The Model Train Nut

How It All Started

It was 1977 and my dear great Aunt Marion did lots of work for many charities and organizations. At age 16, she had me collecting on street corners for SANCA (South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) and helping out at the popcorn stand at many of the local exhibitions in the Old Wool Store in East London.

It was while I was on one of my “breaks” that I discovered an n-scale layout on display. It belonged to Dave Bowen and he’d managed to create a miniature wonderland that had me mesmerized. I’ll never forget seeing the little Fleischmann model of a Swiss “Edelwiess” train-set slowly make its way up the mountain and then disappear into a tunnel, only to appear on a lower level again. It was also the first helix I’d seen in a layout.

After seeing me stand there at just about every opportunity I got, Dave and I started chatting and I got to “control” the trains on his layout. He eventually let me “look after the layout” when he took a break and I decided there and then that one day I’d also be a part of an exhibition.

It wasn’t long thereafter that my Dad and Dave reached an agreement and my brothers and I had our first N-Scale train and an oval of track.

A Short while later, the three of us decided that an oval of track was boring.  We needed some points (turnouts) and some more track and lots more wagons and locos for our new railroad empire in the making.

East London was a sleepy little seaside town in those days.

N scale was not very well known but in an old fashioned department store by the name of Hughes & Co, we found model train heaven.

The first layout ever - 1977

Mr. Hughes stocked N Scale…. He had Atlas, Rivarossi, Minitrix and Lima under the glass counters on the top floor of the 3 story building.

We saved and soon could afford what we thought we needed. Some Atlas set-track and a mixture of Lima and Minitrix and we were soon planing the yards and stations, tunnels and scenery…

From another angle

Sadly only these two photo’s of the layout still exist. We had fun running trains as much as we could in those days.

How simple everything seemed back then. 

 No DCC, no sound, simple power districts and our trusty H&M controller providing ample power to run two loco’s on a layout the size of a table-tennis table.

A far cry from today’s miniature marvels.

In memory of David Evan Campbel Bowen: 23 January 1946 – 26 September 2018.  RIP Dave, you got me started in the hobby and its been an awesome experience.