Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Trains (part one)

As a small boy in England, I always loved model trains. I had a set of Hornby Gauge O equipment, which I steadily built up with gifts on my birthdays and at Christmas. I began setting up the track in the billiard room at our family home in Surrey, using the space under the billiard table. I didn't care much about the station buildings and other scenic embellishments: I just wanted an oval track and "points", where trains could be sent onto a different set of rails.

After a time, I was allowed to move everything into the loft over the stable buildings, which had become a three-car garage. I began with clockwork trains, and later converted to an electric system, which allowed me to start, stop, and make adjustments to the speed of the engine. My elder sister had little interest in trains, but in time my younger sister enjoyed her set of Hornby "dublo" (00 gauge) trains, which took up a lot less space.

My enthusiasm waned when I went to my (British style) boarding prep school at the age of 8. I can't even remember what happened to my toy trains when I grew out of them. My love of trains continued, but it was transferred to scale models in which one could actually ride. I particularly remember the Romney, Hythe, and Dymchurch railway, which ran along the south coast between Kent and Sussex. It is a one-third scale model of a main line train. My prep school was at Broadstairs, a short drive away from the Hythe terminus of the line, and from time to time my parents would take me there when they visited me at the school.

I am glad to report that the line is still in operation, 75 years after I first knew of it. Hythe can easily be reached from the M20 motorway, which was not even dreamed of during my childhood.

More about my "romance" with trains will be featured in future blogs.

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