History of Railway Modeling


Railway modeling is a very popular hobby in the UK and is also prevalent in the United States, Australia and Canada. Railway modeling represents everything in the real railroad system like tracks, rolling stock, locomotives and signaling as well as railway buildings where all these are reproduced in miniature to accurate scales. Hills, bridges, canyons, buildings and vehicles are all represented in the smaller version. Even features like steam is there in these model trains.


The earliest version of railway modeling appeared in 1840s as the Victorian model railway toys. These versions had a boiler mounted on wheels and the boiler was filled with water. When the burner is lighted steam is produced. In those days there were no rails for these toys and these toys would move along a flat floor until they crashed against the wall or furniture, leaving a trail of water on the floor. These early models were were aptly named “Birmingham Dribblers”. The boilers started exploding one after the other due to the high pressure developed in them. Then a safety valve was added to the boiler. These toys are now highly priced collectible items.


As the hobby became more and more popular, later models started improving. Track was invented and used to guide the model trains, with some layouts in circular or oval in shape. Models of real places including buildings and landmarks were created and entire towns could be created. In the early 20th century, clubs and societies were formed by railway modeling enthusiasts with the oldest one believed to be The Model Railway Club of London established in 1910. They have a very large collection of books and periodicals connected with the hobby. Another is The Historical Model Railway Society at Butterley which specialize in historical matters.


Unlike the older models, the new railway models more closely resemble real trains with the only difference being the small size. The earlier models worked on clockwork and with the help of levers. Some operations like stopping at stations were done by triggering the levers at designated places. Today most of the model railways operate on DC power, but two manufacturers, Marklins and Lionel Corporation use AC traction. This AC power is drawn through the tracks from the mains. Those who have adopted the DC system use the two tracks for transmission of power. Marklins and Lionel Corporation use three rail systems for transmission. The products of American Flyer which use AC power run on two track system.


Early models used batteries for power and even today cheap toy trains are battery powered. Engines powered by real steam are also used in model rails, but these are often used by professional model railway collectors and enthusiasts, but they are often operated outdoors. Steam and clockwork models are collectors’ items of great demand and so$me collectors prefer to get their models with a weathered look. Normally manufacturers like to produce unweathered models which are easier to make.


With a long history dating back more than 150 years, railroad models have give children and adults alike many hours of fun and excitement.



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