Is this therapeutic?

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BentHarley

New Member
Good evening to all. My name is Harry and I live in Nevada. November 14th changed my life forever. While riding my HD I was hit by a minivan. I was in the hospital until December 21. Both my legs have been amputated above the knee and I've lost 60% of the mobility in my left arm and 20% in my right. Even typing on a keyboard is a chore. I'm stuck in a wheelchair.
My physical therapist is an avid model railroader. It's almost all he talks about. He tells me it would be great therapy for me. To get as much use out of my hands as possible, to lift my spirits and keep my mind active. My career as a heavy truck mechanic of 30 years is now over. Basically I've been forced into retirement.
What do you guys think? Can a guy in a wheelchair with limited use of his hands and arms enjoy this hobby? Ever since I was a boy I have had a interest in trains. I used to build model airplanes with my kids too. Obviously my days of riding my Harley through the desert are over.
My wife says I need to find something to do. She and my kids say I'm depressed. I say who wouldn't be?
If theres anybody out there in a similar situation and would like to share their story that would be nice.
Thank you for reading.
Harry
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
That's not an easy question to answer. A lot depends on you and how much you enjoy trains. Your ability to model may be reduced if you have limited use of your hands, but you can certainly control trains.

More and more there are prebuilt structures, etc. that you could take advantage of.

What you might do is visit a train club, try it and see if you enjoy it. Ceratinly the people on this forum will support you in anything you choose.
 

Alcomotive

Grandson of ALCO Bldr
Harry!
Welcome! and wow! I am sorry for the "change" in life. I must say that you are not alone. There are a lot of us who have different challenges but we overlook them in this hobby because of the many facets and friends it offers each one of us. In this hobby we all have weakness and strengths but interesting enough what I have noticed that what weaknesses we have someone here is there to help strengthen it and in turn you may not think so now but you will return the favor wether you realize it or not. I have been in this hobby for 30 plus years. I can not tell you the many great adventures I have had but if you take the time and read these forums and talk to us with questions, comments, opinions or just thoughts which we all welcome, you will find something for you if you give it a chance. I think you have already otherwise you would not have posted. You have taken your first step into this vast world of trains...this model railroad or railfan hobby. Like I said there many facets of this hobby. You may think you are limited to physical capabilities here but YOU can do something I suggest putting that aside and just explore and you will find that niche. I myself have an impairment but not like yours but I have a few freinds who have similar ones to yours. I am deaf yup hearing impaired since birth I cant hear and haven't heard a dang train. I will not be able to hear diesels rumbble but I can feel the vibrations as they go by. I can see them and photograph them etc. I may not be able to tell you the distinct sound of an ALCO vs. EMD vs GE loco but I can see the difference. I am just an example of who you will find here. I must say you will be surprise of those who will help and guide you and as well as be your life long friend(s) in this hobby. Let your adventure begin! No worries and yes IT is THERAPUETIC! A LONG WITH ADDICTING, INSANE, CRAZY, CHAOTIC, FUN, AND MAKES YOU DO THINGS THAT SOME WOULD QUESTION AND ERRR OK THAT is enough...you find out soon enough. Again Welcome Aboard and enjoy your ride!:D
 

BentHarley

New Member
I like things that keep my hands and mind busy. Before my accident I built 4 choppers from scratch. Not kit bikes. The frames started as straight tube that I bent using a vice, torch, and my eye. All the mechanical parts I assembled myself. Welding, even the paint work I did myself. Another thing I did was take a 58 Dodge pick up and rebuild it. Not the prettiest truck in the world but it was clean and purred like a kitten. My son and I rebuilt his first car together. It was a 1970 Chevy Chevelle. Tires to the roof and everything in between. A lot of the furniture in our house was crafted by my own hands. The remodeling we've done over the years was me too. I like to build things, take pride in what I've done.
Earlier today I went out to my workshop. The benches are higher than I remember. Forget about getting into the top chest of my roll away.
Ever since I can remember I've built and fixed things, that's what I'm looking for. It would make me feel more whole.
I do like trains. What mechanic doesn't? Probably my favorite old movie is Von Ryan's Express. Growing up I lived near a set of tracks and would train watch. My PT gave me some old model railroad magazines to pique my interest.
Harry
 

jbaakko

Diesel Detail Freak
Welcome to the forum, and Model Railroading Harry! Sorry to hear about the accident, I have a soft spot in my heart for anyone who'd gotten hurt on a motorcycle, be it their fault or someone else's. Partially because I've loved bikes since I was 6!

