Saturday, October 23, 2010

Model Railway

The sign above caught my eye as I passed by St. Paul's College today.

I had a model railway when I was young. The standard of the day was Hornby which took its power from a middle rail, much as the London Tube does these days. Hornby had been around for ages and was the quaility product on the market.

Then Triang, known for its tricycles, decided to enter the market. Its innovation was a two rail system, just like the real thing, and it also brought some new features not then available in the Hornby system.

I got a Triang set. Among the newer features were: the pantograph - an overhead electric feed like the trams or today's DART or LUAS; a mail carriage which picked up mailbags suspended alongside the track; remote controlled level crossing gates and semaphore signals.

So I went in to the exhibition expecting to relive a part of my youth. I must say I was disappointed. Today's model railways are on a much smaller scale - tiny little sets. There is much more attention paid to what I would call the off-track elements - roads, fields, houses, animals etc. The layouts were quite boring. Much of the emphasis was on the sale of components - fine for the enthusiasts but a bit much at an exhibition which charged a €6 entry fee. Also, the atmosphere was one of adult aficionados obsessed with accuracy, often of American models.

A saving grace was the man I met who was building his own miniature rolling stock and his colleague who had a huge enthusiasm for steam and who explained to me the extent to which the model locos had embedded chips and were capable of very sophisticated remote control. These two guys were my kind of enthusiasts.

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