Model Railroads

My father, my grandfather and I were all into model railroads. At various times we each had a layout up on sheets of plywood resting on a 2×4 frame in one corner of the basement.

Photo Assemblage by Paul Smedberg

Mine was a sort of Railroad of Tomorrow. I got a glass bowl from my mother, spray-painted it white, flipped it over next to the track and put a lightbulb in it: a glowing orb of a Building of Tomorrow. I inverted an angular plastic trash can and stuck a lightbulb in it. A glowing, towering Office Building of Tomorrow.

I painted all the miniature plastic cars and trains dark green because I thought (and hoped) that we’d all be living in a military-dictatorship-like World Government of Tomorrow.

Hey, I was a kid. Kids like order.

Well, some kids like order.

My dad was thinking more like 1900 as a historical setting for his layout. He had this big honking locomotive. It even made smoke. His train layout had an old station with little tiny plastic people who were leaning against toothpick-width wooden siding, or walking along roads built of used coffee grounds mixed with glue. The people were so tiny that they were very difficult to paint with any detail. Blue for pants, maybe a red shirt, yellow for the face and maybe a blue cap.

I couldn’t believe he would wallow in the past when there was a bright sci-fi World of  Tomorrow just around the bend.

My grandfather’s railroad was not set in any particular age. He used bigger guage trains. There were no decorations. Everything always worked. There was a loading dock with big drums of milk that were automatically loaded and unloaded onto flat cars.

He was the public works director of Evanston, Illinois. At work he got things done. When he relaxed, he got other things done.


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~ by bracketbracket on July 21, 2009.

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