Great Modelling Photo

One of the layouts I have been privileged to feature on this blog in my Great Canadian Model Railroads series is Sylvain Duclos’ Bonaventure et Chambly.
Sylvain is one of the those modellers who make you wish you could be that good; he gives you something to aspire to.
Like in the photo above, shared by Jason Shron of Rapido Trains. (It does feature one of Jason’s vans, after all!)
As one person wrote on Facebook after seeing the photo, it was hard not to think at first glance that is wasn’t real: “Not a scale buster in sight.”

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment

Planes and Trains–in the River?

In 2009, in Wichita, Kansas, I saw a trainload of Boeing 737 aircraft fuselages where there were supposed to be—on a train on the tracks.

Not like what happened on July 3, when a train carrying planes from Kansas to the state of Washington ended up in a river in Montana.

The 19-car BNSF train was carrying the complete fuselages of six single-aisle 737s, fuselage panels for a long-range 777, and wing parts for a jumbo 747.

How they’re supposed to look.

Fortunately, there were no injuries.

The derailment threatened to throw a wrench in the tightly choreographed Boeing manufacturing process, which depends on just-in-time deliveries of parts.

I’m sure it surprised a few rafters on the river, too.

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment

Siderodromophobia, or Who’s Afraid of Trains?

Siderodromophobia—now there’s a word I’d never heard before.

Siderodromophobia is the fear of trains. It comes from the Greek sideros (iron) and dromos (race track or running). It is related to Hodophobia, the fear of travelling on a road.

Siderodromophobia can be caused by a traumatic event, or by heredity.

People with siderodromophobia can shake, sweat, develop gastrointestinal symptoms, or experience heart palpitations when they see or think of trains. 

They may also cry, freeze in place, or attempt to run away.

If the train phobia is severe, people who suffer from it may also be unable to visit railroad museums, theme park attractions that have miniature railroads, or places of historic interest that include railroad components.

At it’s worse, the phobia might make some people incapable of driving across railroad tracks or past a train station.
They might even become panicked if they hear a train horn in the distance.

Fortunately, train phobia is highly treatable. One of the most popular treatments is cognitive-behavioural therapy, where people are taught to stop and redirect their negative thoughts about trains.

For those of us who like trains, this seems very strange. If anything, our problem is siderodromomania—a love, fascination and passion for trains.

Yep—I think I have a bad case of that. And unlike siderdromophobia, apparently there’s no treatment or cure.

Note: Siderdromomania is not to be confused with siderodromophilia. (Look it up for yourself here for the short version, or here for the longer and more detailed version. Just don’t blame me for what you find.)

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment

Model Citizens: A New Documentary About Model Railroading

I recently became aware of Model Citizens, a new documentary about model railroading by journalist Sara Kelly.
Kelly, who teaches at National University in San Diego, became so intrigued by model railroading after visiting the San Diego Model Railroad Museum that she decided to do a documentary about the hobby. Her goal is to release it to the festival circuit sometime after spring, 2015. 
Among the people she interviewed about involvement in the hobby was Hollywood actor Michael Gross.
I interviewed Sara earlier this month. Find that conversation below.
How did you get interested in doing a documentary about model railroading?
As a journalist, I’m always looking for a good story. Since 2008, I’ve lived in San Diego, which is home to the world famous San Diego Model Railroad Museum, one of the largest of its kind anywhere. 

When I finally got around to visiting, I was immediately drawn in. The extreme focus of the model railroaders, and the incredible artistry of their layouts, made me think that model railroading would be an amazing documentary topic.

For the first few months, I shot exclusively at the museum. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Association president Tom Ilas, and to Mike Thornhill, who took me under his wing and worked with me through several attempts to record the on-board perspective from one of his trains using my tiny GoPro camera. 

He even bought a depressed center flat car to allow the camera to sit low enough that it (just barely) cleared all the tunnels on the layout. 

