Making a Model Village



Latin ferrum (“iron”) + Latin equus (“horse”) + English -logist

Noun: ferroequinologist (plural ferroequinologists)

  1. (humorous, nonstandard) A student of ferroequinology; a person who studies trains. quotations ▼

Synonyms: (enthusiast) railfan

This is what it says on Wiktionary and it is pretty sparse. I guess I have to fill in the details in this blog over time by describing what it really means to love railroads and mineshafts. I am a diehard train aficionado, as much or more than Sheldon on Big Bang Theory. He would, however, be an example of “ferroequinologist.” It doesn’t matter than he isn’t real. He shows what it is like to have a passion for railroads. Since there is now a Young Sheldon, we get to find out if he developed this fixation as a child like I did. I would lay in bed at night as a kid imagining my dad riding back and forth to work (I couldn’t wait to grow up and get a job in the city) and listening to the whistle when the train went by the house. It meant he would soon be home, so I had wonderful associations with the sound.

Railfans, I never lost this fascination for “iron horses” and today I am going to describe making my own railroad station. I have set up a large table of the fold up kind in the basement, large enough to house whatever buildings and tracks I like. I don’t do Legos, God forbid, but the real thing with numerous tiny handmade parts. I paint it all and add details on top for extra lifelike appearance. What is fun about the project is that I get to research specific depots that are quaint and colorful, and a bit old fashioned. A model train village should be old world in my opinion. Besides, each one can be unique if it is not a modern stereotype. I have small figures, benches, trees, cars parked next to the station, and of course the glorious train. I had to acquire a lot of small tools to do the work, including a staple gun to attach the terrain to the underlying plywood substructure. It is the kind of gadget that artists use to make their own canvasses because you can place it on top and just press until the staple releases. I like to pretend that I’m wielding a real gun when I’ve got the staple gun in my hand, so I call myself a Staple Slinger. What I mean is that it doesn’t open up like paper staples do.

The model is a work in progress and I will tell you more about its final outcome as time goes by. I expect to add to it. It is a long-term hobby. It is critical when going this route to choose the best possible train to please your passion. The station will be in your thoughts for a very long time.

Unmistakable Sound

With my railroad mania, I stand out in my crowd; but I do have another pal who qualifies as a ferroequinologist. I met him at a train expo, of course, and we became fast friends. We were both looking at a display of train horns and got to talking. I wanted to hear one of them better and fortunately, the clerk behind the exhibit had an air compressor to help sound the horns. It was a mutual triumph so we went to have a drink and talk about our shared hobby. That word doesn’t describe a real railfan by the way as it is much too broad and all encompassing. Someone who is totally devoted to the subject and spends their life in research is on another level. Welcome to my world.

A conductor’s air horn may be in my possession soon as you can add them to your personal model set up if not to your collection of train mementos. I like the idea of getting some old ones and putting them on a shelf as a cool display. The process of acquiring them will take years which is the whole idea. It is going to be a new aspect of my passion. I will, of course, get a Compressor Force branded compressor as the air source. The whole idea is compelling. It may seem a peripheral interest to train engines, but it goes with the territory.

You can get an air horn in a kit that comes with all the parts like air line and fittings, or construct it yourself if you are handy. This would take a bit of knowhow, so I will start with the readymade kit and see what happens. I understand that some horns are tuned to a specific note: so fun. I wish I could show you how it looks. If you are a fellow railfan, you might not have prior knowledge, and this could be something new. After all, this is what I promised when I started the blog.

These kits don’t come cheap, hovering around $500, but you can find some used assembled items online to round out your collection. I see plenty for a hundred or less. There are various styles and sizes from which to choose according to the direction you wish to follow. They are amazing, some with a shocking quality of sound. This is what it is all about. They are so different that you can assemble your own little train horn orchestra. Ha! It is certain attention grabbing, or so I am told by my neighbors. But they are used to it by now. The latest models have superior air flow technology, creating a loud sound with very little air. Somebody is in a lab doing their homework.

But one caveat must be stated: some of these horns can be heard from two miles away. This can get you into a bit of trouble. You are recommended to wear earplugs to protect your precious hearing. It isn’t like you can adjust the sound like a real musical instrument.

