The Spiritual Dimensions of Model Railroading
By Bill Laughlin
Many TCA members have gone to that great “Roundhouse in the Sky,” as some in our hobby term it. As a person approaches mid-life, there’s usually some serious self-assessment that goes on, to try to determine how far you’ve come, and what still needs to get done.
Without sounding too morbid (or metaphysical), it might be well to see if some “life lessons” could be learned from our adult “interfacing” with our beloved toy and model trains–and our fellow members of TCA, or our public guests at National Conventions or York.
Model railroading can teach us appreciation for our own lives—the chance we have to walk and talk and live on this Earth—in its ability to provide fun for our efforts, and joy when we see others similarly happy.
We can learn appreciation for good things in our world: order, organization, keeping things in good repair—by seeing parallels in our own little “layout worlds” that we have created.
We can gain appreciation for our ancestors: good examples, hard work, and the determination to succeed.
Through interactions with our trains, we have the ability to positively influence others and set a good example, especially to children. From a monthly family-oriented newsletter: “34% of American children—that’s 24 million kids—currently live absent of their biological father, while nearly 20 million live in single-parent homes. If we are to equip this upcoming generation for success, we must be willing to come alongside them as role-models and mentors.”
Model railroading can teach us on a smaller scale about the importance of finding balance in our lives, and developing those areas that we’re weaker in. Our hobby involves splitting time up between collecting, operating, and maintaining our trains. Too much effort in one area without regard to others may lead to problems. The same goes for layouts: skills are needed in design, construction, wiring, scenery, and operating.
A dedicated model railroader, of necessity, shares time, talent, and abilities with others: by helping them with their needs, you demonstrate compassion, and share the strengths you have, so that they can benefit. Someone else may end up helping you, if you are open to it. Few folks can “do it all.” For example, one member may have tremendous design, construction, and creative-scenic skills; his wiring admittedly left something to be desired.
“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955)
Another wise man once observed that whatever “spirit of charity” and “love of the truth in his heart” that a man may hold in this life will serve him well in whatever life lies beyond the grave.