“Tall Pike in a Grande cup please”

Scrolling through the photos on Lance Mindheim’s website, taken on this former East Rail layout, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before and remembered something that caused me to rethink my attraction to his work. In the past, those prototype locations that inspired me to at least contemplate a model railway were places I wanted to go and wanted to see trains in, where I felt comfortable and in control. East Rail couldn’t be further from that place. It’s set in a place where I wouldn’t have the courage to go, where I might even be scared to go. To chase that CSX SW1500 down that spur, to work Trujillo Foods, would be an act of going where the trains are and letting the act of railfanning take me out of my comfort zone.

In my moment this morning I saw something that reminded me of my first walks through industrial Hamilton. With no car and no money I couldn’t resist the urge to go find trains and my imagination was wild with the potential of finding steel mill engines. So, by foot I went. More than once I wandered into a place I really had no business being in and more than once felt intimidated (the honest word here is scared) by my surroundings. As anxious as I felt, if I was going to find a Stelco diesel this was where I had to go.

I still maintain that my attraction to his work is in the proportions he advocates for: fewer turnouts, longer sidings, and bigger industries. This morning, his photos reminded me of the parts of cities I wandered into for the sake of trains. It’s that sense of modeling railroading where it is and trains where they are instead of featuring more idyllic moments where each is featured where I want them to be that might be something that spoke to me long before I realized it. That in East Rail, that the realism isn’t conveyed by the sum of those longer sidings or sprawling warehouses but it’s the very ground you’re walking on to see it.

Onward my friends. To the wild we go.

Here’s the link out to the East Rail photos:

Categories: How I think

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