We went to a model train show in November. Mainly, okay, soley for Owl Jr.'s benefit. It was at the local community centre, the gym which usully holds weekend warriors doing some approximation of a team sport they had done decades ago in highschool playing host to enthusiasts of recreating some aspects of industrial-era mass transportation infrastructure.
The hobbyists are nearly exclusively old men with beards wearing engineer's caps. Train engineer caps, to be precise. (I'm not sure if other engineers (mechanical, electrical, chemical, etc) have hats, although that could only be a boon to recruiting new blood. Just think, a solid iron baseball cap with oversized rivets for mech engies, a erlynmeyer flask breeding a hardy yeast species for industrial bread making for bioresource engineers, the mind staggers.) And some a bit younger folks who would not look amiss at a convention featuring dragons and swords and possibly magic. My kin, if you will. Or kin from a long forgotten arm of the family that has taken residence in some earthy, unmentionable region of the Appalachians.
There are gauges, as I understand it, different scales and rails and eras and whatnot. Large trains, small trains, mini-trains. There was even a Lego railway. Quite well done too, many almost recognizable buildings and intricate switchbacks, or,whatever you call those things (I was not into trains in any way, apparently).
Interestingly, Owl Jr. wasn't captivated by the Lego ones -- which I imagine the real hobbyists sneer at, you don't spend 8 hours in the workshop faithfully reproducing a 19th Century North Hampshire farmhouse to have some upstart do the same in 30 minutes with a few woodgrain decaled plastic bits -- he was interested in the intricate ones, the more ancient locomotives, that had lots of pistons and drive-shafts and bit and pieces moving. He also seemed to be into the scenary, which I imagine is at least half the job of these model trains. Tunnels, mountain ranges, trees, these were all appreciated. Factories, warehouses, even a dock were stared at for uncomfortable amounts of time.
The tricky bit was trying to avoid being engaged by the hobbyists, because I knew less than nothing and had no inclination to learn more. And while I can feign interest in things, it does tend to suck up my dwindling supply of energy which was being used up at the time holding a two year old at shoulder height so he could see all the action.
As a PC gamer, I'm all too aware of the pain of being interested in something that most people find childish, regressive, or perhaps even a little bit nerdy. I didn't want to get any of the vendors hopes up that I'd be soon recreating the splendour of a small coal mining concern in 17th century Newcastle.
But Owl Jr. was happy, Owlet was led back up to the library ages ago, and at the very least I got a pretty decent shoulder workout and the beginning designs for a Programmer's Hat.