“I have a book…”

 photo RailBooks_zps315ad0fc.jpg
(About one-third of my railway resources, plus a comfortable place for study and contemplation)

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Chris Abbott dropped in for a visit. His timing was perfect as I was doing some prep on my S Scale Workshop modules ahead of a day in the TrainMasters TV studio this coming weekend, and the prep went a whole lot easier with a second set of hands on deck. Chris and I always have a good time too of course.

Rather than head to the layout room, we hit Harbord House for a meal and some Junction Craft Brewing Brakeman’s Session Ale. Then we retired to what’s known in my house as “The Burning Things Room” – thanks to the large working fireplace that anchors the space. (With temperatures soaring this week, a roaring fire was the last thing we would’ve wanted – but the name sticks year-round.)

There, we discussed a mutual friend who is currently trying to decide on a new prototype. He’s looking for something manageable, given his busy life with other commitments – but also wants something off the beaten path and with modelling challenges that will make for a rewarding project. I won’t delve into the choices we’ve been batting about – that’s up to our mutual friend to decide and I’m sure that if he wants more input he’ll post something to his own blog.

But the subject of picking a prototype raises a related issue for me – namely, the importance of research resources.

I get teased by Chris sometimes for starting sentences with the phrase, “I have a book…” (“You have a book?” he’ll exclaim. “Really??”) But I take the teasing in stride because Chris also recognizes the value of the printed page and having resources at one’s fingertips.

Knowing of a great prototype is of little use to the modeller if there’s no reliable way to find out more about it – either to confirm that it’s a suitable subject for modelling (and provide more information to help do that) or to raise issues of concern with attempting to re-create reality in miniature.

In The Burning Things Room, the fireplace is flanked by floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases. To the east side, those shelves are filled with some of my railway resources (at a guess, about one-third). More are loaded into other bookcases in this room and elsewhere in the house – but even so, many books don’t yet have a home. They’re piled on end tables (or, in some cases, under them), stacked on desks, or otherwise stored in a chaotic fashion. All I’m missing is the stuffed and mounted raven (and a few wrinkles) to assume the role of The Librarian:

It’s safe to say that without my collection of railway books, I would not be modelling the layout that’s the focus of this blog. It was between hardbound covers that I first discovered CNR moguls hauling a short mixed train along an overgrown main track with no tie plates – plus track maps for St. Williams and Port Rowan – that inspired me to pick up pencil, compass and graph paper. (And you know how that story is unfolding…)

When I’m searching for a prototype to model or a project to build – or simply an idea to share with others, in person or via my Achievable Layouts blog – these books are the first place I look. I’m pleased that – in a few cases, at least – I’ve been able to influence a modeller’s decision to pursue a prototype that I think he or she would enjoy. And while I don’t boast about it, I take satisfaction in the fact that there are a few very well-done and well-known layouts that are what they are in some small part because I suggested a book to their builders.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a good library for any serious hobbyist. It’s worth foregoing yet another locomotive or a couple more freight cars to buy a book – and worth exploring books that lie beyond the scope of one’s personal railway modelling interests. I’ve learned a lot about railways and modelling them from books covering lines on other continents, let alone other prototypes or eras.

I love books and I’ve never, ever regretted a purchase.

(Great to see you, as always, Chris. Thanks for the help – and we’ll look through more books next time, I hope!)

9 thoughts on ““I have a book…”

  1. As soon as you’d mentioned “Hilarious House of Frightenstein”, you had my attention. Dr. Julius Sumner-Miller imbued many young Canadians (including me!) with an appreciation of physics via this show. A very hokey show that pains me to look at now, of course, but one that in a strange way introduced many of our generation to science.

    I likewise have a fair collections of books and manuals, loosely collected amongst shelves to form some kind of “library”. Everything from Ian Wilson’s “Steam…” series to MOW manuals. All are useful to have at hand.

    I cannot agree more with you about reading books and magazines about modeling railways outside Canada and the US. There is found so much good modeling technique not revealed in the North American hobby media. Static grass was used widely by UK modellers before we caught on to it, for example.

    But about reading, a fun song by Moxy Fruvous– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MeQK7JtLpU

    • Hokey? Yes – but still brilliantly goofy. Vincent Price’s bits were marvellous, and Billy Van was manic, playing – what, almost everyone? And I’m sure parents today – even those who grew up watching the show – would look at the show and wonder what on earth their parents were thinking! When Hunter S. Thompson lit up, he probably saw the Wolfman/Igor dancing thing…

  2. Wow Trevor – this actually has to be one of my favorite posts. “the fireplace is flanked by floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases” – few phrases would be as sweet to my ears. But I can also relate to your piles & stacks of books around. In fact, one of the reasons – actually the main reason – I haven’t posted much to my blog is because I haven’t done much in the basement lately, because I’ve been dealing with my own piles & stacks. I just wish I’d take a “before” shot – an “after” shot, showing all the books properly sorted & shelved, wouldn’t give you any idea of the chaos my library had become. Thankfully, I’m almost done with that project(!) and can start getting back to the basement. But I could not agree more with you about “the importance of a good library for any serious hobbyist. It’s worth foregoing yet another locomotive or a couple more freight cars to buy a book” – especially when they’re railroad books! :^)

  3. As I favor the Maine Two Footers I have twenty three books just on that. But I am just as likely to buy a book on early British Railway and I am fond of the Welsh little trains as well as with a few other small short lies and some of the big ones too. I was into railroad history since high school back in 1959 though 1963. Many of those old books I also have in my library. In fact my concept of wealth always included having my own library.

  4. Books (and magazines) are a great resource. I too enjoy them immensely and (re-)read them frequently.

    At various times over the past year and a half of research into the prototype, it’s felt like I’m writing the book on the Fairgrounds Branch of the Frisco (http://kcspur.blogspot.com).

  5. Trevor,

    Good grief, I thought I was the only one that had books stacked everywhere! Glad to hear I am not alone. The kids always ask “what are you reading, another book about trains?”


  6. The best part of my collection is my wife encouraged me to buy more, yes she would read one on occasion. I sure miss her for all of her encouragement.

  7. Happy to be present and helping out.
    Always good to work and chat (and also stop for refreshments).
    The Professor (in this case Julius Sumner Miller) rules.

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