2003 – What a Time to be Alive!

2003. I was eleven years old. I’m not sure if the subscription to Model Railroader was a gift from my parents or a relative, but I was ecstatic when that January issue came in.

I was organizing my old magazines when I realized how great a year 2003 was for Model Railroader and how those issues began to form my identity as a modeler. I thought I’d share some thoughts on some of my favorite issues and articles from that year, and how they still shape my place in the hobby today.

January and the Turtle Creek Central. Right off the bat, what a cool 4×8 layout! I desperately wanted to build it when I was a kid. The issue is barely holding together now, I spent hours pouring over it. I loved how the layout had an operational purpose despite the more traditional design.

I’ve always wanted to build a 4×8 project layout from the magazine and put my own spin on it. Perhaps one day I’ll even bring life to my childhood dreams and build this one! The branding on that cover issue also tugs at the heart strings. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I wanted to be one of those kids. My own father mostly treated my love of trains with indifference. Maybe someday my daughter and I will build a project like this together. Even if she doesn’t share my interests, I want to make sure I support and encourage her passions and dreams.

Another note on the January issue – that article on 1942 is great! The World War II era often gets overlooked in favor the early 1950’s transition era. From a prototype modeler standpoint, I feel that many transition era layouts miss their mark by trying to include too big a variety of things. I sympathize with the difficulty of finding the correct steam locomotive models, but I think the beauty of the WWII era is often overlooked. Diesels were around, especially Baldwin and Alco switchers, but steam still ruled the road.

On to February… wow! One of the few layouts I’ve seen in Model Railroader that includes a layout based in Oklahoma. While Bill Van der Meer’s Sweetwater & Orient mostly depicts west Texas, he included a scene from Lugert, OK on his shelf layout. The scene is a tad too arid, but still, its Oklahoma! This article was one of my first introductions to a point-to-point shelf layout that depicted a prototype I could relate to. I often envisioned building something similar depicting the Rock Island.

On to April. Gil Freitag’s incredible Stony Creek & Western graced the cover and a large fold-out section. I was enthralled by the sweeping mountain scenery. The article focused on how the layout had attracted a community of operators around it. The concept of fellowship around operating sessions on a large, private model railroad intrigued me, and it still does. I still haven’t had the chance to be a guest at a big operating session on a basement layout, but I’d sure love to one of these days.

I’ll have some more musings about other issues of Model Railroader in 2003 in future posts. I hope y’all don’t mind this little trip down memory lane. Like a journal, this blog has helped me to organize my modeling thoughts, chronicle my successes and failures, and consider what lies ahead. As I ponder where I’m going in the world of model railroading, its good to consider where I’ve been.

One thought on “2003 – What a Time to be Alive!

  1. Thanks so much for the memories!
    Back then I decorated a locomotive I had on hand for the Turtle Creek Central.
    I also loved that Santa Fe layout, never seen that TX/OK theme before or after.
    Please share more thoughts like this one it feels good!
    Cheers from France


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