Thoughts on era.

In a recent MR, I read some speculation on
this subject. One reader was reported as predicting
an era-shift to the 1980s-1990s in 20 years, which
would overtake the Transition Era. Thinking about
this, I honestly can't see it.
It's not nostalgia on my part. There is a hint of
antiquarian interest, and steam engines are awesome
in action, though I've only seen about 3. There is no
way I could remember what mainline steam or busy
passenger traffic actually was, not from personal
experience. I'm not old enough for that, but at any
rate, even if I could remember steam, I'd have to be
quite ancient indeed to have nostalgia for the steam
power and railroad equipment of the mid-1800s,
if personal memory was the only criterion.
I think we see too much concentration on that. When
I look at the history of model railroading, I don't see
a constant nostalgia-based hobby, with modelers
always copying the scenes of 30 years ago. In fact,
until roughly the 1950s, modelers were overwhelmingly
interested in modern railroads, with some few, probably
as numerous as the McGees and Landows of today, interested in very
early period stuff. Most people went for the Hudsons, K4s, and 4-8-4s
that were the latest
thing, sometimes even automatic signaling and train
control. Even such old-timers as Frank Ellison used
modern equipment, although the scenes on Ellison's
road did seem to recall an earlier era.
Then steam ended in 1:1 railroading, but not on models.
Modelers kept using it. Some staunchly continued into
more modern times with steam - such as John
Armstrong. Most of us probably don't have that kind
of chutzpah, and thus the Transition Era became
popular. It allowed one to run modern steam and
diesels together, to use new equipment as well as
vintage hangers-on, and it was the last era before the
most obvious retrenchments started in many areas of
prototype railroading - retrenchments that are now
largely over, but which have left us with a railroad that,
though still very interesting even to me, is arguably
lacking in a great many fascinating attributes which
were once plentiful. (The passengers will please
Furthermore, the Transition Era is in some degree self-
sustaining. So much information and equipment is
available that its charms are kept fresh and current,
able to attract neophytes who have never seen a
living, breathing Erie 4-8-4, and a little bit of this arcane
lore makes those scattered glimpses of an earlier era
all the more ensnaring - that EW Y RK NTR L on the peeling bridge,
that old timetable found in the attic.
Indeed, I can attest that such relics are almost more
irresistible if their true source is not a matter of
personal memory. We see evidence of this in such
places as the RPI club, which is made up largely of
students who never could have personally known
a thing about the world they have amassed such
data on.
I don't mean to discount the appeal of current or more
recent railroading. I do actually miss Conrail, which
now that I think of it had a lot of Pennsyism left in it,
for better or worse. Furthermore, I really like the idea
of modeling the modern scene - which of course is
hard to reconcile with my liking for vintage equipment.
I do think that we will eventually see nostalgia for
the 1980s expressed in model railroad form, which
will at least be less absurd than other expressions
involving, say, clothing styles. However, I think that
the Transition Era has so much to offer that it will
continue to remain as a huge chunk of model
railroading for the foreseeable future.
Cordially yours:
Gerard P.
President, a box of track and a gappy table.
Reply to
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I am only 67, so I saw just then end of the steam era, but I have always had a tug-of-heart at the atmosphere of steam engines and the era they came from.
After playing with the transition era, my reading and musing finally settled on the "Golden Age of Steam", specifically the 1910s before cars and trucks changed transportation. I like to dream about how it would be like to live in the days before easy affordable personal movement, and how this would change my life (both for the better and the worse).
Model trains allows me an opportunity to implement these fantasies.
Also, I love operating layouts with switching and I find the models and the operating characteristics much more varied and interesting.
Reply to
Model the way you like! Heck! I had a USRA 0-6-0 pulling Phase III Amtrak cars on my kitchen nook layout in Willimantic! Unfortunatly I don't have those cars or the layout anymore (lack of space in new apartment). but... As a model railroader you can model the way you like it.
Reply to
Shrug. I think it depends completely on the individual modeler, and I think that they vary just as much from one individual to the next as do the people you meet walking down the street. You'll meet a few teen-aged kids who favor civil-war steam and some old-timers who model today's railroads.
Me, I mostly model transition era because I grew up watching late steam and early diesels almost every day in our town, but I've got some '60s and 70's equipment as well because I just plain like some of it.
For what it's worth, the oldest guys in our club are the ones most heavily into steam, and the youngest guys either have very few steam engines or none at all: the single exception being our newest member, who inherited a bunch of brass steam engines from his father-in-law.
Reply to
P. Roehling
Its funny this topic has come up because I'm getting ready to build my first layout and am torn between modeling the teens B&M in industrial NH or freelancing a modern layout on the same section of track and because of cost am leaning toward modern era. The fact that cheap 1st and second generation diesels are plentiful and scoping out the local short line has reveal a prevalence of cars that interest me. Modified coal hoppers in wood chip service and scrap service. tank cars and covered hoppers. While the teens would bring opportunities for passenger service and lines and roads long since gone.
Reply to
jeffrey David Miller

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