It’s the people

When you grow up in this hobby it becomes like a foundational code that helps us to meet other people and navigate the confusing and difficult nature of those moments of meeting people and addressing variations on the most vulnerable of all human questions: “Can you be my friend?” In advocating for a conversation about the hobby from a human-centric perspective it’s not about learning how to manipulate our hands to make better models but realising this hobby as a way of helping us learn who we are, how we relate to our world, how to practice our voice; all because what it’s like to be in this hobby is to be into a place where passion lives.

I’ve been catching up on a few videos from my Youtube Watch Later list and, among them, were ones from the Toy Man Television channel about the 1:20.3 scale logging railroad they’re working on. Also in that list was a video about their friend Al Badham and the terrific modelwork he’s done. The video I’ve linked above isn’t from where I waded into this stream but the one, from their series, I’ve just finished watching. It’s the one they released just shortly after Al had passed away. We could never actually ride our little toy trains to anywhere and yet, as I keep returning to, they are every bit as effective as a medium to connect each of us to each of us. Gaps in the narration of that video remind us that sometimes the words that fill our mouths so completely their sound can only be felt. I don’t know anyone in those videos but I know people like that in my life and how much they mean to me.

We build models.

We make friends.

The former is a series of solo acts where the latter is a cooperative and often collaborative one we do together. It’s been a privilege to spend some of my time listening to these videos as they played and absorb a moment of feeling of friendship. As we move through the final weeks and days of this year, our lives have navigated paths we never anticipated and we’ve gained stories to tell. I’m so grateful we’re in this together.

Thank you


Categories: How I think

2 replies

  1. I was interviewed by a local news outlet today and one of the questions was, “How many people are [model railroaders in Kingston] besides you?” I could only estimate the number I know of, though I haven’t met them all and there are some I don’t know about. I was also asked “You’re not that old, but what happens [to it all someday] when you’re no longer here?”

    The questions were good ones and insightful. A little questioning is a good thing. Gets us thinking and keeps us focussed. It was another one of those hours that I never planned but that I’m sure glad to be part of!

    Like this one!

    Thanks for sharing,

    • I spent a lot of my early years working in a hobby shop on PEI and even more time just visiting the same store. On the Island it was always like there was this incredibly high volume of model railroaders that worked alone because they just kept on appearing. Perhaps a case of the stigma associated with model railroading suppressing their work? It would be a shame if that was the case. I’ll never forget a show our model railway club held in Charlottetown where I’d brought my N scale layout. One visitor spent a heck of a lot of time looking and talking. Later that afternoon they returned with what remains some of the finest N scale scratchbuilding I have or ever expect to ever see–and all made using scrap materials from their place of work. In addition to that large population of secret model railroaders there were the tourist model railroaders who visited each summer.

      I think it interesting how in this hobby our friendships develop beyond the realm of what might be a more typical peer group. The diversity in that means that we probably all have examples where a friend we met through model trains has died leaving behind a legacy of personality and a collection of models. It’s incredible how much their personality animates their collection and, once they’re gone, how a perceived sense of value in the models changes.

      I worry so much about leaving behind a pile of stuff that my family would have to sort through so I work diligently to keep the collection of models under control and very minimal. I’m never not buying new but also keeping mind of where models that might be stagnating could be forwarded to so they can be enjoyed by others.

      I was watching that video, linked in this post, again last evening and, again, couldn’t help but reflect on friends in the hobby that I haven’t visited as much as I would have liked to and how I need to do a better job of that to salve this sense of lost time. It was a powerful reminder. Also, that sense of why those of us who practice this hobby so overtly are doing it right because what we’re doing is likely out of some sense of expression and a want to share. In that want is an invitation to partake in that act of exchange. Connecting back to their end message of doing what needs to be done right now and not excusing it until later is powerful and coupled to a need to reconnect seems all that much more timely as we learn to keep in touch with each other.


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