Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Gift of Model Railroading

 As much as I enjoy modeling, it's the modeling community that I enjoy perhaps even more. Of course, this past weekend was the Amherst Railroad Hobby Show (aka the Springfield Train Show). Although last year was the first post-covid show, a combination of omicron and a blizzard meant it was not quite the return as intended.

Not this year. Attendance was over 21,000 and it certainly felt like it. I don't typically need much, so I prefer to be involved. 

The reality was, in part because of Emily finally coming home from the hospital after a 4-month visit just a few days before the show, I wasn't well prepared. I didn't have a shopping list ready, barely had things to sell, and didn't get the things ready to display what Chris Z. and I have been up to. Since I didn't have a table this year, I helped Dale (not much) at his, but did sell a few of the trucks that Chris and I made.

Of course, I saw lots of folks, and that was the most fun for me. We had a great return to the Steaming Tender parlor car for dinner, even if the new arrangement isn't very conducive to moving around to see people. Shows like this really help motivate me to make some progress on my layout.

I did manage to get a couple of things, though. Dale handles the table for the Amherst club, and this year most of the table consisted of cars and buildings from Dick Elwell's layout, who passed away a few months ago. Of course, Dick was a master modeler and well known from features in Model Railroader and elsewhere. I had the pleasure of operating on his layout in the past too.

I managed to snag a couple of Tangent tank cars Dick weathered. Like the Russwin smokestack my buddy Craig Bisgeier made, Dick's modeling will live on, not only on my layout, but many, many others.

And they aren't the only ones. Probably the highlight of the weekend for me was a generous gift:

A mutual friend of Bill Welch gave me this Sunshine Rock Island box car built by Bill, who also sadly passed away last year. It appears Bill hadn't quite completed the car, it's not weathered yet, and I'm torn between leaving it as is, and weathering it as my contribution his beautiful work.

It's not really the freight car itself that moved me. The real gift of this hobby are the thoughtful and generous friends we make. I love going to the shows, not just to see my many modeling buddies, but to meet new ones too. It's a hobby that only grows richer the more folks we know, and it's a community built on helping each other reach their modeling goals.

I'm not sure I'll be quite as influential as the Dick Elwells, Bill Welches, or Allan McClellands, who also passed last year. I often wonder what I can offer to my friends who are such accomplished modelers. Over the years I've found that I do have ideas, research, and many other things that I could provide to even them. But the real lesson that they have passed on is that it's not what we can offer them, but what we can offer others. 

They were inspired by those that came before them, just as we are by them. And just as they have passed on their love of the hobby, their excellent modeling, and how they did what they did in clinics, articles, and sharing directly, we can too. The richness of model railroading can be seen in their work, but that's the past. The hobby grows by sharing what they have done, and we do, with others and building upon the foundations they and those before them have built.

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