Today we went to the Hobart Model Railway Show. I didn’t get to the 2012 show but normally I go every year.
I have always loved trains, in fact some of my earliest memories involve them. I was lucky too that my parents gave me a train set when I was a child. I loved it. I can still see that big red Triang Hornby box with a picture of a wonderful model railway on the front. It had a locomotive called “Princess Victoria and three maroon and yellow carriages. I loved all the little bits that went with it. The signals, the station with the tiny station staff and passengers, the extra bits of track that came in an X or Y shape fascinated me. For a while we lived in a council house that had a small room with a raised wooden platform, maybe it was meant to put a mattress on, anyway it became our playroom and there we set up the train set, our toy farms, zoo and dollshouses. It wasn’t all to scale but my sister and I would spend hours playing with it all.
One summer when we were in Clacton On Sea for our summer holidays mum took us to a model railway and dollshouse exhibition at the town hall. I don’t remember a lot about it now but I do remember how much I liked it and I still love visiting model railways and dollshouse exhibitions to this day.
I have a particular affection for British layouts and especially for Hornby trains because of those early experiences but I have seen model layouts based on real and imaginary places in other countries that I’ve been very impressed with.
One publicly exhibited model railways that I remember well was at the Royal Adelaide Show every year for many years. It was called “Mini City” and was a European layout. You had to pay to go in but could stay as long as you liked. It was a big layout with a big city station, countryside with farms, a church with a wedding, an airport, a cable car and more. They would dim the lights to simulate night and even after a few years of seeing it I still enjoyed the spectacle.
Probably the best model railways I have ever visited was right here in Hobart. It was called Alpenrail and operated in Claremont for many years. It was based on Switzerland and was so accurate that the operator, Rudi, told us that he had visitors from there who recognised places near their home in the model. It was a big layout and there was a lot to see in it. In fact it was just now as I was researching links for this post that I discovered that it was now closed. I have included a link to the history site on their webpage although I don’t know how much longer it will be there.
There used to be a DVD available about how the railway was built but I don’t know if you can still buy it except perhaps on the secondhand market.
Model Railways are great fun for young and old. Children enjoy seeing a tiny world and probably just like I did they wish they were tiny themselves and could go there. Adults can enjoy the accuracy of the modelling, reliving their childhoods or just the whimsy of some layouts. There are different types of modellers, for some it is all about the scenery, others like to model a particular place and time and are particular that the trains should run to a “real” timetable. Others have a favourite gauge, Z, N, HO/OO or the large O gauge garden railways. Thomas the Tank Engine is nearly always featured and there is often a Lego Railway which children enjoy.
Some of my photos were taken at this year’s Model Railways Show and some from previous years.
I have mixed feelings about Australian model layouts. This year’s theme appeared to be modelling Tasmanian railways and I saw some very good ones depicting Tasrail when it was much busier than today. I liked “Brighton Junction” and “East Tamar” especially. Seeing familiar locomotives from the SAR or AN like the ones I grew up amongst is nice but I have to admit that I don’t find the country layouts nearly as interesting to examine as the European and British style ones with their towns crammed with activities and different types of scenery. I guess I am a scenery buff. I do appreciate the modelling skills needed to make Australian scenery and buildings as they often have to be made “from scratch”.
Away from the main exhibits were the larger steam engines built by enthusiasts who proudly fired them up. I was struck by how miniature railways always seem to appeal most to the very young and the not so young.
The Hobart Model Railway Show is on for two days every August. Think about paying a visit next year.