Anyways, I'd greatly encourage you to have a look around, ask some questions, and get a feel for the hobby before going out to buy anything. I'm guessing with the lack of mobility, you may have to gravitate towards larger scales (Geee I wish Claudia was around, where has she been!?).

I suggest reading here:
http://www.nmra.org/

Especially this page (deals with scales!):
http://www.nmra.org/beginner/scale.html
 

Trucula

Drum Driver
I have to chime in on this,
1st off Harry I am very sorry about what happen, but you might not be sorry for us and your doctor getting you into a hobby thats more addicting than DRUGS!!! ;) Sound like you have somewhat of the "train-bug" already!
2nd One thing you'll need is a mobile bench vise to help with your limited use arm....It even helps us as we call it the"third arm". get the one with the adjustable "roach clips" to act as extra fingers..
3rd DON'T LET ANYTHING GET YOU DOWN!!!!. I know everything is a challenge but self gratification is personal wins!..my motto has always been "It's only as bad on you as you let it be". (Live by that)
I met a guy in Baltimore that was in a wheelchair and he built amazing live steam engines. I bought a 3.5 in live steamer off him.. Here is a earlier post copy I wrote about him:

It is a British side tanker and the builder is Steve McDonald from Maryland..he can be found on http://calslivesteam.org/ He has built a 7.5in that can be seen on the site (now is sold) and is currently building a big boy!..This guy AMAZED me..he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident and was a machinist..he found a book on the steamer with plans and thought "I can make this"..that got him hooked..The day I went to buy the engine he was taking a transmission out of a van from underneath..He took a refrigerator cart, added wheelchair wheels straps himself in, and works on cars ect. NOTHING slows this guy down!...He does more than most able bodied people!!..I highly respect this guy!. The 7.5 was awesome...I can't wait to see the big boy. On my engine he built a ride on cart from a desk chair that straddles the track. But after a fast trip on it, he was afraid he'd fall from the elevated track and not be able to catch himself...so he started the 7.5. His wife, daughter and him take it to the club track and meets on weekends.

So do me a favor...(you already have some hands on skills)....GO OUT AND AMAZE SOMEONE!! And post us some pictures!!!!
 

IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
Hello Harry and welcome to the forum! Condolences on your accident, hearing stories such as yours reminds me how very fragile life really is.

I know at least two modelers who have major challenges: one has lost the sense of touch in both his hands, the other is wheelchair-bound. Both these guys have been active in model railroading for years, I'm sure you could do it too. At least nowadays you have the internet and these forums, so you don't have to be isolated. Fellow modelers are only a mouse-click away.
 

Brakie

Member
Harry,I can relate about losing the use of a hand..In March 2005 I had a near fatal heart attack and lost the use of my dominate right hand.Well I love the hobby and rather then quit I learn to adapt and over come my new disability and continued to model awkwardly at first and then it became easier as time went on..Today I have partial use of my right hand-well claw ready LOL!
Now..Here's the cold hard facts.You can move on and enjoy life and a hobby by adapting and overcoming or you can give up and throw self pity parties on a daily bases-I went that route for about 4 weeks while in extended health care at a nursing home-no good because its self defeating through depression.Then I realize all is not lost and through God's good graces I am allow to enjoy life and the hobby for a few more years.
You see this car? I decaled it myself using my left hand and right claw.

derailment-001.jpg


I mounted a coupler box on a Athearn locomotive.

Picture-006-10.jpg



Now,even though I been the hobby for years I had to learn to do the simplest things with my left hand..

