Model railroad show at the National Heritage Museum

OK, so why on earth should you care about a review of a model railroad show? More generally, most of my readers aren’t the least bit interested in model railroading, so why should they bother reading this post? The answer is that any performance — whether it be a play, a concert, a translation, or a model railroad — requires a passing grade on the creation of a willing suspension of disbelief, and this weekend’s exhibit by the Northeast NTRAK Modular Railroad Club at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA, did poorly on the test.

It didn’t help that the adults at the show were outnumbered by the 4- and 5-year-olds. I suppose it’s nice to see that there are still young kids who are interested in model railroads — maybe there’s a future to the hobby after all — but it made it hard to concentrate. Actually, however, made it did help in the suspension-of-disbelief department, since the young kids tended to ooh and aah loudly about the trains and the bridges, not the quality of the representations, thus encouraging belief in the reality of the model. Otherwise the issue was the constraints imposed on modules that can be interchangeably connected mean that the total layout looked like what it was: a sequence of unrelated modules. There was no overall theme, no sense that this could be a real layout. Sure, a canyon or a truss bridge or an industrial area might look authentic, but it’s not part of an authentic whole. It all reminds me of the typical Algebra II course, which consists of several vaguely related modules instead of a unifying theme — in other words, instead of a course. A model railroad should reflect some consistent big ideas; it shouldn’t just be independent modules that happen to meet at each end.

Categories: Model Railroading