Train Show Weekend

I look forward to special events revolving around my interest. I am always on the lookout for train-related stuff, near or far. A train show weekend is full of a hobbyist memorabilia and all kinds of items that you might not have seen before. I can’t attend too many as they really pump me up. I learn a lot and get a visual feast at the same time. Your attention is fixed on all the exhibits, which can sometimes be exhausting if you are walking on concrete floors in a huge venue. I usually make the rounds several times. When I have gotten my fill and am more than sated, I like to take a little extra time to do something recreational out of doors. It depends on where the show is located, of course, but if I am lucky it is near a lake or river. Such is the case recently when I got to do a bit of towable tubing. I don’t care what kind of water as long as I am pulled along in this inflated device for a joy ride. Yes, I am about more than trails and railroads.

A good towable tube from Inflatables Life will put you in good stead for years once it has reached its peak size. I love hanging out at the lake and doing some people watching in the process. The last time I indulged in this fun pastime, I spotted some people I had met at the train enthusiast forum during the show. So, I considered the outing to be part of the total package as I got to talk about trains even in my off time. It was kind of an unexpected surprise, one that I embrace wholeheartedly. One of the best things about train expos is sharing stories and photos of collections. You never know what you will find with another ferroequinologist: man, woman or child. They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and ages.

I had a memento from my time on the lake in the towable tube: a small bruise on my left knee. I couldn’t bend it for a few days, so I sat at the computer and looked at new train articles and blogs. I am not the only one out there penning my life with trains and mineshafts. Not by a long shot. With me, you get the real emotion of being passionate about this subject and reasons why you should follow suit for years of fun and enjoyment. As my interest grows, I find a need to express my wonder at this vast open-ended realm. I could write an ode to a locomotive right now; but, readers, you will have to wait. I have to give it some thought. Oddly enough, even when out behind the towing boat, I was thinking of train imagery while I skimmed the water. It is always in my brain. This is no part-time pleasure, but a real mania.

My Favorite Stations in the US and Europe

I got interested in trains at a young age. My dad was a commuter who took the same train in and out every day. My mom told me one time that if I listened real closely while I was in bed, I would hear the train whistle as it came near the station, and I’d know my dad was nearly home. She was right. I did this for many years, listening for that whistle.

When my parents thought I was old enough, my dad took me into work with him and I got to ride the train for real. I was impressed with the train itself, but not the station so much. We don’t live in a huge town, and so the station was very utilitarian. I remember thinking, “That’s it?” and going home to look up what some real stations look like. It is a hobby I continue to indulge in. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Grand Central, Manhattan, New York (or, as it is officially known, Grand Central Terminal). This historical landmark is probably one of the most famous in the country, and for good reason. The Main Concourse ceiling is a recently-restored work of art: a starry sky and the constellations that make up the zodiac. Then there is the iconic information booth clock in the Main Concourse, which may not sound impressive. But look at a picture of it and you’ll realize that, even if you live nowhere near midtown Manhattan, you know that clock – it’s been in lots of movies. Same goes for the Tiffany clock outside at 42nd and Park. You can also find one of the greatest train museums on this side of the world: The New York Transit Museum is an incredible destination all in itself. The terminal is a train lover’s dream with 44 different tracks, shops, dining, a ‘hidden bar’, an event hall, and even a tennis court. You never have to leave.

Antwerp Centraal Station, Antwerp, Belgium. This is another amazing station. Its opulence was in keeping with Belgium’s flashy ruler of the time, Leopold II. The dome over the waiting room hall and the architectural details are incredible, enough to give you a seriously stiff neck from looking up while you ogle all of it. They recently made some renovations to add room for super trains, which is really cool.

St. Pancras International, London, England. I am amazed that with all the bombings London received during WWII, and the significant role the station played for the Allies, that the Germans left this place standing. This wonderful red brick “cathedral of the railways” connects travelers from all over Europe, and is even home to a London Underground stop. It also has plenty of shopping as well as a champagne bar!

Gare Du Nord, Paris, France. Continuing into Europe, you cannot miss the many windowed-Gare Du Nord – and it’s pretty hard to avoid, as it connects different subway lines, regional trains, international lines, and a commuter train. Outside the entrance, you will see various statues depicting the different cities that you could visit from the station (Paris in the center, naturally). You might recognize it even if you know nothing about trains, as it has been featured in several Bourne Identity movies, Amélie, and even Ocean’s Twelve.

I know this is a really short list, but it’s the ones I’ve been able to see firsthand so far. Maybe one day soon I’ll get to visit more, or I’ll detail a wishlist of some stations I haven’t seen.