Trains, Planes and Toys

After living in model railroad land for a while, I feel the need to write an essay about the way that moving from one hobby to another is like moving from one country to another.

No, seriously. It’s a cool metaphor. OH SHUT UP AND LISTEN.

I spent some time trying to determine what two countries would represent plastic model kits and toy trains. They live near each other. You can read the road signs. But the differences are serious enough to warrant investigation.

The USA and Canada? Maybe. After all, model trains and plastic kits are so similar compared to, say, bass fishing or rock climbing. They’re very close.


OK. Let’s forget that.

Let’s just say that the two hobbies are like going from some country and visiting another country and undergoing “culture shock.” Let’s not get hung up on which countries.

And anyway plastic kits are like, maybe, Canada, and toy trains, being much larger, would be the USA.

Or maybe plastic kits are more like Mexico…

Oh my god I have to stop this.

Let’s consider some basics. As a plastic kit guy, I see my hobby as “build and paint.” But model railroaders do a lot more stuff. They do wiring. They do carpentry. They do lighting. They do photography and paint clouds.

All this CAN be done by kit builders, but not really. Mostly it’s “get a kit and build it,” and so my instinct, as I venture in the USA having lived in rural Chihuahua most of my life, is to get a locomotive or car and build and paint it.

But that’s ALIEN in this new world. Like making your own soap. I have bought some “beater” locos and restored them and put some paint on them, like this:

…or this:

…or this:

…because that’s what we do in my country.

But train guys seem to resist the “do it yourself” approach to markings. I get the distinct impression that there is a collective “ish” when someone presents a really fine loco with a custom paint job. It’s acceptable– as evidence of an eccentricity that’s charming but probably indicates a deeper problem.

Also, consider this– painting your train is called “decorating” it. You can get paint and decals and “decorate” it any way you like!

My god. The screeches of outraged masculinity if somebody suggested that you could decorate your He-111 just like the real deal. “Do you need some paint for decoration?”

Oh my.

Culture clash.

Also, the train people are much less worried about being accused of playing with toy trains. In fact, they rather enjoy the idea of old timers playing with trains. Try telling a plastic kit guy that he’s playing with toy planes. You have to smile when you say it.

2 Replies to “Trains, Planes and Toys”

  1. There used to be a lot of train kits you could buy back in the day. I think even Airfix had them. You had to get your own motor, etc, but they were out there. Same with carriage and wagon kits. Also, Australian trains were a rarity so you had to buy similar US trains and kitbash them, repaint them and add decals. The Steam trains were almost impossible, as many Australian steamers were homegrown, so it required serious remodeling of British steamers if you wanted something that looked the part. Not for the faint of heart. These days it is all out there ready built and painted…for the price. And that price…model railways is definately not a kids hobby anymore, and the price tag tells you that.

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