Well that is a very long and interesting story. When I first started collecting HO scale tains I begain to gathered whatever roads I could found. Eventuly I began to narrow down my choices. I've always had a love for passenger trains and modern freight. While the steam era of the early 20th century was the most colorful and decadent time in railroading. I never really had any interest in modeling the steam era. Maybe because I have no real connection to that time growing up in the diesel era.
The Santa Fe passenger Super Chief is such an iconic train and having an O27 set in my youth was a good enough resion to start there. I mean lets get real nothing says passenger like the Santa Fe Chief. As for Freight I went with Southern Pacific, my grandfather drove for that railroad. I Then added Amtrak Bi-levels as my second passenger train. I had the opportunity to ridden on Amtrak's Coast Starlight and fell in love with the Superliners. Intermodal is the most modern of rail freight today but back in the 80ies there weren't alot of stuff avalable not like there are today. Though I did colect a few containers and a well car kit that I had to assemble paint and decal. Eventuly circus trains where add to the collection. Partly becouse Walthers releaced a neat circus train consist and because circus and carnivals are another one of my interests. I still had a lots of other miscellaneous roads I even had a couple cars for the ARR in my early colection.
So why did I finely choose Alaska? Well as I said earlier it is a long story decades old. When I was just a little kid lets face it I was a baby all of about 3 years old, Alaska became a state. From that time forward my parents and my aunt and uncle all wanted to move to Alaska. After all it was, and still is the last frontier. So... on or about 1960 they packed up and moved to Alaska... and in the fall of 1981 they arrived. (It was a very long trip.) As a child we move back in forth from California to Oregon to Washington and back to California and never had enough money to make the final leg across Canada. I Had been living in Portland Oregon for 2 years, married and with two kids of my own. My Parents and some of my younger siblings where living in LA California when one day in the fall of 1981 I get this call from my father and he says. I am 30 miles south of Portland and on my way north. I had to ask, “North?” “Yes, to Alaska!” At first I thank my eyes rolled back in my head and I thought to myself here they go again. But this time they did not stop at the Canadan border. They pushed on, all the way to Alaska. So after 21 years they finely make it and they have been living there ever since. Well until my father retired you can't live well in Alaska on SSI.
The funny thing is I did not go with them nor did some of my older siblings. Some times I wished I had gone but then I would have had to give up my dream of living here in the Pacific North West. Us older children had been planted at different places around America. Some as far east as Minnesota.
I've only been to Alaska three times. Once when my boys were little I sent them by plane with one of their uncles in order to spend the summer with their grandparents. I flew up later to get them on a weekend. 60 hours in Alaska. It is true what they say: no one really sleeps in Alaska in the summer time. The next time was for a funeral not the best reason to go to Alaska. It was the middle of winter and a lot of sadness. Alaska is very beautiful in the winter. We drove all the way to Soldotna from Anchorage. The Cook Inlet was covered with ice floats. The third time was more joyful it was summer and my parent’s were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I was there for a whole week. I even got in a little fishing I didn’t catch anything but as I always say, “fishing is not in the catching but in the doing.”
It was on that third trip that really kicked of my interest in modeling the Alaska Railroad and was the defining moment that made the ARR my main road of choice. I had no real interest in the ARR before leaving for Alaska. But before I left for Alaska I did a search for Alaskan hobby shops. A true modeler always takes advantage of discovering those unique hidden away opportunities. I found one in Anchorage and one in Soldotna. My parents live in Soldotna. cool I could look for bargains. Model railroaders are always looking for bargains. After visiting and a little fishing. I asked my brother to give me a ride to the hobby store. No need to rent a car when you have family living there. My brother and my dad both looked at each other and said. “Soldotna has no hobby store.” I assured them that yes they did and after explaining where Yahoo said it was. My brother remarked. “Ok that’s right I do recall a hobby store there.” In fact they remembered that there was also one in the mall so Soldotna actually had two hobby stores. I guess when you live next to one of the greatest fishing rivers in the world model-railroading doesn't seem that important.
Well the one in the mall was just like hobby stores in any mall anywhere a lot of everything but very little of anything. The other one, the one I found on the Internet they were a true train store. In fact I found a lot of good stuff, all Alaska railroad. Everything from manufacture made Bev-Bel kits, to custom painted kits. I have even purchased items from this store after returning home to Oregon. Sadly the store was sold hopefully the new owner will continue selling Alaska road. I believe the former owner made many of the custom items himself.
It was that handful of cars...(handful I filled my suitcase, It payes to travel light.) well those cars that I picked up there in Soldotna kicked off my passion for the Alaska Railroad and started me in my never-ending quest to collect Alaska railroad model trains. That and my parents, 21year journey to become Alaskans. To this day I have more then 15 ARR engine and dozens ARR freight cars many of them are custom painted. Enough passenger cars to build two full consists. 7 that I custom painted myself, The Rivarossi 4 car ARR passenger cars set, Walthers ARR passenger cars, Bachmann Holland America McKinley Explorer cars - First and second release full dome cars and the new Ultra Dome cars and Bachmann Princess Rail Cars. I also have numerous ARR container loads and semi trailers... the numbers keep growing and ARR Vehicles.
Of course still collect other roads just recently I have begun to acquire NdeM. Nacionales De Mexico. (National Railway of Mexico) For those who are not familiar with the NdeM Railroad or that Mexico even had a railroad. I guess I have a thing for the small less known railroads. I have also collected Christmas cars. But Alaska will always be my #1 road.