How did I get started in model railroading? I'd have to say it was probably the Marx tinplate set that belonged to my (much) older brothers. I recall finding it buried in a closet—I was perhaps five at the time.
I would place bets that I put more mileage on this set than both of my brothers combined. And my attention to it likely inspired a Christmas gift when I was seven: a Tyco HO train set. (That kid on the cover of the catalog could easily have been me—although my father did not share my passion.) It wasn't long before I commandeered an old ping-pong table I found in the basement and started a layout.
Shortly after that, I had my first ride on a 1:1 train, the Black River and Western, which set the hook even deeper. To this day I recall that thrilling ride—standing in an open gondola, cinders raining down on me... Plus, a visit to Roadside America in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania, was also influential. As an aside here, I purchased a postcard at the Roadside America gift shop that I'd kept right through adulthood: the image of the elevated line in Jersey City likely influenced my current predilection for urban industrial modeling.
In the summer of 1965, I discovered Model Railroader magazine at a hobby shop in New Hampshire (Franklin's in Meredith). This was a significant event, as virtually overnight my blossoming interest in toy trains was transformed into a passion for model railroading that has lasted my entire life. Another milestone was moving to Hopewell, New Jersey, just a couple of blocks from the Reading Railroad, which at the time was still quite busy—I could see the line from my bedroom window. If I wasn't at school or in my room modeling, it was a good bet I was down at the station watching trains.
When 1967 arrived, so too did Postage Stamp Trains. I was instantly smitten, and proceeded to pester my parents for an entire year before they finally caved in and allowed me to switch scales. And the moment I began working in N Scale, I had a strong sense that this was what I'd be doing for the rest of my life. That proved to be the case, starting with my very first N Scale layout in 1969, the Newport & Rock Falls.
When I was 15, I had a science teacher named Linda Spano. One day after class, she overheard me talking about model railroading, and arranged for me to meet her husband Rick Spano at a local hobby shop where I happened to work (The Switching Point in Pennington). Very soon all three of us became fast friends, and remain so to this day. Among many other things, Rick inspired me to take modeling more seriously, and so I began the White River & Northern, the first of a series of layouts bearing the same name—one of which appeared in Great Model Railroads 2000—as well as many other projects.
Although I've dabbled in Z Scale along the way, and pioneered efforts in little-known T Gauge, N Scale has remained my primary focus. My modeling CV includes these highlights:
For a brief time I was a manufacturer of tools, detail items and structure kits; I'd even secured a patent for a coupler design.
While my skills have diminished considerably owing to illness and old age, I'm still doing what I can, which includes publishing many online resources for N Scale modelers:
I will be an N Scale modeler until the day I die, that I can guarantee.
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