trains says “14+” on it. We knew going in that things were going to get broken simply because he needed to learn how to handle them. We asked the hobby shop guru what scale we should go for, and he suggested HO as a good starting point. I think he missed the mark in recommending the civil war setup because of the fragile engine, but the shop has been amazing about “follow-up care”.

Anyway! We decided that Olin needed a slightly more durable engine, so we took him to ABC Hobbies in LaCrosse, WI to find a different option. Tim doesn’t like period model setups, so we decided that we’d get Olin a modern engine and do our diorama for ‘now’, rather than modeling the 50’s or something. He picked out a diesel that seemed more durable than the steam engine was. Most of the railings came off in the first 48 hours, but again – we expected that because of the age of the consumer.

Then came the part that started the ‘problem’. Olin likes to watch the trains run around and around and around and… around. He has also specified that he needs a tunnel, a bridge and a crossing. And a barn. A lot of the layouts that I have seen online, both built and as plans, are meant for the conductor to actually be doing something. So, I went looking for a layout that had a continuous motion option. I discovered one, and thus began the Great Train Odyssey….

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