I met an interesting person during the Depot Days, this year. His name is David Thompson and he is a train modeler. He has a display of trains in the depot and was changing the way things were laid out when I first met him. I expressed interest in what he was doing and we arranged to meet again and talk about it.
So I asked him what sorts of things he did with his trains. His response was that he runs seminars for parents and their children in which he gives advice about modeling. But one seminary he gives for parents, he added was to show the kinds of benefits can be gained from working with your child doing modeling as opposed to playing with the set.
The first was that parents and children and children build a relationship. There is something beneficial to such relationship because it is based on something constructive. Something the child and parent can see grow from the ground up (as it were). While he spoke I was thinking of the way Tim (the tool man) Taylor related to his sons as they built the hot rod in their garage and had to agree with him. That was especially true when he said it was a constructive and clean hobby; I could see that pleasing many a wife.
Then he said, building model trains also teaches a child (and some adults too) about electricity. For many electricity is a magical thing which works when you switch on the switch. There’s no need to understand about currents and voltage – and some people don’t even know anything about keeping the circuit complete if the system is to work.
The third benefit he mentioned was that most modelers develop an interest in some aspect of American history. The time in which the railroads were being spread across the country, or the later era when train travel was common each have elements which can appeal to young minds and it is good to see young people taking an interest in the history of this country.
Fourthly, he added, both children and adults like the action and movement in a layout. He told the story of a recent train show he attended with his trains. He had been told that it was pretty pointless setting up because young people today would not be interested. He decided to go ahead anyway and charged a dollar for each person to have a turn running the trains. He (and, no doubt, the organizers) were amazed to find that children were lining up all day for an opportunity and many would take their turn finish and head back for the end of the line and wait for another turn. This went on the whole show. And the interest is also in the planning making the buildings, people cars and so on in a model train layout.
Then, he said, modelers learn to appreciate and watch real trains. They earn how to read a train. Some can recite the history of a particular set of railroad cars or engines, detailing the place they were made, which line owned them and so on. It is a great aid in learning to research and keep a track of history.
Most modelers work on a diorama (A three-dimensional miniature or life-size scene in which figures, stuffed wildlife, or other objects are arranged in a naturalistic setting against a painted background. – the freedictionary.com) of a real location that develops both an appreciation for the historical sites around the USA and (because of the occasional difficulties) modeling skill.
“It can be surprising how much creativity, discipline and focus can be developed working with model trains,” said David Thompson.