Model Railways

I attended the Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show yesterday. I have only gone to this show once before with Geoffrey some ten years ago. And it hasn't changed much. The crowd has gotten grayer but it continues to be a horrifying collection of gimps, geeks and retards. I fitted right in.

I started and ended active model railwaying in the '70s in England. A family friend was an avid railwayer and I caught the bug from him. He was a wonderfully patient and enabling mentor. It is a great hobby for me because of large range of skills it takes to be effective. If you want to model operations you have to design a track layout, rolling stock, and schedules that work together. If you want to model landscapes you have to learn the skills necessary to represent 3D space in miniature. Lots of fine mind and fine motor skills are necessary. I was never at a loss for something to do because on a model railway there is always something to finish or something to start.

For the last year I have been toying with the idea of starting again. When my mentor passed away, now several years ago, he passed along the collection of locomotives and rolling stock he had with him at the end. Every now and then I take them out of the boxes and have a look. Henry, especially, likes to look too. It consists mostly of modern US traction and sock. I am not sure why, near the end, he stopped modeling his beloved Welsh steam railways. So what to do?

There are two kinds of model railwayer or railroader. The first kind likes to create a place in time and so tends to focus more effort on the scenery. You construct buildings with great detail and place them in naturalistic settings. Buildings, people, and trains are aged and weathered. There is litter. This is the kind of modeling I did. The second kind likes to run a railway. They manage a division or, sometimes, the whole railway. Trains move from place to place because there are passengers to carry, live stock to transport, and goods to distribute. There needs to be rules of governance and operations and a timetime to keep. My mentor straddled the two kinds. I have vivid memories of sitting with him at the dinning room table with a blue school notebook, a ruler, and pencile and working out of the distances and timings of station runs. Accompanied by background sounds of locomotives coming from his record player -- an 0-6-0 shunting wagons in the fiddle yard with too much of a head of steam. I also straddle the two. So what to do?

What the show did for me was resolve the question. Do both. I will build an N-gauge layout primarily for operations. N-gauge allows for long runs in a smaller space and long runs are necessary to make the operations work interesting. I will also find a club that has a modular layout that uses a larger gauge -- perhaps On30 gauge -- so that I can create detailed scene. The Narragansett Bay Railway & Navigation Company is a fine example of which.