Those twin imposters

Mike Cougill has posed a very interesting question: how best to present ourselves to serious journalists?

I have long since stopped caring about such questions: some journalists have a genuinely open and enquiringly mind, but most don’t. How they, the rest of the world and indeed my neighbour who smirks at me because of my hobby view model railways based on preconceptions is their business, not mine. I am too busy enjoying it to really care; in such cases, short-sightedness is its own reward. (My world view: you get a better world view if you try to at least understand someone else’s sincerely held viewpoint, but you don’t have to agree with it.) And yet…

Mike got me thinking of how to answer that point. Mike is good at encouraging people to think, and it is no secret that I like his Socratic style of doing it. (He asks questions, but does not answer for you: you make up your own mind.)

I think the starting point would be to embrace the sheer range of interests and abilities encompassed by this most democratic of hobbies, from the 2 year old pushing a wooden train around the floor, to the determined retiree recreating yesteryear from scratch in his annex, from members of royalty right through to the poorest using the simplest of raw materials and tools to craft buildings from scrap paper and card, so that when he has a bit more money and can afford to buy some trains or more tools, he has a setting for his railway.

And then some honesty. Yes, there are those who just play trains with a train set, and if that helps them relax, to get away from the stresses and strains of everyday life, then so what? But there are also those, like Gordon Gravett and Trevor Nunn as two personal examples, who build it all with the minimum of ready-made components and then – and here’s the best bit – they share the results of their endeavours at public shows, and their techniques via the model press and to anybody who asks. The rest of us fall somewhere between these extremes – both of these gentlemen have created artwork for photo-etching, and patterns for casting, so even when they use such components, they at least are building from scratch. When it comes to building models of locomotives, Trevor buys in the motor and the gears, and that’s it.


Everything in this picture other than the wagon wheels is made by Trevor. Even repeat items were cast from his own patterns, or etched from his own artwork. And the engine has working inside valve gear (Joy’s, just to complicate matters!)

When asked why, I simply say that ultimately I don’t know, but I like trains and building models provides an outlet for my creative side which is completely different from, and free from the demands of, using my brain and computers when working for a living.

Related to this, my brother brought to my attention a LinkedIn* posting by Guy Kawasaki, “How never to fail“. The crux of this was that there are two outcomes to ventures, which most classify as “success” and “failure”. Guy suggests that there is success, and an opportunity to learn, “the opposite of success is not failure, it’s learning”.

Well, excuse me but this is hardly news! Any good railway modeller got to be good by having a go at new techniques and learning from mistakes, by treating success and failure as the imposters Kipling so described. Who would not want to employ someone like that?

And that really is worth presenting to the world.

*If you are unaware of LinkedIn, it has been described to me as “like FaceBook for grownups”.

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