Model railway enthusiasts

Knowing nothing about the modeling fraternity, coming to a show in Wakefield was like visiting another country, a country which seemed largely populated by a race of eccentric old men. Most of them seemed to be physically damaged in some way, hard of hearing or a missing sense of humour..

And none of them are going to win any fashion contest. It’s like they have stopped caring about themselves, and only care about their models. Although it would appear they have about as much regard for real engineering as they do about their clothing. I asked one of the exhibitors what the scale was for his model. He replied, “4 mm to a foot.”

What attracts them to this pastime I wonder? This show is hugely popular. But why trains? Why aren’t there similar shows for motorway networks, or airport runways? Is it something to do with the tracks? You can easily control the movement of the trains with tracks, unlike cars or planes which would require unreliable and imprecise remote control.

There’s no doubt that these people derive a huge amount of pleasure from what they do. Models with this amount of detail are not simply thrown together. They are lovingly fawned over and anxiously perfected. The attention to detail that is given to the colour and texture of the ground, for example, is simply astonishing.

They seem to derive even more pleasure from sharing their passion with others. That’s the beauty of a club, with all that enthusiasm you can distil the passion into a powerful opiate. Maybe that’s why they don’t care about their appearance, all their energy is invested in the little worlds they have created.

And there seems to lie the attraction. There is a sense of omnipotence about all of this. Standing behind their models, they do have the appearance of giants bestriding a landscape that they monitor and rule with a benevolent hand.

It’s almost as if in the real world, these railway enthusiasts are made to feel like insignificant nobodies, but here, in their model worlds, these same people are gods.

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