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H.O. Model Railroaders, Imagination and Model Railroads.

Updated on October 5, 2014

Princely finds it quite bizarre that his human builds miniature landscapes indoors for a cat to walk upon -- when there is plenty of landscape outdoors.

Of course, Princely only walks upon the miniature railroad landscaping when his male human is not home.  He values his nine lives.
Of course, Princely only walks upon the miniature railroad landscaping when his male human is not home. He values his nine lives.

I wonder, wonder, wonder....

The biggest wonder I have regarding men and their model railroading projects is -- 'Why do they do it?' Women, too. There are women railroaders. I have been to enough big model railroad shows to know there are women who enjoy the detailing work of creating model railroad layouts, but there are fewer women than men in this hobby. And any model railroader worth his or her salt will tell you this is not just a hobby and a craft. This is an art form.

Myself, I'm not a model railroader. I do have certain forms of art I enjoy trying my hand at, but using dirt to 'weather' new trains and new automobiles isn't one of them. I feel I have a fairly open mind to the hobby or art because I have come to a conclusion in my 'wonderings' about this phenomenon.

This is what I think as to why model railroaders like to do what they do.

I think model railroaders are like writers who can exercise their imagination at the drop of a hat (to use a cliché which you're never supposed to do if you're a good writer.)

I submit model railroaders enjoyed the escape of their wanderings in their imagination so much while in childhood that they recognized -- when they grew up -- model railroading is a way to retain the excitement and adventure of imagination.

Isn't it what we writers do, too? Isn't it, in fact, very important to one's mental health to have an active imagination?

Some of these model railroaders are mathematicians or electricians or architects. Some of them really enjoy getting the mathematical scale exactly correct on every item as they build very complex, lengthy railway systems. Some of these same men scratch-build their houses and commercial buildings for the scenes. Some of the wives of these men haven't seen them from after dinner until midnight -- for 40 years. Okay, I exaggerate. Maybe on weekends they see them.

Why not just ask a model railroader why he does what he does?

Why not just ask a model railroader why he does what he does?

Because most won't say and some don't know. Perhaps they haven't thought about it deeply enough. Or perhaps they say they don't know, but they know.

And then perhaps there are some who don't know how to articulate it.

I don't know too many model railroaders well enough to ask pressing questions, but the few I know or have known -- have said they don't know: they just enjoy it.

If there are any model railroaders who are psychologists by profession, they probably know why they enjoy building model scenes and they probably are happy to express their reasons.

This is the small-town mayor's cottage. He has a bigger house in town.


I made up a little fantasy for my husband's newest railroad scene.

Have you seen the movie, Finding Normal? I watched it recently and happened to sit down a day later to watch my husband do some detailing on his newest railroad scene.

There was a mayor in the movie, Finding Normal. The mayor is an older man. He happens to be the minister of the town's church and also the sheriff of the town. He is also the town's Judge. It's a very small town.

Oh, gosh, I might as well tell you a bit more about the movie because it's so good. It's a comedy-drama.

A high-falutin' young woman doctor is driving along en route to New York to visit her soon-to-be husband who is also a doctor. The young woman's values in life are all about how much money she makes and what kind of car she drives. As she speeds along the highway on the outskirts of this little town which is named Normal, the sheriff's deputy picks her up on his radar and has her pull over in her brand new BMW. He then has her follow him to the sheriff's office.

Yes, there happens to be a handsome, young, single, down-to-earth man who lives in the town of Normal. And that's all I'll say so I don't ruin it in case you might want to see it for yourself.

So as I sat there watching my husband so happily engrossed in his detailing of this-and-that on the railroad scene, I wondered anew what manages to keep his interest so keenly. I came to the conclusion I have shared with you above and then I decided I would try to use my imagination to make this little town come alive for me. I did this quietly.

Near to the top of my brain was the mayor of Normal, so I decided he lives in this town. I decided he lives in the blue and white house. He likes to go fishing, so I gave him a cottage in case he ever felt the need to fish overnight. (In Hawaii, men often go fishing -- spear fishing -- at night and I hadn't thought yet about the geographical position of this little town.)

