Pints, Publications, Pickles and Pacifics :: The Social Side of the Hobby

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Longtime readers know I have a thing about mixing operating sessions or layout visits with good food, good drink and fine conversation.

There are many reasons for this but as someone who is self-employed, I often go a couple of days without seeing anybody outside of my immediate family. From a hobby perspective, weeks can go by without face-to-face contact with fellow enthusiasts. So when I get together with friends, I like to do more than talk about whether the mixed train is running on time and how we’re going to switch the Port Rowan team track.

A few months ago I decided to take this trains-and-a meal model to the next logical step.I picked a date and booked some space at my local pub (Harbord House). Then I emailed a bunch of friends and said “Let’s have dinner!”

The idea was well received so I’ve done this a few more times. Some of those who come out are friends I see all the time. Others are people I rarely see – maybe once or twice a year at shows. And some are familiar names, but new to me as my friends are starting to invite their friends. Our interests cover everything from history or rail fanning, to modelling in many combinations of scale, gauge, theme, era and so on. Regardless, we’re all connected through a mutual interest in “flanged wheels and steel rails”.

The group includes some talented members, and people are encouraged to bring along projects to share. To share three examples from last night…

Ralph Beaumont spoke about a new book he’s written with Rod Clarke, that will present the work of Joseph William Heckman, a Canadian Pacific company photographer. Click on the cover, below, for more details:

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Stephen Gardiner brought along his recently completed HO scale model of a vinegar tank car. This was built from the Sunshine Models kit to represent Reinhart Vinegars RVLX 101, used to ship vinegar to area pickling operations in southern Ontario. Stephen’s prototype is part of the freight car collection at the Toronto Railway Museum:

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Andy Malette has been working on two S scale steam locomotives, and brought them to share with us – photo below.
In the foreground is a CNR Pacific which he is building from the kit he offered a few years ago through his company, MLW Services.
Behind it, another S scale model – this time, an extensive conversion of an Omnicon Scale Models brass import of a Missouri Pacific consolidation into a CNR 2-8-0:

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What most impresses me about the dinners so far is the great discussions taking place around the table. Unlike at a show or convention, there’s no need to be somewhere else or to divide one’s attention in order to, for example, welcome new punters to your exhibit. So the talk is more relaxed and often drifts away from our central theme (trains) to other interests, current events and so on – kind of like the conversations I used to have over lunch or after work pints with colleagues the last time I worked in an office.

It’s a good format for a social gathering – one that’s easy to set up (who doesn’t like trains and food?) yet one that can also have a lasting effect on the hobby in any given area, as demonstrated by the Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders, which has been going strong for more than 50 years.

As such, it’s an experiment I encourage others to try. If you already belong to a group of like-minded modellers that meets regularly, try extending the invitation to others in your area who may be interested in different aspects of the hobby. Then put some good food and drink on the table and try to find the common ground. You may be very pleasantly surprised. I am.


11 thoughts on “Pints, Publications, Pickles and Pacifics :: The Social Side of the Hobby

  1. I like events like these ranging up to the RPM meets that are becoming popular for the way they provide the “exhibitors” with a chance to enjoy the meet instead of working for their audience. This, more inward-facing approach, I think, is an investment in the individual modeler and that should, in turn, make the hobby stronger. I think it offers great potential to reinforce the personal connections that we create as a byproduct of the interest and in turn provides a place to learn a little. I’m constantly amazed at how people I’ve met through the hobby share common interests beyond the hobby so what you’re doing should provide a place to extend this community too.

    In all, it’s an intoxicating idea. If only just talking about the hobby itself, what a great chance to really indulge in a little time under the guise of “stout and steam” or “brandy and brass”. This just sounds like a terrific way to spend an evening. Great idea.


    • I suspect that as an Islander, you would be a natural at organizing such a social event at the local pub, Chris. If you’re not already, that is…

      What I’m finding most interesting about this is the opportunity to talk to people who are outside of my normal circle of regulars in the hobby. I’m learning about different scales, different eras, different themes… as well as manufacturing, writing and publishing, running a hobby shop, running a machine shop, and so on.

  2. Hi Trevor,

    I’ve been involved for years (since I was a teenager) in a round robin group that meets once a month for supper, then head to a members home for the ‘meeting’ and enjoy the aspect of the hobby they enjoy (most members have layouts, but there are also slide and video nights, and the odd history lesson).

    It’s always a great gathering, with a mix of interests. There’s a couple of 1:1 scalers (myself included), and the conversation is wide ranging. It’s very enjoyable.

    Glad to see that the idea isn’t original!


    • I’m sure many people do this, Walker. It’s a great idea.
      My hope with the dinner group is to expand the participation beyond those who regularly visit my layout to include others who are doing interesting things. In this way, I hope at each dinner that I’ll learn something about the hobby that makes me think about things differently, or that encourages me to try something requiring new skills, or that otherwise enriches my knowledge of railways and how to model them.

    • My pleasure, Charles – be sure to let us know how it goes, via the comments on this thread, once you’ve had a couple of meetings!

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