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“You still play with trains?!”

By Charlie Giordano - Torrance, CA

A young engineer discusses the Live Steam Railroading hobby

Charlie on SW1500“You still play with trains?!” This is usually the response I get after explaining my hobby, Live Steaming, to someone. I am 12 years old and my name is Charlie Giordano. I currently attend 7th grade at my local middle school and I am a proud member of the Southern California Live Steamers (SCLS). For being only 12 years old and growing up at the dawn of the 21st century, I consider my life to be quite interesting compared to your average 12 year old in America! How many kids in America wake up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and drive on down to a miniature railroad to operate steam and diesel locomotives? Well…..not that many.

From a young age beginning around 3 or 4 I showed a very high, or should I say EXTREME, interest in trains. After being introduced to Thomas like many young children, I was hooked. After receiving my first of many HO gauge model train sets, I set out on an expedition to collect as many model trains as I could. I joined the California Southern Model RR Club in Norwalk California at the age of 9. After being a member for 2 years I soon found boredom in the small trains and discovered something even better! Live Steam Locomotives and Miniature Railways which you can ride on!

Charlie and DadFor many years I had been riding the small loop of track in Wilson park on their monthly first Sunday run! I always dreamed of becoming a member but never though I would get involved with the club until after much begging, my dad gave up and let me join. After going to some meetings and getting to know all the club members my father and I both joined the club. (Thank you Dad!)

I’ve been a member for about 2 years now and it has been just about the most enjoyable 2 years of my not very long life! Shortly after joining up I was occasionally lucky enough to score some throttle time in Jim Berryman's RMI Sweetcreek or Tim Brothers' (SCLS president) RMI Fourney steam locomotives. The feeling of the engine rolling over the track and the roar of the fire soon had me mesmerized! I had always thought running a steam engine would be easy, but boy, I had a lot to learn!

Fixing the AmericanSoon after my membership a new member by the name of Phillip Cohen joined and I started to regularly see him around the tracks at the club. Phil and another member, Tom Downing, had recently steamed an old club loco, the Yosemite Valley 613 an Allen American, and I soon found myself making my way around the steaming bays as Phil would pull her out onto the transfer table. After talking to Phil I eventually was able to start helping in the on going restoration of the engine. While Tim had taught me how to run most of his engine, Phil began teaching me some fundamentals and sciences behind the engineering of the loco. After gathering up some lingo from Phil I was now able to have a much better understanding of the more complex locos such as Tim and Jim's. Soon I was shooting around the tracks all by myself on the American and I found myself happier than ever. I had finally found my place in the world, as it seemed.

Tim, Phil, Jim, Tom, Rory and many other members have been some what of teachers or mentors to me. In a little more than 2 years I have been able to learn so much and extend my knowledge of trains and scale railroading.

At RLS Fall Meet 2009This is one of the most amazing things that I have ever been able to do in life and all the science, learning, and social skills developed behind a hobby like this can be very helpful in the real world outside of the railroad. I have met some of the best people in this hobby including Phil and another man by the name of George Anderson who has become, as I like to say, an adopted grandfather in which we celebrate Christmas and many family holidays together! The people you meet and the places you go are amazing but this is only a small part of the other amazing things people like us train buffs can benefit from.

Most kids my age think of trains as childish and what not, and are only interested in video games, but I have been in the process of converting some of them over to "The Train Side" so they will hopefully be able to understand my crazy alien train talk. Without kids my age being involved in hobbies like this, the hobby would eventually die out. Most members at these clubs range in the higher age groups and could easily be my grandfather or even great grandfather.

Pulling the cabooseMore people need to be educated about these magnificent machines and groups that keep them working! We need more younger people to be involved in this hobby for the sake of it. We don’t want to find our beautiful steam locomotives looked at as strange unknown pieces of an older technology. When people are flying around in hovercrafts and riding bullet trains traveling at speeds up to 300 mph we want them to be able to look back and remember the steam locomotives. This is one of the key reasons why our club and other clubs like this exists and why it is so important to get kids my age and younger to join live steam clubs. I am doing my part, what are all you guys doing?

I hope to see you out on the rails some time. I try to attend the local meets and maybe some day I will make it up to Train Mountain. Happy Steaming!


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About the Author:

I am 12 years old and my name is Charlie Giordano. I currently attend 7th grade at my local middle school and I’am a proud member of the Southern California Live Steamers (SCLS).

Phil gave me a homework assignment to write a series of articles related to being a young person at a live steam railroading club. This is the first of what I hope will be a fun series of articles about my views of live steaming as one of the youngest members in the club.

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