Its that time of year again.. The tradition of giving a son or grandson a train set as a Christmas present is possibly in severe decline.
Personally I think that’s a good thing.
The giving of a train set is not the route to the life long hobby of model railways, but a dead end. The train set was seen as a complete model railway- a circle of track, maybe a siding or two; a station; a goods shed; a complete train; a controller etc all in a very big box.
And of course it fails its promise- its not a model railway. There is assembly required but no sense of building. The child is not limited by his imagination but by the very limited horizons of the manufacturers marketing department- how little can we give and still say its a complete model railway. Boredom levels are reached fairly quickly.
My Dad, who stated me off on this hobby never gave me a train set- he probably couldn’t afford one and in the late 40’s they weren’t easily available.
Instead we started off with a couple of tank wagons and some track- all Hornby Dublo. It must have been a year or two before an LNER 0-6-0- tank loco and a controller followed. Shunting using the tank wagons as locos taught me a lot.
Even though we used the dining table as our “baseboard” there was a sense of building something.
Six years or so elapsed before a “permanent” baseboard formed of old table tennis tables supported on redundant egg crates, became my first model railway.
I was hooked- I had read the Mecanno Magazine from an early age- now it was also Model Railway News and the Railway Modeller that were devoured every month. Trials of new techniques and features instantly incorporated on the layout.
We then moved house several times and no layout room. Career- working away from home, marriage and children meant it was years before I could think of a layout.
But I did return to the hobby.
Perhaps in coming from an age where patience was a virtue, where moving forward slowly but steadily was part of how things were, made model railways an ideal hobby.
Instant gratification it isn’t, but none the less a lifetime hobby. As they say about pets…
Model Railways aren’t just for Christmas