The First Encounter
When I think of trains, memories of sights and sounds that I can’t experience firsthand anymore come flooding back. I recall the joy of watching a train from the window of my childhood home, of being lulled to sleep by the rhythm of wheels hitting a rail joint, of exploring the world within and around a siding across the street from the house.
I remember standing on a bridge watching and feeling a long freight train pull out of the yard just a few feet below me. I remember countless times with my dad watching trains at the depot.
Catching a train in the yard on Sunday mornings could be hit or miss. However, when a long freight crawled westward, the experience was indelible from this vantage point.
As an awkward teenager who didn’t know how or where to fit in, I remember the refuge the craft provided and how it felt like a safe haven while growing up in turbulent times (the late 1960s). I remember reading construction articles that were far beyond my skill level. Those articles weren’t written for an unskilled teenager, yet they provided inspiration and imparted an ethic and view of the craft that still serves me today. They challenged me with skills I didn’t have, yet the authors made it clear that one could have those skills with practice and effort. Those articles inspired a desire to become a better modeler and do work like that. Fifty years later, time spent at the modeling bench or working on the layout is where I feel the most relaxed and at ease with myself.
Articles like this one weren’t aimed at unskilled teenagers like I was then. However, they inspired a desire to become a better modeler who could do work like this.
For many of us this craft provides a deep satisfaction that brings a sense of comfort and order. The craft can provide multiple ways to explore the richness and depth of the world if we take the time to look and understand what’s there. It can reveal a sense of order and beauty hidden amongst the chaos. If we learn to look beneath the surface of things, it can reveal the simplicity that underlies the complex.
We’re not just modeling trains in this work. We model to find satisfaction. We model to express a vision about something we see or have experienced. A craft as mature and nuanced as this one can offer more than a way to fill up a space with the trappings of mindless consumption. If we’re open to the idea, this craft can provide a creative outlet that can not only shape a life but also, speak to one for a lifetime. It’s why I take a different approach.