San Diego Model Railroad Museum

What interests you about model railroading and model railroaders?
First and foremost is the human angle. That’s what’s universal, and that’s what’s going to extend the Model Citizens audience beyond just model railroaders. I think any people who are passionate about what they do are great potential story subjects.

Although I’ve never been a model railroader, I’ve always had a nerdy obsession with miniature structures, transportation infrastructure and roadside vernacular architecture. 

When I was in the writing program at Brown University, I took classes with a professor named Patrick Malone, an industrial archeologist and technology historian who gave highly popular lectures on roadside architecture. I also took a class from him on bridges and dams.

A lot of what I see on model railroading layouts reminds me of Professor Malone’s information-packed slideshows of roadside (and trackside) structures. Think Burma-Shave billboards, Mail Pouch barns and buildings shaped like milk bottles or giant oranges. The history is fascinating, and it’s just a lot of fun to look at. 

Are you a model railroader?

No. Like any good journalist, I can’t be part of the story. As an outsider, I’m discovering model railroading in much the same way I hope my audience will.
Why did you want to make a documentary about the hobby?

There’s a lot of great train video out there, but most of what I’ve seen has been videography by model railroaders for model railroaders. As an outsider, I think I bring a fresh perspective to the idea of representing model railroading to the wider world. 

And that’s my biggest challenge: Creating something that will seem valid to those inside the hobby while generating interest among those outside the hobby.

Also, as many inside the hobby have observed, I’ve noticed that most model railroaders these days tend to be older. There are young people involved, but their numbers may not be big enough to keep the hobby as healthy and vibrant in the future as it is now. I’m hoping that Model Citizens can at least help bring the hobby more into the mainstream.

A lot of young people these days are rediscovering cool interests and ideas. Look at the steampunk movement, for example, or Comic-Con. Model railroading is finally ready for its close-up. I can’t imagine a better time to reintroduce it to the general public.

Sara doing an interview.

Was it hard to get model railroaders to talk about their hobby?
At first I had a hard time establishing trust. It took a few letters and phone calls just to get my first tour of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. It was doubly difficult for me as an outsider without any real knowledge of model railroading and as someone who was no longer affiliated with a media outlet. Instead of simply flashing my business card, I had a lot of explaining to do.

Once I started working with Mike Thornhill at the museum, I became a regular for a while and I established trust just by showing up week after week. 

I decided early on that this would be a long-term project, and that the only way I’d be able to really tap into the human aspects of the hobby would be to take my time and really get to know the lay of the land. 

I also decided early on that I’d have to develop a website for the project and regularly post short videos on focused topics that would give people a sense of where I was going with the project while showing them that my intentions were good. 

What do you hear about the future of model railroading through your work on the documentary?

I hear a lot of concern about the future of the hobby. It ranges from a sort of quiet acceptance that the hobby is going away to a zealous insistence that it’s not. 
One person who has a particularly interesting perspective on the future of the hobby is Stuart Forsyth, who is both a model railroader and a futurist. He works primarily in the legal realm, helping his clients prepare for the future. You’ll see his perspective in the video on my site titled “A Futurist Talks ModelRailroading.”
How are you funding the documentary?
I’m entirely self-funded at the moment, though my days of being able to spread expenses out over several credit card statements may be coming to an end. 

I anticipate some pretty big bills coming up. For instance, I want to use some historic model railroading footage from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) archives. They’ve offered me a good deal, but just a few minutes of old footage will cost me thousands of dollars to license.

I’m also running out of memory on my giant G-drives and will soon need to invest in what amounts to a small server farm just for Model Citizens video. This will also cost a few thousand dollars. And I’ve started talking with someone who may wind up creating an original score. I also know I’ll need to hire a sound engineer for post production, which will cost a lot.

My plan is to break up most of these big-ticket items into manageable funding goals and launch Kickstarter campaigns for each. 

Sara interviewing Michael Gross.