I know you can do it!
 

grande man

Bonafied Grande Nut
Harry, sorry to hear of your accident. I ride myself, and feel for you that much more. I don't want to try and talk you into model railroading, but I've got the feeling that it may be the hobby for you. You might consider getting some magazines and books on the subject. They, and the forum threads here, could help you see into the hobby and make a decision (the reading could also be quite enjoyable). Model railroading takes a multitude of skills and, above all, a vision and love for trains. It sounds like you may be a prime candidate!
 

jeffrey-wimberly

Dr Frankendiesel
Hello Harry. I'm one of the people that CSX road slug referred to. I am an avid model railroader of over 40 years experience. About 22 years ago, my life took an unexpected turn. I had little control over my balance and I was getting dizzy all the time. I was diagnosed with advanced diabetes. I already had some nerve damage due to spinal meningitis I had as a child and now the diabetes was adding to it. Over the next 10 years I lost all feeling in my hands and feet then 3 years ago the bones of my right foot went soft and they all bent and dislocated. By that time, I had lost feeling in arms from the elbows down and in my legs from the knees down. At this point, I was forced into retirement for medical reasons. The thing that has kept me going through it all is my hobby of model railroading. Because of this hobby, I can still do fine work with my hands and I get my exercise too, as I move from one part of the layout to another. Did I mention that I can't walk without the use of special equipment to support my legs? That's right. I built the layout so that I can work on it without the use of this equipment. In this way, I keep my legs exercised so I don't lose the use of them and it also keeps them moving so that blood clots don't form. The main thing I have learned over the past few years is that the only thing stopping me from doing things is me. I look at something that I want to do and I figure out what I have to do to make that possible. Due to this hobby, I can still thread a needle! Can you believe that? I can still get around easily enough, which I wouldn't be able to do if I had just sat around feeling sorry for myself. At this point, I have severe nerve damage, but I keep active in the hobby, keeping my body working. I can do well enough that I'm on the local fire dept as a safety officer! All of this, and more, is attributed by my doctors to staying active in the hobby. It's what has allowed me to stay mobile and active. Is this hobby therapeutic? I'm firmly convinced that it is.
 
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grande man

Bonafied Grande Nut
Hello Harry. I'm one of the people that CSX road slug referred to. I am an avid model railroader of over 40 years experience. About 22 years ago, my life took an unexpected turn. I had little control over my balance and I was getting dizzy all the time. I was diagnosed with advanced diabetes. I already had some nerve damage due to spinal meningitis I had as a child and now the diabetes was adding to it. Over the next 10 years I lost all feeling in my hands and feet then 3 years ago the bones of my right foot went soft and they all bent and dislocated. By that time, I had lost feeling in arms from the elbows down and in my legs from the knees down. At this point, I was forced into retirement for medical reasons. The thing that has kept me going through it all is my hobby of model railroading. Because of this hobby, I can still do fine work with my hands and I get my exercise too, as I move from one part of the layout to another. Did I mention that I can't walk without the use of special equipment to support my legs? That's right. I built the layout so that I can work on it without the use of this equipment. In this way, I keep my legs exercised so I don't lose the use of them and it also keeps them moving so that blood clots don't form. The main thing I have learned over the past few years is that the only stopping me from doing things is me. I look at something that I want to do and I figure out what I have to do to make that possible. Due to this hobby, I can still thread a needle! Can you believe that? I can still get around easily enough, which I wouldn't be able to do if I had just sat around feeling sorry for myself. At this point, I have severe nerve damage, but I keep active in the hobby, keeping my body working. I can do well enough that I'm on the local fire dept as a safety officer! All of this, and more, is attributed by my doctors to staying active in the hobby. It's what has allowed me to stay mobile and active. Is this hobby therapeutic? I'm firmly convinced that it is.
That's awesome! What an incredible, positive attitude. Welcome to the forum.
 

RCH

Been Nothin' Since Frisco
First of all, welcome to the forum. I don't know how much experience you have with online discussion forums, but I can assure you this one is among the friendliest and most civil discussion groups on the internet (I enjoy a couple political boards that are far from civil!). So, congratulations on finding this place!

I think this is a great hobby to keep your hands busy and your mind flexible. You really could make the case for any hobby that there are aspects or specialties for everyone, but I think the model railroad hobby accomodates more interests than most. Interested in electronics? Got it. Not interested in electronics? You can buy it ready to plug in. Interested in scratchbuilding? Got it. Painting and weathering? Got it. Not interested in any of these, but just want to run your models? You can do that, too, and still have custom painted, weathered, kitbashed or scratchbuilt models (ebay is a wonderful thing).

