This week I discovered two programs on PBS that caught my nostalgia.  The first one, Tracks Ahead, is about trains and model railroading.  I grew up with HO train sets and race tracks.  And once the channel-surfing fell to that program, I was enthralled.

Our family never had the space to build a permanent layout, so I only got to set up circles or figure eight’s in my bedroom for a few days at time before I had to put my toys away.  At one point I did get a 4×8 piece of plywood in the garage, but still it had to be moved out of the way for the car or what have you, so there wasn’t any fancy scenery or anything.

I still have my old train sets, but I haven’t set up a permanent layout, even though I now have my own house and have pleanty of space for one. It’s one of those projects that sits on the back burner of my mind as a “maybe one day” I’ll get around to it. 

After watching a few episodes of Tracks Ahead, the hobby looks quite interesting again.  A lot of computer control is available now, including multiple trains on a single track. The computer controls the electricity to each of the sections of track where there’s an engine.  The rest of the track is “dead.” Very cool.

If I were to build a permanent layout, I’d probably do it in my 2-car garage.  The house is too small, and I’m already used to not parking in the garage anyways.  Right now it’s full of furniture waiting for me to finish a flooring project.  So maybe when I get that done and the furniture comes back in, I’ll annex the garage for trains.  We’ll see, but I’m already liking the idea quite a lot.

The other program, Seeing in the Dark, was a “stand alone” film about amateur astronomy (ie, it’s not a series like Tracks Ahead is).  I remember in my teens getting my first motorized 4-inch cat from Bauch and Lomb.  I loved that thing!  I could see the rings of Saturn!  Our family had 10-acres up in the mountains of Eastern Utah that happend to have electricity due to some oil rigs in the area, so I was able to setup the scope and watch under very good conditions. 

Being into photography at the time, I also got all the photo attachments for the scope and took some of my first astro-photos.  The first shots I took of the Orion Nebula “Wow’ed” me like nothing else!  They were quite blurry, but you could still tell it was Orion.  And now with all of the computer controlled scopes out there and CCD astro-cameras, the field is just amazing! 

My all time dream in this hobby would be to get a large (14″ or larger) cat with a CCD setup and build a mini-observatory out in the boonies somewhere, where I could watch the night sky and and finally take some really good astro-photos.

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