Will you be shooting any video in Canada?
I’d love to. And I’ll definitely put in on the list. I’d also love to visit layouts in England, Europe and Australia, where there are vibrant model railroading communities. 

I’d love to visit layouts in Asia–particularly Japan, where there’s a lot of interest in pop culture and (and I say this with trepidation, knowing some may be offended by the term) “toys.” In Japan, collectible toys are a very adult interest, so you won’t find any grownups there bothered by the term. 
When and where will Model Citizens be shown?
When I finish editing most likely next spring, I will enter Model Citizens in the film festival circuit. I hope this leads to a distribution deal. 
Is there a double meaning in the title? (Model Citizens.)
Well, the movie is about modellers. They are all citizens of a special society. Plus, who doesn’t want to be a model citizen?

For more information, visit the Model Citizens website, or click here to read an article by Sara.

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment

World Cup and Model Railroading

You can buy model trains decorated for teams in the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, and the National Football League.
But you can’t find any decorated for the biggest sport on the planet: Soccer (or football, as it is known to most of the world).
At least one person in the world has a piece of rolling stock decorated for his home team–Mexico. Once again, my friend Edgar Romero Roldán has made a great-looking custom car. “This car is a pure fantasy,” he says, adding that he made it to “commemorate the participation of the Mexico football team during the 2014 world cup. I did this car for my own collection.”
Edgar made the decals are custom made, using downloaded images from Internet, printing them on decal paper and cutting them size for the car.
Unfortunately for Edgar, Mexico did not make it through the round of 16. He can console himself, at least, by looking at his boxcar.
To see more of Edgar’s great custom modelling, check out his Christmas boxcar and his weathering skills.
As an aside, there are no trains decorated for NBA teams–at least, none that I can find on the Web. I wonder what that says about the perceived relation between basketball and model railroading? (If anything, at all.)

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment

CP Rail M & M Sub. in Model Railroader

When I was a kid, I read both Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman. I told myself: One day I want to make a model railroad good enough to be in those magazines.
My dream has been fulfilled. So far, I’ve been in RMC twice (2005 and 2009), and now I am in Model Railroader–or the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision is, at least.
The magazine has published an article about how I use tree bark for rocks in its August, 2014 issue.The article is even listed on the cover!
(Canadian Railway Modeller wasn’t around back when I was a kid, or I would have wanted to be in that, too–and I have, several times.)
Even though magazines are losing their lustre today, and everything you could possibly want to know about the hobby is on the Web, there’s still something about being published–about having someone else decide that, yes, your modelling, writing and photography is good enough to include in a periodical.
The article is on page 51 of the August issue.

Another shot of the scene in the August
issue of Model Railroader.

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment

Siderodromophobia, or, Who’s Afraid of Trains?

Siderodromophobia—now there’s a word I’d never heard before.

Siderodromophobia is the fear of trains. It comes from the Greek sideros (iron) and dromos (race track or running). It is related to Hodophobia, the fear of travelling on a road.

Siderodromophobia can be caused by a traumatic event, or by heredity.

People with siderodromophobia can shake, sweat, develop gastrointestinal symptoms, or experience heart palpitations when they see or think of trains. 

They may also cry, freeze in place, or attempt to run away.

If the train phobia is severe, people who suffer from it may also be unable to visit railroad museums, theme park attractions that have miniature railroads, or places of historic interest that include railroad components.

At it’s worse, the phobia might make some people incapable of driving across railroad tracks or past a train station.
They might even become panicked if they hear a train horn in the distance.

Fortunately, train phobia is highly treatable. One of the most popular treatments is cognitive-behavioural therapy, where people are taught to stop and redirect their negative thoughts about trains.

At this point, I will not make any comments about fear of trains—for those with phobias, these things are very real.

But I will note that the opposite of siderdromophobia is siderodromomania—a love, fascination and passion for trains.

