I’ve had the extreme pleasure of being a part of several conversations regarding design lately. As I work through my thoughts on those conversations, I find myself with some questions that might work well as blog posts. I think I’ll start this series with this post and see where it all goes.
In the earliest years of model railways, firms like Bassett-Lowke offered a line of scale model locomotives and trains to the first of what we now call model railroaders. These first models were sold during a time when railways were an exciting thing and people were keen to be a part of the railway scene in any way possible. The models were for a man who possessed means that may very well have made it possible for him to play a role in the development of real railways. For those who collected them, they offered an opportunity to connect with full-size railways in a way not otherwise possible. In the end, the size of the trains may vary but everyone played the role of the true railway man.
As enthusiasm for the models grew, a variety in terms of scale (size) would emerge and offer men of different lives and means to connect with each other over trains, real and model. As the models became more accessible, parents could invite their children to the conversation too. It’s this bond that underscores my own involvement in the hobby. I grew up in a house with a model railway and it was my parents would provide me with my own railway. They helped me learn how to create something with it and of it. In doing so, they provided me a place where I could feel proud of my work and identify with my skills. Much of what I consider my identity today is borne of these acts and I am so very grateful to have benefited from their gift.
I’m certainly making use of some broad generalizations in those opening words just so that I can introduce a thought on how model railways could offer an opportunity to connect people, places, and things, in perhaps no less an important a way than their full-size counterparts do. I know that I can’t actually climb inside an N scale model passenger car and ride from Charlottetown to Toronto to connect with a friend yet I feel like there is a tenable link here and evidence of how model railways can connect people together, doing so in no less an important way than their full-sized counterparts do.
When we discuss the role of storytelling as it relates to the model railways, these connections between people might themselves form the story that we are attempting to tell in the railway we create. I believe “the story” plays an important role in qualifying the scope of the model railway and that it plays a fundamental role in guiding its design and even its construction. However, when we ask what that story is, we’re faced with not knowing if we’re the kinds of people who write or tell stories, or even how we’d go about creating one if we were forced to.
So, the story starts: Who does it connect you to? Or how?