It was Christmas in the 1950s and I was about eight or nine. Back in those days you had to put a lot of things together yourself. Swing sets, bicycles, playhouses, etc. We had a neighbor who used to help my dad build the bigger projects and I knew the two of them were building something in the basement. I had an idea what that meant!

I really wanted a train set. In fact, that’s all I wanted. And I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. Finally my mom came into my bedroom and told me I would get a train in the morning – now go to sleep! 

Long before dawn I ran downstairs and there it was! On a big plywood table – that only got smaller as I got older. A B&O steam locomotive, a Santa Fe diesel and some rolling stock on an oval track with two switches and a side track – all HO. There were a couple houses, a country-style train station, some really fake trees, an orange grove of all things and one of those fake mountain/tunnel things.

They also gave me a can of glue and a bag of pretty ugly grass – and I loved it. So I spread the glue with a brush and sprinkled the grass here and there. I planted the orange grove and that was pretty much it.  

I had no idea how to create scenery but I tried to make the best of it. I just didn’t have the greatest of products – not that I had any idea what was available back then.

As the days and weeks went by, watching the train go round the track was okay but it was never the biggest thrill for me. Besides, I seemed to derail that thing constantly. My dad said I tried to make the train go too fast. I don’t know. But I do know I wanted to create a small world for the train to go round and round. After all these years, I still do. 

Somehow I got a magazine on how to make scenery. It had to do with molding chicken wire into mountains so I got some and tried it. I just couldn’t mold that stuff worth a darn. But I kept tinkering nevertheless. I kept rearranging the houses, the trees, whatever. I really loved that layout.

What about your first? I’d love to hear about it.