Warner Brothers Pictures
Coming in at 8 minutes and 32 seconds, “So You Want A Model Railroad” is a comedy short all about the “dangers” of model train addiction. This film points out that during the postwar boom, many model railroads ostensibly purchased as a Christmas present for little Junior, were soon taken over by their fathers.
George O’Hanlon stars as the Lionel-crazed addict Joe McDoakes, whose obsession gradually takes over house and home in his insatiable quest to expand his railroad empire. In desperation, his long-suffering wife Alice (played by Jane Frazee) goes on a radio show seeking advice from the host, “Mister Agony” (played by Arthur Q. Bryan).
It is a model train-laced extravaganza of Lionel in its prime (see how many accessories and models you can identify). All aboard the O scale express!
With a self-satisfied smirk, Joe looks around at the counter of a well-stocked hobby store. Notice the Lionel poster in the background has been cropped to read, “ONEL TRAINS” (with Magne-Traction). Later on in his career, O’Hanlon became the familiar voice of George Jetson!
Alice does not suffer from the usual marital problems from her beastly Joe (booze, abuse, carousing). Oh, no. Her husband Joe’s addiction is far worse…
Alice explains that THIS (a Lionel caboose with SP reporting marks) is the problem; Mr. Agony is enthralled and immediately grabs the caboose for himself. Cartoon buffs may recognize Arthur Q. Bryan as the voice of Elmer Fudd!
Flashback to Christmas 1954. Joe is mesmerized with the simple circle of track under the tree. Soon he is fighting for possession of the locomotive with his nephew!
Before you know it, McDoakes has acquired his own layout (with 3 separate trains) and spread it out on the living room floor.
Not content with a smaller pike, McDoakes soon has built a sprawling layout which takes up the entire front room. Huge mountains tower over the set. Alice hits the roof and demands Joe dismantle his empire.
Alice’s outburst only drives Joe to use other means to feed his habit.
Alice is jolted awake as the Super Chief roars by precisely at 6:15am. Time to get up!!
Joe’s new hangout is the hobby store. First he buys “a round of track for the boys”, then spots something new on the display layout….
It’s a mechanical switch tower, but only a demo — not for sale!. McDoakes literally hands the hobby store owner all his money and carts the prized Lionel accessory away.
After spending all their money, the repo men are now taking away the furniture as Joe madly watches his train roll back and forth.
The final straw is when Alice’s mother comes over for supper. They can’t afford a maid anymore, so Joe rigs up a shelf layout to act as waiter.
A switcher pulls 3 bowls of soup along the track. Joe uncouples each car as it passes in front its intended recipient.
Dispensing olives and celery is no problem as he uses various Lionel accessories to do that.
Here comes the gravy train! Main course is meatless, but matters are made worse when the side-dump cars dump to the wrong side and end up in everyone’s lap instead of on the plate.
When confronted, Joe completely flips his lid and starts ranting about the necessity of running his railroad, “on time and on schedule” among other railroad lingo.
Finally, Joe is hauled down to the radio studio and asked what he has to say for himself. To Joe’s surprise, Mister Agony pulls out a box of Lionel trains and the two go madly off stage to view another layout.
A very enjoyable episode in the series (there were 63 made) of Joe McDoakes shorts. I’m sure 1/4 scale modelers out there can identify all the pieces used better than I can. It’s true that once you get something like trains in your blood, it can become an obsession. The tricky part is not letting it go too far….but what’s the fun in that? ;p Highball!!
If you’d like to view So You Want A Model Railroad, it is available on YouTube:
Here’s what IMDb has to say about So You Want A Model Railroad:
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