(at my grandparent's nursery, "helping" Grandpa)
My main hobby is model railroading, and that is the purpose of this web site; to showcase the work I have done over the years. I started off in the late 1970s modeling in N-scale (1:160), but switched to S-scale (1:64) in July 2008. I am currently working on modeling the Pennsylvania Railroad' Chartiers Branch, set in the summer of 1950. This was a 23-mile branch line that ran southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
I have had a personal web site up since January 1994, although its domain name has changed a few times over the years. In August 1999 I re-entered the hobby of model railroading (after a 19-year hiatus), and since that time my web site has been focused on model railroading.
Briefly, I was born in The Netherlands (see photo on the right), lived in Nigeria for a couple of years, moved to Houston, Texas, where I have lived ever since, except for five years when I went to college. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen.
(Madurodam; on the far right, my Mom and me in the late '80s)
My inspiration for model railroading started with my parents occasionally taking us to Madurodam in The Hague, The Netherlands (see photo on the right). This area is a 1:25 scale model of most major features of Holland. There is lots of action and animation. The "streets" have been enlarged for full-size humans, but you walk right through the towns. I remember in one area, you walk under the train. That was always a favorite model train "rail-fanning" spot.
The small town where we lived was a major tourist attraction during the summers. During those peak tourist times passenger trains would stop at our little station. The rest of the year they just flew by. From time to time I would ride my bike to the station and watch the trains.
In my teens I was given an N-scale Fleischmann train set. My bedroom in Holland wasn't that big, so a 2' x 4' layout was built that never really got much further than the track-laying stage. Nonetheless, the layout provided hours of fun and imagineering. I scratchbuilt some buildings from left-over wood and had a couple of small kits. You can see some photos in the "Model Railroads" section of this web site. My Dad was never into the model railroading hobby, but he did help my brother (who modeled in HO-scale) and my efforts. However, he was instrumental in my interest in electronics and woodworking, two of my other hobbies (see my Dad's fantastic woodworking web site).
In 1999 my then wife and I were watching a Discovery channel program on Lionel trains. This sparked my interest in model railroads, and her fond memories of how her Dad would always build a full-blown train layout around the Christmas tree. The next weekend we went to Trains & Planes in Houston, and bought a Bachmann N-scale starter set. It was August 1999, and I have been in this hobby "full time" ever since.
Early on I was inspired by the Reid brothers' N-scale "The Cumberland Valley System" layout. What they are able to do with their layout was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Later, the stunning "Franklin & South Manchester" railroad by George Selios just took my breath away. Both layouts are my personal inspiration for super-detailing my models.
A few months after buying the trainset, during the annual October/November Fall Tours in Houston, we met Frank Wyatt, who, at the time, was also an N-scale modeler. He introduced me to the Digitrax DCC system, which I have used ever since (until I switched to battery-powered engines in December 2012). Later, in 2004, I helped him tear down his N-scale layout, and later rebuild a very nice HO-scale layout. I built the new benchwork in individual sections so that the layout could, theoretically, be moved. I also did most of the wiring work. Frank did the track design, track installation, and scenery and structures.
Membership in Organizations
(Houston S Gaugers at a local train show)
In 2000 I was encouraged by Frank to join with the Houston Northwest Crossing club, which, at the time, had Z-, N-, and HO-scale divisions. I eventually became the club's Librarian and Webmaster. We participated in all the local train shows. I learned a lot about what it takes to set up show layouts. I enjoyed the shows, but I didn't like the internal politics, so I left in 2002 (it is my understanding that the club has been completely changed).
When I switched to S-scale in 2008, I was contacted by Bob Werre (a well-known model layout photographer) to join the Houston S Gaugers. We went to the next meeting and really liked the relaxed feel of the group. Membership requirements are very strict: just show up! Since joining the club, I took on the "job" of webmaster and we created our Houston S Gaugers web site, which I update after each show we do. Our club has a modular S-scale layout (code 100 rail, see photo above), and we set up about three to five times a year in the greater-Houston area.
In 2008 I also immediately joined the national organization dedicated to supporting S-scale in all of its flavors, the National Association of S Gaugers. In December 2011 I was contacted by a member of the NASG board to consider taking over the position of webmaster for the N.A.S.G. web site. I accepted the challenge. It is an all-volunteer organization, and, although it does take some of my time away from model railroading, I enjoy maintaining the site and find it very rewarding work.
I am a dues-paying member of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society.
I have had some articles published in the 1:64 Modeling Guide magazine (now defunct), and the NASG's The Dispatch. In the NASG Dispatch I also continue to write a regular column that describes features of the NASG web site, to help promote the site to the membership.
(same car model, S-scale in the back, N-scale in the front)
As mentioned above, over the weekend of July 4th, 2008, I decided to change scales from N-scale (1:160) to S-scale (1:64). The bigger scale makes it easier to see things, especially the road numbers on the sides of engines and freight cars. Even though N-scale today is significantly better than it was in the late 1970s, the contact surface between the wheels and the rails is so small that engines still operate with some stammering. This is much better in the larger scale.
I also really enjoy scratchbuilding, which is a lot easier to do in any of the larger scales (S, O, G) than it is in N. Since switching to S-scale, I've invigorated my interest in the hobby again. I just keep thinking "why didn't I switch sooner?"