Chapter 2 : Why Model ?

Of course, each individual has compelling reasons why he loves model railroading. But beneath each of these reasons lies some common threads that make it an awesome hobby for young and old, men and women, boy and girl, alike! Discover only a few here!

Have you taken your children to a model train show yet?  And are they hooked?  It's almost a rite of passage for boys to have some type of model train set sometime in their childhood. And to tell you the truth, only Santa Claus knows how many girls have cried come Christmas morning because they didn't get a train set like their brother.

If the model train is only brought out, set up and admired once a year -- at Christmas under the tree, the entire family usually agrees it was money well spent. Our love of trains runs just that deep.

Model railroading, to many people, especially those who join the clubs model railroads is more than just watching a train circling under a tree.  It's a hobby -- for some a passion -- that involves building an entire miniature city by hand.  And wrapped around this city is the ever-present train.

To be quite honest, it actually makes a great hobby, one that will probably never go out of style.

Watching the small trains, in many ways, takes us back to a time -- an era -- where life seemed simpler, slower, and values seemed more pronounced.  In this era, the train ride was more than just a method of transportation to get from Chicago to New York City . . . although it was indeed that too . . . the ride itself in the Pullman cars was the thrill, the luxury and the relaxing aspect of the event.


But what motivates the average person to pursue this avocation?

Why are you interested in the hobby?  Of course, because it's fun . . .it's entertaining . . . and shhh! don't tell the children . . . it's also educational. 

Let's look a little deeper into the reasons why model railroading has retained its appeal for so long.  Beyond anything else, many families love it because it's a hobby that appeals to the entire family.  Dads and sons may love the "roar" of the locomotive, but what girl can't resist those tiny people who populate the trains periphery?  And what mom and her children wouldn't love to create homes, stores . . .heck entire cities?

Model railroader is the one hobby that can occupy the attention of every member of the family.  Each is recruited to perform some task.

It's also a hobby that you bequeath to your children who can then carry it on to their own children one day.  Talk to almost any avid model railroader today; you'll discover that more often than not he started out loving the hobby as a child.

Some insist model railroading is great because you're in control.  As you learn more about the hobby, develop new skills and become more adapt at the construction phase of the hobby, you'll discover this. 

You're the master of your own city (okay, so it's a miniature city! Still!).  You'll create the track you want, the path it takes is of your choosing, and you can enjoy it whenever you please.

And yes, I'm going to say it again. Model railroading is, indeed, educational.  What exactly can you learn through this hobby?  Let's start with the fact you'll learn a little bit of history. 

Ignite an interest in history

It's true!  For those of you who never thought that history was even mildly interesting, let alone cool, model railroading brings you face to face with your previous thoughts.

How can a hobby so fun be so filled with historical knowledge?  Think about it.  The railroads reflect the era they operated in.  So when you buy a part -- or create a part -- from a certain time period, you can be sure you'll inevitably learn something of that time.  (Even if you didn't plan on it or you don't think you need to.)

Building a replica of a train and eventually a city in a specific time period ultimately leads to learning more about the time in order to get your municipality as accurate as possible.

Railroads, in their day, encompassed all aspects of history, from the economic aspect to social and labor movements, the civil rights movement.  In fact, as you will probably see when you get more involved in this wonderful hobby, that railroad played an intimate -- and very crucial -- role in the history of the Gilded age, the "robber barons" of the period and much more.

Yes, you can learn economics, electricity . . . and more!

Model railroading gives you a better and more vivid understanding of economics.  When you graphically see how goods move from place to place economic becomes more than a subject you almost flunked in college, it becomes a living, breathing aspect of our everyday life.

Railroads move raw materials from one place to another.  They also transport the finished manufactured goods from place to place as well.

As you advance in model railroading both you and your children will be acquiring some amazing basic carpentry skills and a working knowledge of electricity.  If you get involved in the benchwork aspect of model railroading you'll discover that you'll transform yourself into a regular carpenter even if you've never picked up a hammer or a saw before this.

You'll discover that you know more about electricity than you thought as you wire your railroad. 

As you develop your city, you may find yourself "building" trees and constructing all sorts of scenery to accompany and beautify your city.  And while you may not think of yourself of an artist quite yet . . . just wait till you get started.

Whew!  These are quite a few skills currently hidden inside of you.  Of course, I've only barely scratched the surface of what's even possible to learn and just a few of the skills inside of you waiting to be developed.

But did I happen to mention some of the more pleasant social aspects associated with this hobby?  From what I've described so far, you may be imagining that model railroading is a hobby that keeps you cooped up in your basement away from the general public.

You may think that, but you'd be wrong. Indulging in the hobby of model railroading can be a very social hobby.  Believe it or not, it's a great way to meet new people and make new friends.

There are any number of clubs and associations you can join, not only on the national level, but locally as well.

And your new hobby provides you with a great excuse to travel.  Indeed!  You'll discover you can go on rail-fanning trips, travel to conventions or shows or just visit friends you've made through the hobby. 

But more than that, you'll meet people from all walks of life.  When you join your first group of model railroaders, don't be surprised to find doctors, lawyers, engineers, business people to name just a very few of the people from so many different occupations.

Let's dispel a couple of myths . . .

And one of those myths is that model railroading is just for men.  The last time I attended a meeting of enthusiasts of this hobby, there was no sign at the door saying "men only."  More and more girls and women are joining in on the fun.

I personally have been at some "build-a-kit" clinics held by the National Model Railroaders Association where nearly one half of those attending are girls, moms or even grandmothers.  So, if you're hesitating to jump into this hobby because you're afraid you're not the right sex . . . you can just forget that.

Sometimes individuals tell me they would love to start learning more about the hobby, but they're fearful people will think of them as . . . well, a geek.  Pshaw!  Would you call Tom Brokaw a geek?  I didn't think so.  He's an avid model railroader.  So are Phil Collins and Neil Young.  Both are far too "hip" (if not older) rock and rollers to be called geeks.

Do you consider Tom Hanks a geek?  And I doubt anyone could stretch his imagination to call Elton John a geek?  What about legendary Michael Jordan?  That's what I thought.  Yep, both of them are model railroaders as well.

I do believe I've made my point quite vividly.  There's no need then to bring out the other well known personalities I had tucked away for this purpose.  Individuals like Winston Churchill, Joe DiMaggio, Walt Disney,  the former Formula-1 race car driver Riccardo Patrese, or the late Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, the indomitable, iconoclastic actor Donald Sutherland or the late jazz singer and composer Mel Torme.  No don't think I'll mention any of them!

Why indulge yourself in model railroading?  Because it's fun.  All the other reasons are really just icing on the cake.

Are you ready to dig deeper into this remarkably entertaining hobby?

"Next stop, Scale, Gauge and Standards!"

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