You mentioned being a heavy truck mechanic. I wonder if you might also be interested in the vehicles side of the hobby. To most, the vehicles are no more than scenery items that decorate the layout like a snap-together station house. But to a few of us, the vehicle modeling is as important as the train modeling and to others, the trains don't even enter into the equation. I'd like you to take a look at the work of Joe Enriquez to see what can be done with scratchbuilding and extensive knowledge of the modeling subject (Joe's a heavy equipment operator, so he's around big trucks quite a bit):

http://eex-joe.fotki.com/

Take a look at Miss Sally, the Kenworth W900L, and remember, this is HO scale meaning the model is about three inches long.

You should also sign up with the HO vehicles yahoo group and the 87 scale cars yahoo group for more information on this particular aspect of the model railroad hobby. I can tell you right off, that at least one member of the HO vehicles group, Lynne from Colorado, is in a similar situation as yourself, and judging by the results of her efforts, HO vehicle modeling has been quite theraputic.

Back to the railroad part of the hobby... I think the thing that separates this hobby from most modeling hobbies is the ability to detail models to the hilt, and operate them with incredible realism. For example, one of my uncles has long been a skilled aircraft modeler, making 1/144 scale models of airliners look like the real thing scaled down. Amazing models to behold. Another of my uncles (interestingly enough, he was paralyzed while working for the railroad and got started as part of his therapy) scratchbuilds biplanes, very, very large aircraft that operate by radio control. The one uncle who builds 1/144 scale aircraft has these amazing models that sit on display shelves and get dusted once a week. And that's the only movement they will see. The other uncle makes these incredible flying machines with nearly every part fabricated by his hands, but some concessions must be made to actually operate the aircraft, so to a certain extent, you can always tell they are models. The same is true of radio controlled NASCAR, truck or ship models, by and large. But with railroad models, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

I enjoy building models more than anything else in this hobby. From creating the CAD drawings to cutting sheet plastic to painting and weathering the models, I get great deal of satisfaction out of each project. But putting the models on the track to let them run around just doesn't do much for me. Now, put a timesaver layout in front of me, and you won't be able to get my attention for a long time. Electronics? Not for me. I can install batteries in a toy and string Christmas lights, but that's about it. But that's alright, because I know a few people who can take care of that for me, if I build a kit or two for them or paint a locomotive for them.

Like I said, there are many specialties in this hobby, and most of us are eager to help each other out. This discussion group is a great example of that. It's part help desk, part support group, part sounding board and part show-and-tell stage and perhaps even part barber shop or coffee house. There's room for everyone here, so join in the fun.
 

OldGettysk

Running the MC & Buffalo
Hello Harry , Welcome to the forum, Sorry to hear about your accident , I've never had a bad accident but faith dealth me a blow back in 1988 when i lost the use of my kidneys, It's been a long battle with dialysis , Operations and transplants. One time I did pray to God to take my life. But today I'm a survivor battling diabetes a side effect of my kidney desease and other health problems. But one thing which keeps my mind off this is model railroading. I by no means can afford all the latest things like remotes and DCC. But just to see my train running around my tracks makes me proud that I accomplished something I love to do !!!!!!
 
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JeffShultz

Stay off the tracks!
Harry,

A few years ago I would have said that you were setting yourself up for frustration by getting into Model Railroading.

Now, with all the RTR stuff out there, you can have an incredible amount of fun in this hobby without having to work with all the fiddly little details - of course, if you want to, the fiddly little details still exist to be worked with!

Take a look around the house - how much room do you think you could use for a layout?
 

