The Models of our Youth

I’m in Ottawa this weekend, on my way to an educational program at Queens for the next three weeks.  My mum has changed around the house in the past few months, and came across a couple of boxes of models.  “What,” she asked, “should I do with them?  They can’t take up room on my shelves forever.”

So, humming the theme from Indiana Jones, I blew the dust off the lids and delved into the boxes.
Embarrassing models of our youth

Oh yeah, I’d wondered what had become of those!  This is a store from a plan in Model Railroader and an interpretation of a shed near my grandmother’s house.  I started, but never finished both when I was a teenager.  The store is named for Parlee’s, which was an icon in my mum’s hometown of Apohoqui.  The shed was patterned after one near my grandmother’s house.

Another box contained the gems below, also from my teenage years.  I think the SW1200RS is the first complex railroad kit I built.  The Point St Charles caboose was inspired by Bob Craig, who went far out of his way to get the drawings for me, kickstarting me into the hobby at a critical time in my life.

Embarrassing models

The thing is, for all of us, our skills improve, and the models we made decades ago not only fail to live up to our current standards, they are downright embarrassing.  Having said that, I put so much effort into each model that they are difficult to just toss in the bin; I used to liken it to throwing out my babies (now that I have babies, I recognize the depth of that hyperbole).

However, my own house is about the same size as Mum’s, without so much storage, and they can’t live there forever either.  Furthermore, these models are either too modern or too dissimilar to other the real Pembroke buildings to work on the current layout.  Focus is key to this project, and so, I resolved to simply get rid of them.

Mum is going to save Parlee’s for herself, and probably put it on the shelf of other embarrassing memorabilia from the days when I lived under her roof.  The rest is all on its way to the bin, but before they go, it’s interesting to reflect on who I was all those years ago, and what is left of that boy today.

Parlee’s and the shed are both made from wood.  In the days before I could afford to buy scale lumber, I used to cut tiny slivers of wood from sheets of basswood for things like the mullions and railings.  Parlee’s has thousands of nail holes.  This unwillingness to accept anything but the best I can accomplish is still alive in me today.

I find the caboose especially interesting.  It was made by photocopying a drawing onto acetate, and then gluing that to styrene cores.   Here is a demonstration that, even as a teenager, I was beginning to experiment with new ways to leverage technology to achieve more accurate and faster results..  At one time, I had three of these under construction,.  Sadly, it didn’t work as hoped, but I’m happy I tried.

So, this is who I seem to be, with respect to modelling.  While I still dream of one day having a basement-sized version of the Canada Atlantic, the compromises that this would imply are contrary to a core that has been established for almost as long as I have been alive.  It seems like Pembroke is a good size for me to experiment and learn with; I’m glad I’m here.


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