One of my favorite lines in the movie, Sense and Sensibility (1995 version) is about a cottage. I'm sure if you're a Jane Austen fan, you know the line I mean. There are actually two similar lines spoken to Emma Thompson's character by two different men -- pertaining to the cottage.

The mayor's house is blue and white - on the right. His house and his cottage now are landscaped.

My imagination vs a real model railroader's imagination.

I assigned the blue truck -- in my mind -- to the mayor of the railroad town sprawling before me. So now he has a cottage and a house and a truck -- and probably a fishing pole.

That was about as far as I got before other details of my life beckoned me back to reality. There just wasn't a strong enough pull from the railroad scene to my kind of daydream detours. If there would have been more women hanging up clothes on clothes lines -- which I badgered my husband to include in his last railroad town scene -- my interest might have risen again. Clothes lines and my grandma of long ago would have met in my imagination.

But I enjoyed my little interlude of exploring the possible ways or methods a model railroader uses to put in the time and effort a model railroader does put in. I got a little peek of it. At least, I think I did.

I shall now finish this hub with a musing or two following the last of the photographs below.

Train track prior to glue and ballasting.

Tracks in this photo were yet to be ballasted.


Placing glue and then the ballast along the track.

Anybody see the movie, Finding Normal? I picture this town like that town.


Houses in town prior to landscape details being applied.


Here the landscape details have been applied to the scene.

This foliage is available at Michael's in the section of the store where the vases and silk flowers are sold.
This foliage is available at Michael's in the section of the store where the vases and silk flowers are sold.

What is the Most Important Thing about Railroading?

As explored and reviewed in my previous hubs on model railroading, there are many important little techniques to making an H.O. scene look realistic. For example, my husband used to do the laying of track in the old-fashioned takes-forever kind of way, but now he uses EZ-Track and has decided for the amount of time it saves, he is willing to allow a small decrease in realism. With the glue and ballasting alongside the track and in between each track, it looks just fine to me.

Please read the other hubs I've written regarding little tricks of the trade. I have so many photographs of Bob's model railroading, I just wanted to do this one more hub but not re-state anything I've put in the other hubs.

I've posted some of the new photographs above and I'll add a few more when he completes this newest scene.

I was going to do this hub on a larger subject. It was to be on the importance of trains -- real trains -- in our heritage and the growth of our country. There are books written on the subject and I soon decided that it is way too big a subject even though it excited me for a minute. And then as the sun began to set on the day of the idea of the new hub I would write, I thought to myself, 'Surely, at least one of the most important purposes of the development of the railroad in this country and every country is really just so boys can become men and girls can become women and still revert to a place of wonder and magic as they build their G-scale, their N-scale or their H.O. scale model railroad layouts complete with houses, clotheslines with women hanging up clothes, businesses, factories, farms, railroad stations, the circus and all the glories of imagination and memory.'

Some people write.

Some people build railroads.

What's the best thing about finishing a model railroad layout?

CPR railroad scene depicting Kelowna area of British Columbia, Canada.
CPR railroad scene depicting Kelowna area of British Columbia, Canada.

The best thing about finishing a model railroad layout is -- it's time to start building another one.

Hawaiian railroad scene by Bob W.
Hawaiian railroad scene by Bob W.

Take a Railroading Poll.

Would you really enjoy riding and dining in the diner car of a moving train or would you prefer to sit and build a model railroad?

See results

© 2014 Pamela Dapples


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    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      4 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Yes, it is a creative hobby form. Very time intensive, though. Thanks for visiting.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      That looks like a fun, creative hobby for someone that likes to work with his or her hands. I could get into that to some degree.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      5 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thanks for visiting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      What fun! Always thought I wanted to do that with my O gauge Lionel Super Chief layout, read lost of books on it... but never had the space or time. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing. Very nicely presented!! ;-)


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