BentHarley

New Member
It does me good to see that I'm not the only busted up guy on here. Cool!
I spent most of yesterday and today on the internet checking out model railroading. It looks like something I'd be interested in. I like the creativity and a idea is slowly forming.
From what I gather the general idea is to be as historically accurate as possible. However what if I used it as a media for self expression? Make a layout that reflects me as opposed to a moment in time? Pick a train that appeals to me and add elements from my life? I think the idea of a big 1940's steam train chugging through the desert would be cool. Have it pull a load of box cars with the Harley Davidson, Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Caterpillar, Detroit, Cummins, Snap-On, etc. logos on the side. A gang of bikers on custom choppers tearing up the highway next to the train. Have it pass my house with my sons car in the driveway. My old Dodge sitting at a railroad crossing. Something like that is what I'm thinking. Incorporate things that are meaningful to me in a self expressive layout. I have a great black and white photo of my dad in a smoking jacket with a pipe. That would make a cool billboard for something by the highway. I could have the train pass by a construction site with equipment I used to work on. Even put a model of my company truck out there fixing it. It could be cool.
As far as space goes. Well I have a 25'X50' partial basement under the house. It's finished. One end is my "lounge" where I have a couch, fridge, TV, etc. for hanging out with my friends. The other end is where my bikes sit, I have a ramp leading out of the basement big enough for a bike. Currently there are my 4 choppers sitting there and my wifes Road King. Looks like we're selling all our bikes. She doesn't want to ride anymore. That will free up a lot of space.
Just to add, there is a God. 99% of the time when I ride I don't wear a helmet. For some reason that day I strapped one on before I left the driveway. There's a reason for everything guys. Maybe this is the big guys way of telling me to stay home with my old lady more. She thinks model railroading would be fun too. She's into the artsy craftsy stuff. Makes quilts and throws.
Anyway what happened was I was riding down the highway, dog ran in front of me, I hit the brakes, the minivan that was tailgating me didn't. Don't remember much after that.
Keep on keepin' on.
Harry
 

RCH

Been Nothin' Since Frisco
From what I gather the general idea is to be as historically accurate as possible.
That's a good approach for some people.
However what if I used it as a media for self expression?
Why not? You can do anything you want in this hobby. Nothing is right or wrong unless you say it is.

Based on what you indicated you'd like to do, you might want to see what's available as far as models of your old Dodge, Harleys, etc. are concerned, before you pick a scale. Some of that stuff might be mroe prevalent in S scale (1:64) than in the two most common scales, HO scale (1:87) or N scale (1:160).
 

IronBeltKen

Lazy Daydreamer
...From what I gather the general idea is to be as historically accurate as possible. However what if I used it as a media for self expression? Make a layout that reflects me as opposed to a moment in time? Pick a train that appeals to me and add elements from my life? I think the idea of a big 1940's steam train chugging through the desert would be cool. Have it pull a load of box cars with the Harley Davidson, Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Caterpillar, Detroit, Cummins, Snap-On, etc. logos on the side. A gang of bikers on custom choppers tearing up the highway next to the train. Have it pass my house with my sons car in the driveway. My old Dodge sitting at a railroad crossing. Something like that is what I'm thinking. Incorporate things that are meaningful to me in a self expressive layout...
Harry,
It looks like you're already halfway there! You've got basement space and a vision - all you need now is to find some way to transfer that vision from your mind to the benchwork. And, while alot of modelers like to aim for hyper-accuracy, that is their personal choice. There's plenty of room in the hobby for prototypers and freelancers. I enjoy visiting both types of layouts.
 
Harry,

Model Railroading could indeed be a good fit. Just build your benchwork a little lower than those of us with legs might.

I used to work with a guy, I'm a Bio-Medical Electronics Tech in a hospital, who was a double amputee above the knee. Lost them in a trucking accident. Anyway there was very little he couldn't do. He even learned to walked on prosthetics using a cane. Used a chair when he got too tired.

Good luck in your recovery.

Keith Owen
 

jeffrey-wimberly

Dr Frankendiesel
Whether it's built for historical accuracy or self expression doesn't matter. What matters is you're doing something that you can enjoy. Whatever happens on the layout, YOU made it happen. It's your world, build it the way YOU want it to be. I've seen layouts ranging from bare plywood with the track slapped down on it to magnificient masterpieces worth showing at any museum, some that are totally accurate in every detail and others that are flights of whimsy. The point to all of them is that the modeler had fun doing it, and that's the whole point of the hobby. To have fun.
 




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