Thomas the Tank Engine was my first exposure to model trains. The Thomas the Tank Engine TV series—notably narrated by the best Beatle, Ringo Starr—was a stop-motion animation serial that revolved around Thomas the Tank Engine and his other friends.
My cousin was the one who had the Thomas the Tank Engine model trains and their accompanying model railroad. Because she did, I was the one who was able to play with them when she was staying with her dad and not her mother, my aunt.
Thomas and his fellow model trains
The Thomas the Tank Engine playset included Thomas, Percy (my favorite) and other model trains that you could buy to add to the set. The actual model train came in bright yellow pieces that you had to assemble together. Assembling this was the best part. The tracks just clicked into place.
As the creative child I was, there were times when I did my best to alter the tracks to make the trains go in a different direction to the one they were supposed to. It turned out they wouldn't run on the back of the rails, which wasn't as disappointing as it was annoying.
I still loved that Thomas the Tank Engine model train set more than I know how to explain. I loved it so much that if I were to write a song about the parts of my childhood that inspired me to become the adult I allegedly am, it would take up an entire chorus.
The National Railroad Museum
The National Railroad Museum is one of York, England's greatest accomplishments. Next to the Minster, the historic city itself, and the living Viking museum, the National Railway Museum is one of England's premier tourist destinations.
Inside of it, there's a model railway that was installed in 1983 and remains one of the museum's most central displays for good reason. The model train scales vary in size but those that run on this track are some of the finest in the country. Not to mention the entire model railroad section itself is a huge tribute to the vast and rich history of rail travel in the UK.
Show off your model trains at York Model Railway Show
This is a huge event for families all across the UK. The Model Railway Show spans over the course of three days, making it the biggest model railroad show in the country and one of the North's best-loved weekends.
The Model Railway Show started in 1962, every year around Easter, the show has hundreds of exhibitions including almost fifty working layouts that change from year-to-year, keeping it exciting and fresh.
Along with all of the exhibitions and interactive displays, the show provides many model trains stores and stalls with professionals and tradesmen from all over the model train world. These specialists can provide you with all sorts of interesting facts and figures about these secret, miniature displays of brilliant engineering.
I'd like to go and ask them about the Thomas the Tank Engine one...
Perhaps it was the greatest of them all
Looking at merchandise or toys from a show from an outsider's perspective can often be divisive. I think the Thomas the Tank Engine train set would have been different. For one, the bright colors were something that I looked forward to more than anything. The railroad was yellow, the bridges were red, and then the stations that attached to specific points on the tracks were green.
Primary colors have never looked better. There's a high chance I'm biased as nostalgia has a heavy inclination to do that to us, but days away from school were never better than when I was running over the Fat Controller with a model train. A steam train, even.
The Dream Model RailroadI have a picture in my head and I'm not sure where it came from. It's a model railroad in someone's attic on an intricate hill-for-hill copy of a small American town. This set, in my head, goes all the way around the attic, into all the crevices and through the grasslands manufactured using plastic lawn turf or the same felt they use on pool tables.
At the same time, it feels like a very real thing. As though, inside of all of that lawn turf and plastic water towers, there are tiny people living in tiny houses with tiny very real windows and tiny very real doors and doing their tiny, tiny chores.
The model train will go round and round but the track is so expansive that it takes five minutes for it to make a complete lap, and it will spurt steam like a big steam engine would to signify its arrival. All of this in miniature in someone's attic in some far off land in my imagination.
Coincidence or destiny?
It could be a coincidence that I love model trains and their sets so much because of the imaginative visions they spark inside of my brain, and the things I remember most from books I've read and movies I've seen have involved steam trains.
It could be just an inexplicable like or hobby that, as the Model Railway Show proves, I am definitely not alone in.
You never know, I could be an undercover trainspotter who's yet to invest in binoculars or discover my true calling of lying close to train tracks to watch the trains go past me. I'm still not sure why they use binoculars for that, but if it is my calling, I'm sure I'll find out in due time.
Or, it could be that single Thomas the Tank Engine playset that didn't even belong to me, that I played with as a child. It could be that which spurred my interest a long time ago. It could be that which put the vision of an expansive model railroad in my head. Like the one in the National Railway Museum.
I don't know, but what I can say is that constructing a model rail track is an art.