On my way home from the recycling depot this Sunday, I turned on CBC radio, as I often do when I’m out, and was surprised to hear Jason Shron of Rapido fame talking to Mary Hynes on the weekly exploration of all things spiritual, Tapestry. Jason’s enthusiasm for active hobbies and model railroading in particular is infectious. It was a good reflection on our hobby, and he and Mary explored the link between manual tasks and the spiritual like grown-ups. For Jason, while things don’t always go the way he would like in the hobby, he finds the tasks contemplative, indeed meditative. “It’s like feeding the godly soul.”
Yet, there is no denying that this can be a punishing hobby. Model railroading is so vast that we are rarely on known ground. Even if we have laid a turnout before, the next one will present some new twist in alignment or position that makes it a new challenge. When we’ve laid the last turnout, there are whole new skills to learn – from painting to electronics. Skills that completely consume other people are only parts of model railroading.
Add to this the expansive nature of the hobby – it gobbles space, time and money voraciously. Even a small layout and workbench will overwhelm a typical condo, and those who don’t have space often develop expensive collecting habits.
Then there are the inevitable setbacks, like discovering your locomotive has developed a short deep inside its frame.
A couple of posts from Chris Mears and Stephen Gardiner over the past months lead me realize that I am not alone here. We all go through doldrums in model railroading from time to time; we all go through doldrums in life from time to time.
I don’t know what the answer is, except to say that the hobby has always been there when I have clawed my way back to the model bench. Even if I were to discard all the tools, models, materials and stuff that I have accumulated in the hobby, the knowledge and the skills will always be there, like a great psychological safety net.
And a safety net is exactly what we need sometimes.