By: David DeWitt
Finn and I went to the Model Train and Hobby show in Kingston, NY a few weekends ago.
It was a welcome respite from the news headlines and somewhat of a comfort to be among people of seemingly different backgrounds, peacefully coexisting—over model trains.
It was kind of a slice of Americana. Even the venue looked like it had not changed in 50 years. A faded brick building that looked like an old high school gymnasium. Along the walls inside were old wooden folding bleachers, the floors were creaky and it smelled like my elementary school.
It was the first time Finn had been to such an event or seen an elaborate model train set up-close.
I have an old Lionel set that I got when I was about 9 or 10. Finn has never seen it. I have been dreaming of passing it down to him one day when he gets past the ‘dismember-and-destroy’ phase with his toys.
Not that he intentionally wrecks things, he’s just very curious about what’s inside them. And if it looks like it can come apart, he finds it difficult to resist facilitating that.
Finn could hardly believe the expansive train layouts. At first all he could do was smile and laugh. Then he was full of questions. (In that respect the day was like any other.)
“What is that train? Where is it going? Let’s follow it!” he said, starting to run around the table.
“If you just stand right here it will come around again,” I said.
“Are you sure?!” he said, his face wrinkling up with doubt.
He stood with his nose as close to the table as possible. He was thrilled when the train came back around.
“What IS all this?” he kept asking in disbelief, examining all the little details.
There’s something about kids and trains. Or big little kids and trains. It still holds a fascination for me. If I didn’t already have half a dozen creative outlets, I might spend some time on a little model countryside of my own.
I’ve heard some people say, “I don’t get it. It just goes around and round.”
I’m not sure I can explain it either. I guess maybe it’s the next best thing to driving a big train. You pull the lever and… it goes. All the little cars move perfectly together through this magical little world.
There’s no conflict in that little world, unless you choose it. You can control everything. There are no Supreme court hearings or investigations. You choose what houses, buildings and people you put in there. Even trees, mountains, tunnels and road crossings.
It pulls you in. And as you watch your custom rail line make it’s way through the world you’ve created you get lost in the moment and escape.
But in the model train world, even with the simplest of sets, there’s a constant reminder of one fast and true, sometimes comforting, ’real world’ rule.
“What goes around, comes around.”