It Started With An Itch
This Blog Post Comes From Club Member Gary Who Recounts Taking His First Steps In The World Of Railway Modelling & Satisfying A Life Long “Itch”.
“It started with a itch” which, if nothing else, provides some sort of clue as to my personal profile era. The fact that hot chocolate of quite a different sort is also now a factor in my life, is another. But, truthfully that is how this actually all started. With an itch!
When I was around eight or nine my parents decided to introduce me to the world of tough decisions. It involved my major Christmas present and they presented me with a straight choice between a railway set or a Scalextric racing car set. Now around about this time, James Bond and of course his flashy cars, tended to be the focus of my imagination. So, not being allowed to have one ( I did ask but for some reason was not taken seriously) I therefore instead settled for car chases inside the safety and comfort of the living room. A decision I never regretted because I had a lot of fun and enjoyment racing cars with my friends.
However, an annual family treat involving a visit to the local summer fair where, inside a tent, one could not only see a model railway in action, but actually drive the trains too, kept the subject of train sets very much in mind. Time though was passing, and other interests kept pushing the idea to the back of a rather long queue. Pubs, girls, computers, marriage, mortgages all got their turn at the top of the list, but never, ever, alas a model railway.
But then one day, many decades later, a spare bit of cash in my pocket coincided with a, by now almost ever-present itch, to own a model railway set. But where could I get one from? By now you couldn’t just walk down your local high street and return with a model train and a load of accompanying track. All of the specialist shops had long gone and what toy shops did remain, displayed only computer consoles and games machines. Of a train engine, steam or otherwise, there was not a sight!
So, I resorted to the web and all things amazon and what I found took my breath away. Not the choice of available train sets, but the price! Wow! I had never expected things to cost so much. But, once I had recovered from the shock I did that thing that I rather suspect a lot of people do. Set a budget limit and then got all tempted to have a quick look at the model that’s just above that range. Just to see!
Several budget recalculations later I finally settled upon a set. It was made by Hornby (Other manufactures had offerings too but, never having heard of Bachmann or Heljan, I was sticking to what I knew.) and featured a steam engine, some carriages, something called DC and of course an oval of track. Then, just as I was about to hit the ‘Buy’ button I noticed, close to the bottom of the screen, a list of train sets that other people had looked at whilst considering the one that I was just about to purchase. In amongst them was one boasting computer control !
Oook! Now I was in trouble. BIG trouble. For most of my working life (All of an afternoon if you believe my mates!) I have written software for computers. Accordingly, at the back of my mind when I was choosing a train set had been the question of whether or not it might be possible to combine two interests, computers and trains. I had just discovered the answer. But it was one that blew all of my financial calculations right out the window!
That should have been a warning. But, mind by now completely focused upon discovering just what this DCC stuff was all about, my brain could have been declaring DEFCON 1 and I still wouldn’t have taken any notice. Account managers at several online stores, especially the one based in Liverpool, could begin rubbing their hands in cheerful anticipation.
The set in question was called “The Majestic” and it featured, not one, but two computer controlled trains. How could I possibly resist? I couldn’t of course, and, with admittedly a bit of a gulp, I changed my order and pressed the buy button. I might as well have been handing over my cheque book too, because from that day forth the postman, and the friendly folk at my local shop in Chelmsford, have been kept rather busy.
Days then went by featuring plenty of post but no parcels. I was getting impatient and in my totally naive state, I was assuming that when the set did finally arrive it would only involve a bit of unpackaging, a play with a plug or two, and then chuff, chuff, chuff. Silly me!
The first (Ok, second) warning, that life was about to change was the size of the actual box. It was at least twice the dimensions that I had expected. It was heavy too. Just what was in there? It had been delivered to my place of work, a location that was soon to get used to lots of ‘non official’ parcels and packages arriving. This meant that opening it immediately was out of the question.
The model railway hobby has unfortunately a certain public image. One that is certainly unfortunately bolstered by how its exponents are portrayed in TV shows and films. Being one of the “Unenlightened” at this stage in my railway career, I therefore was taking steps to conceal my interest. Even going as far as to place the railway modelling magazines that I had started buying inside brown paper bags. Honest!
Now of course I am much more blatant about such purchases, even carrying them under my arm whilst walking back to the car. But back then I was simply buying a railway set to scratch an itch. And, having played with it once or twice, it would probably then just go sit on some shelf somewhere, all forgotten. So why get myself a certain ‘reputation unnecessarily?
All of this of course meant that I had to wait until I got back home to open my long-awaited parcel. And that’s when the all the excitement and interesting stuff really began …