Wednesday’s tea break

Outside temperature is -15C this morning “but feels like minus twenty-three”. Honestly, what it really feels like is: “We should probably make more tea.”

Making up these three study models was part an exercise in exploring how I make things, part of making things for use as planning aids, and part to distract my mind during a time when it’s healthier to be occupied than still, thinking. This morning, all three are complete in terms of their original scope so a wander over to see them, while the kettle boils in the background, is a movement into observing them on site. Over the past few years I’m discovering that, at this time in my life, I need a model railway layout during the day more than in the evening. I enjoy working on it during daylight hours, in minutes between projects, and its camaraderie helps while contemplating what comes next in my life beyond the hobby. Part of enjoying them, during the day, is how the sunlight explores their face and touches them. I only get to live this experience because my model railways are here in our “living” room. It’s a transient experience with nature’s graceful hand and feels truer than if this was work in a basement room under constant, artificial, light.

I love sketching, journalling, and all those excuses to push a pen or pencil around on paper. Preceding these extract models is a always lots and lots of sketching. This is reminiscent of my time of working on architectural projects and it’s a series of steps I find satisfying. As stages in a design exercise they are sequential chapters that respond to each other.

My connection to the hobby feels, at times, almost genetic because it’s not something I can conjure. It’s me. It’s a creative connection I am learning to live with. What presents as a lot of indecision or perhaps a failure to complete, to me, feels like a more iterative: “I didn’t believe I could do this but now that I can maybe I need to refine my thinking.” I no longer feel like I need a model railroad to maintain my connection to the hobby. I can spend time with books from my library that tell the story of my favourite layouts and feel wrapped in an equal comfort. Plus, I am concerned by the number of material things I bring into this world and their cost.

Mike had mentioned the exquisite Totternhoe Mineral Railway, the other day, and I’ve been rewatching this video. There’s so many connection points between me and this but I started also thinking about how it fits into my sense of what I want to be making. “How much” model railway, not measured in units of track or trains but how much to bond my imagination firmly to my tactile needs. Totternhoe, not just its superlative theatrical presentation and the courage to do that but also how it dispenses with everything that is a distraction from the experience of making models and the experience of being alone with the railway.

I don’t carry a wallet. I have never owned a watch. I haven’t had a key ring in forever—my car key is separate from the house so they can’t be lost together. Basically, I like to travel light. When I think about the points, in the past, when the feeling of wanting to work on a model railway and I drifted apart I’m starting to realise it was because their design was over complicated by extra baggage.

A long time ago we opened up our tubs of Tomytec model trains and their blue plastic track. A less long time ago, I modelled what still feels like my all time favourite layout. Common to both experiences and why I think they feel so positive was their focus that prioritized experience released from the traditional bonds I’ve been casting onto my work. Stripped down, accessible, and welcome to those I want to spend my life with they felt like raw me and not the presentation layer I might project on stage.

“Holy crap I’m proud of how that looks! It feels so right.” –me, this morning.

It takes a lot of patience to get to here and very little of that patience gets invested into the models. Most of it is just tokens passed between people. While I get better I know it’s not me, alone, and that’s something I’m grateful for. Each page of notes feels like a bit more ink on the map of getting better.

Categories: How I think

1 reply

  1. This is great! Practice rather than theory! A picture > 1000 words! My daughter is an urban planner, and all the words in her presentations become convincing when you see the drawings and photos and materials boards (or whatever you designers call them).

    If I could go back to university and take one course only, it would be some sort of graphic design and lettering course. I would have to take it pass-fail and even that would be risky but it would be nice to have a mental place to begin.

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