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Just what is IT that attracts us to these train models? Many of us started with a toy train of some brand or another. Some of us grew up in the waning days of steam and the early diesels on the real railroads.

  • Is it the vivid colors of prewar scale tinplate or an exquisite billboard reefer?
  • Is it the symmetrical outline of a classic steam locomotive model?
  • Is it the lights and switches on a control panel and the handle of a ZW?
  • Or a digital control handheld unit?
  • Or just sitting in your train den looking at your shelved treasures?
  • Or reading a collector's guide or a rail history book?
  • Running your trains on a small layout on a table top or carpet or a grand design layout with skyscraper buildings?
  • Or the anticipation of receiving a new purchase?
  • These tin, cast or resin objects that capture our imagination?
  • The colors and sounds of locomotives running?
  • The smell of the smoke pellets or fluids?

The pleasure of owning these objects is an intangible, yet very real feeling, that has been an important part of our lives, in some cases, for decades.

Last edited by Rich Melvin
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Art,

All great points!! Probably not all to everyone, given the various ages and backgrounds of the forum members.. I built  a layout for a CSX engineer (now deceased) to his particular specifications, years ago.. He told me he grew up very poor and never had any model trains or much of anything else.. He was as proud of his layout as any you would see in the magazines.. He would allow me to ride with him on his switcher when 'the bosses' weren't there when he was building trains in a nearby yard.. We were able to share our passions with one another.. I think, I would hope, this is the epitome of the hobby and this forum.. Of course if it hadn't been for your graciousness, I could never say that I spent the night in a railroad depot.. You also gave me some of my most treasured memorabilia!!! Many thanks!!

Neel 

Just what is IT that attracts us to these train models? Many of us started with a toy train of some brand or another. Some of us grew up in the waning days of steam and the early diesels on the real railroads.

  • Is it the vivid colors of prewar scale tinplate or an exquisite billboard reefer?
  • Is it the symmetrical outline of a classic steam locomotive model?
  • Is it the lights and switches on a control panel and the handle of a ZW?
  • Or a digital control handheld unit?
  • Or just sitting in your train den looking at your shelved treasures?
  • Or reading a collector's guide or a rail history book?
  • Running your trains on a small layout on a table top or carpet or a grand design layout with skyscraper buildings?
  • Or the anticipation of receiving a new purchase?
  • These tin, cast or resin objects that capture our imagination?
  • The colors and sounds of locomotives running?
  • The smell of the smoke pellets or fluids?

The pleasure of owning these objects is an intangible, yet very real feeling, that has been an important part of our lives, in some cases, for decades.

All of the above.

I'd like to add that it's also about the friends I've made because of the trains. For me, the trains were the source of father-son bonding when I was a kid. For many fathers and sons, it's golf, baseball or something else, but for my Dad and me, it was the trains, and the memories are priceless.

To quote Marty Fitzhenry in one of his videos, the trains are "a terrific means of staying in touch with good people."

IMO, there is no absolute essence because our hobby is so multi-faceted: collecting, designing, constructing, wiring, repairing, operating, making scenery and structures, buying and selling, etc.

Then, there are the emotional/spiritual essences: nostalgia, comraderie, common bond between parent and child and between fellow hobbyists, etc.

This diversity of essences is a very good thing, IMO.

There are multiple essences for me, but if I had to pick one, it would be my by-line: in my little world, I leave this troubled world behind.

Arnold

I never became a collector as such, since I always acquired trains in several gauges to operate, and when tiring of those, they were sold and I moved on to others, and the cycle repeated again and again over decades. The essence, as it were, was variety and newness that provided much satisfaction until my period of custodialship voluntarily expired. Pleasure was the constant in all that variety, and each cycle of change brought new and different sensory stimuli into play.

Last edited by Tinplate Art

For me it all started with having the trains running during Christmas season before I was in kindergarten.  Since that was the only time of the year my Dad, Grandfather and I had the trains running, I equated the trains with the joy of Christmas. Friends and relatives would visit and I’d proudly run the trains for them.

It wasn’t long before I’d want that feeling during the rest of the year. I would sneak a set or two out and run them on the basement floor during the summer. To get them off the floor, my Grandfather built me a 4’X4’ platform with a circle of Super O and a circle of O27 track. No scenery or buildings, just two small circles of track on plywood. I ran my post war trains round and round and imagined they were traveling to far away places.  It was a great placeholder until the big 5’X9’ Christmas layout was put together starting Saturday after thanksgiving.

And then all that stuff Art mentioned, and more, kicked in as I got old…. umm, more mature.

Last edited by Traindiesel

It boils down to the creation of that perfect world.  It may be in the assembling of a few choice train sets for display, a single train running around the tree or a complete layout furnished with every accessory imaginable.  Our minds eye dreams the scenario then we put forth control to achieve that dream creation

To what degree and in what direction we prefer to take our creativity are so varied that we each end up creating unique perfect worlds.  JLC knew the importance of creativity in a child's world and how his trains instilled a sense of control over a miniature empire.  All the attributes found in the creation of an art form.

Bruce

Last edited by brwebster

Would posit model railroading meets a psychological need for control in an unpredictable and ambiguous world.  The degree depends on whether model railroading is just a hobby or a compulsion.

What, me worry?

"Oil tanker cars, hoppers filled with coal,

Tunnel through my mountains with me in control,

Don't ask why,

Blow the whistle, honk the horn, at the semaphore,

Passengers abound as I call all aboard,

You know why, who am I?"

2nd verse of "Who Am I (Rollin' By)" video song by Arnold D. Cribari on YouTube.

My early essence was gained when looking through the window at Macy’s across from  my mother’s office on 34th and Broadway.   Then going up to the 5th floor was like entering the land  of Oz.
I live near Seattle now , and it still thrills me to see my mother’s office when watching the  Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Alan

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