For the Daddy!

Trip Start Mar 07, 1997
Trip End Dec 25, 1998

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Friday, December 4, 1998

Go with me? Chattanooga is Choo-Choo town, right? And this is the time of year when visions of model trains begin to take over the dreams of little kids, right? Wrong! We're headed for the Chattanooga Depot hobby shop, where we'll see who's really hankering after those trains.

"We sell train sets for kids," says owner Jim Horton, "but most of our customers are adult hobbyists. Sometimes the children are just an excuse to get started."

Model railroading is serious business, offering opportunity for creativity, fantasy, and a real sense of accomplishment. Some hobbyists pick an existing railroad and try to replicate it in minute detail -- for instance, the Yosemite Valley Railroad as it was in 1939.

Others invent entirely new creations, and set them into real geographical settings. Horton has such a model at his home, with a fictitious railroad running alongside the Little Tennessee River, but connecting with the real-life Southern and Atlantic at key points.

How much space does it take for such a hobby? It depends on the scale you choose. Today's models range from O scale -- Lionel-train sized -- to the most popular HO (half O) and all the way down to a fingertip-sized Z scale. N scale is the second most popular, with a ratio of 1:160. That means, simply, that 160 model cars, stacked end-to-end, will be as long as a full-sized rail car!

Computer technology has come to be a part of today's model railroading, as you'd guess. When you want more than a loop with a coal siding, CAD RAIL is a program for planning complex layouts in an error-free way. If you're going for stacked tracks in a 20 x 32 square foot room, accurate pre-planning is critical.

Look around the shop and pick out the scale that's just right for your interests, and your space. And once in a while, let the kids play with it too! See you there.

Chattanooga Depot Hobby Shop, Chattanooga
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