Model Railroading, Model Farming, and Where the Two Come Together

A while back, some friends and I were “playing farm.”  It was a fun way to spend an evening.  Hitch up the 16-row planter to the Quad Trac, drag it across the ping pong table a few laps, consume an adult beverage, and now it’s time to get the combine out of the shed.  Repeat until you get bored or run out of adult beverages.  See?  Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

We’ve been collecting tractors, implements, and buildings.  We figured out the best way to set up our sheds and where to put our livestock pens.  We even had an elevator set up on a card table nearby, connected to the ping pong table via a cardboard bridge/ramp.  It was a great plan, except for the fact that it was in my friend’s parents’ house.  And Ma wasn’t a fan anymore.

It used to be a great setup.  The “grown-ups” would stay upstairs and talk about their aches and pains, or whatever old people talk about, and us “kids” would go downstairs and farm.  Everybody was happy, until Ma decided we shouldn’t be playing with toys anymore.  Apparently pushing thirty is a good reason to quit playing.  We all disagreed with her logic.

Well she finally decided to send Pa down to the basement to tell us off.  But he was fascinated with all of the thought we put into it.  His only comment before he went back upstairs was “You don’t have a barge or a train.  How are you going to get the grain out of the elevator?”

We all thought this was funny, but it did raise an interesting question.  How would we get the grain out of the elevator?  Now we could just use semis, but that’s not as much fun as having a train.  I don’t know why, but I decided I needed a train.

Now here’s the rub: I knew basically nothing about model trains.  I knew of HO scale, because I have seen those trains with flatbeds of “new” tractors.  Seems like you could make an entire collection dedicated to those tractor hauling sets.  (There’s one of those possible themes I talked about when I discussed collecting vs. hoarding.  If you have a collection like that, I’d love to see it.)

So that’s as far as I got with my choo-choo smarts.  I found out that HO scale is not 1/64th, but 1/87th.  Well shoot, there goes that idea.  Guess I won’t have a train.  End of blog post.  Sorry folks.

But as Paul Harvey always said, here’s “The Rest Of The Story.”

Turns out there is a train scale that fits our tractors!  We call it 1/64th scale, but to the railroad community it’s S Scale.  Turns out there’s a bunch of different scales of model trains.  Guess I’m the dummy who ought to do more research before I give up.

So now that I’ve identified the scale of train I would need, I have been looking into model railroading.  I mean, I know nothing about it, and it’s something that would definitely be handy to know about.  Especially when you think about how much model farmers and model railroaders have in common.

I’ve noticed one thing about railroaders: there’s only one way to show off your trains.  I have written about different ways to display your farm toys,  but it seems like there’s only one good way to display a train.  And that would be to build some sort of track configuration and make it so you can run your trains.  I guess that makes sense, since most if not all model trains are built to be self-propelled in some way.

Now if only we had remote controlled 1/64th scale tractors.  Hint hint, toy companies…

And those tracks are typically surrounded by incredibly detailed layouts.  Like I need to call Rick Moranis and borrow his shrink ray so I can crawl into this world of make believe and truly appreciate it.  These things are incredible.

I don’t know for certain, but I believe model railroading is what gave birth to the model farming hobby.  And from what I know about farm toys, that makes sense.  These toys, as most toys are, were originally designed for children.  Kids were supposed to go with Dad to the dealership, and when Dad bought a new tractor or combine the dealers would convince Dad that little Johnny needed one of his own.  Then the kid was supposed to put a quadrillion hours on that tractor, working a bazillion acres of carpet and sandbox.

Then an odd thing happened: adults started playing with these toys.  And they wanted to build epic miniature farms for their tractors and combines and trucks and everything else they had.

Ertl started making buildings, but let’s face it: those buildings were not suited for the kind of farm we all envisioned.  So we started building our own buildings that would actually fit our equipment.  And once we had buildings, we needed some “land” to put them on.  Now painting a table green and brown might work for little kids, but we needed something more real.  And where were we going to get that?

That’s right: the model train stores.  Sheldon Cooper, rejoice.

Model railroaders can build any location, in any season, and in any weather.  The market for modelling supplies is ginormous, and railroad displays are responsible for the bulk of that market.  There are trees, bushes, figurines, building materials, gravel, grass, dirt, signposts, telephone poles…

I could go on, but I think you get it.  There’s a lot of stuff that works on a model farm just as well as on a model railroad.  And I’m sure there’s a lot that newbies like me can learn about building a perfect replica of the face of the earth.  And if you can’t find a model farmer who can help you out, ask a model railroader.  who knows, you might even find out that the railroader was needing your help in making his countryside display a little more interesting.

So I’m going to do some more research into railroads and how to incorporate them into our farms.  Be prepared for more blog posts in the future about railroads.  Like Bogey said in Casablanca, I believe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I’d like to hear your thoughts.  Are you incorporating railroads into your display?  Have you been studying their modeling techniques?  Do you have your own railroad?  If so, do you have one of those neat blue and white striped hats you wear when you’re running it?

Let me know in the comments below, send me a message on the socials, drop me a note, or put your letter in one of those bags hanging out there for the trains to grab.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you folks.

Remember to hit it hard and take it easy.  Keep on farming, folks.

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