It’s a whole scaled world that folds up nicely. And then unfolds again for exhibitions and shows that are gaining popularity.
Now there are significantly more families at the shows on the circuit. Major toymakers Märklin and Hornby reported a surge in lockdown sales as people returned to their hobbies.
For enthusiast Shaun Taylor, the draw has always been to recreate the past. But it’s also a big boon for the brain, he added, to focus on simple tasks.
“I like to watch it and think ‘I did that,'” he said. “A lot of it, I built from scratch.”
Miniature model of the old Yorkshire Railway built from old diagrams found from 1919
Mr. Taylor, as a boy counting his pocket money, had dreamed of a toy store engine. It wasn’t until his own five-year-old daughter asked for a set for Christmas that he gave in.
The novelty for Cara, now 22, quickly wore off, he laughed, but he kept going.
“I ended up with four layouts, of varying sizes, that I bring to shows,” he said. “There’s a permanent one, going around the loft. It’s a great hobby, I love it.”
Model railway exhibitions in the area have long attracted enthusiasts, such as the Yorkshire Wolds Railway in November and another at York Racecourse at Easter.
For those who exhibit, they have seen a change. In what was historically a male-dominated hobby, more women are now involved. And more and more young families are showing up.
Ian Woodward was part of a ‘generation brought up on Meccano’, he said, at a time when it was ‘strangely cool’ to collect train numbers on the platform in Doncaster or Leeds.
Today aged 67, fashion has turned at full speed. “Trainspotting isn’t so much of a done thing these days,” he said. “But you still see young people watching the trains go by.”
It took Mr Woodward two years to build his 16ft layout known as Wardwood, based on the West Riding of Yorkshire from 1968 to 1972, and another three years of DIY. It’s never quite over.
Time scales matter – it’s between the end of steam and before the livery change for British Rail, and it’s in the details that small differences will be noted.
A small character, a notebook in hand, is ready to jot down numbers at the end of a train platform.
There’s a window cleaner, perched on a ladder, and a proud housewife scrubbing her steps. With advances in 3D technology and laser printing, anything is possible.
“It brings back the happy days of our youth, I guess – we always look back with rose-tinted glasses,” he said. “It’s the satisfaction of building something that reminds us of our past.”
“There are always questions”
At Mr Taylor’s home in Howden, he builds a new arrangement, lying on the table. It’s a chemical plant, in what’s called the “modern picture.”
Some buildings are delivered “ready to run”, others from kit boxes. The fun comes from putting it together with the pieces he builds, Mr. Taylor said, and seeing it come to life.
At the salons in the region, he too is seeing more young families and children, with renewed interest once again.
“They come and ask questions, there are always questions,” he said. “Then they look at the layouts and say to their parents ‘can I have one? “.
“As silly as it sounds, they have good knowledge. They might be five or six years old, but they know all the train names and brands. You go to shows and they’re full.”
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