Yep—I think I have a bad case of that. And unlike siderdromophobia, apparently there’s no treatment or cure.

Note: Siderdromomania is not to be confused with siderodromophilia. (Look it up for yourself here for the short version, or here for the longer and more detailed version. Just don’t blame me for what you find.)

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment

Great Train Journeys and Train Travel Writing

One of my favorite travel writers is Paul Theroux. I like his writing style. I like the way he views and interprets the world. I like how he focuses on the ordinary along with the unusual. 

But mostly I like him because he writes about travel by train.
 
Theroux is the author of four books about train travel. His first was The Great Railway Bazaar; it featured his trip from London to Tokyo. His only rule: Board every eastbound train that came into sight.

 

The second is The Old Patagonian Express, which found him boarding Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited in Boston and getting off at the bottom of South America, in Patagonia.
 
Next was Riding The Iron Rooster, where he vowed to reach the other side of the world without jet lag. Once again beginning in London, he traveled by train across Europe, Russia and China.
 
In Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Theroux re-traced the journey in his first book, writing about the changes along the way, in the world, and in himself.
 
Finally, there’s The Last Train to Zona Verde, where he travels 2,500 miles across Africa.
 
(Find out more about these, and other travel books by Theroux, on his website.)

The Patagonian Express.

 

If you aren’t as adventurous as Theroux, and have $36,500 to spare, you can take a 53-day trip by train around the world courtesy of Rail Journeys.

 
According to an article on CNN, passengers will spend 20 days crossing the U.S. by train, then spend the remaining time crossing China to Mongolia, and across Russia and Europe to London.
 
If 53 days seems a little long, Ffestiniog Travel in Wales offers a similar trip of 40 days, only in reverse (and with the North American portion across Canada). The cost? Only $32,765.

Buying one of Theroux’s books is a lot cheaper–and maybe more informative in the end.

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment

Another Video of the M & M Sub. Posted

It’s been awhile since I made and posted a video of the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision to YouTube. But it’s a rainy weekend in Manitoba, and the evening was free, so I thought: Let’s do it!
This short video starts on the upper level, with the reconstructed entrance to staging yard, and includes shots of the new section on the lower level.
If you’re interested, click here to see it.
That makes 56 videos on my YouTube channel, most of them of my layout. Altogether, they’ve been watched over 300,000 times–amazing!

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment

When I Retire, I Want to Live Here!

Green Ridge Village & Big Spring RR.

I’m nowhere near needing to look for a retirement home, but when the time comes I might like to live at Green Ridge Village near Carlisle, Pa.

In addition to all of its other amenities, Green Ridge Village has a model railroad—the Green Ridge and Big Spring RR.

The HO scale layout is in a 44 by 36 foot room and features over 1,600 feet of track and 168 switches.

Click here to visit the Green Ridge layout.

Quincy Village.

If Green Ridge doesn’t have room, maybe I’ll try Quincy Village in Waynesboro, Pa.

Quincy Village’s model railroad club has three layouts—O, G and HO, with an N scale layout in the works in a 1,100 square foot room. The HO scale layout is in a 33 by 22 foot room.

Click here to visit the Quincy Village layout. 

Shell Point layout.

Or maybe I’ll retire to Florida and live at the Shell Point Retirement Community.

That’s where you’ll find the Gulf Coast Railroad, in a 40 by 40 foot room.

Originally built by a small group of residents, the layout today is maintained and operated by resident volunteers. It is open to the public three days a week from October to May.

Click here to visit the Shell Point layout.

Sun City West.

Arizona is pretty nice in wintertime, and Sun City West has a layout. You can watch a video of it here. 

Sun City Center.

Sun City Center in Florida (“America’s premiere 55 + community”) also has a layout. Wait a minute—I’m 55 plus! Maybe I can live there now.  Nah . . . I’ll just visit their layout here. 

Posted in model railroad | Leave a comment