Today marks an important day for this website, for it marks the first time that we have been able to sing the praises for model trains in a national campaign! Today John Lewis Insurance, as part of their Your Toy Story campaign features the train set and so, in our unique way we will explore why we love model railways and why the model railway is the greatest toy in the world!
I was very young when I first started playing with toy trains. I honestly can not say for sure what my first toy train was, but I’m pretty sure it was made of wood. Brio is one of the best toys for a three year old in my humble opinion, it allows a child to safely build their first model railway. Happily the Brio trains of my youth are still regularly rostered into service in the hands of my niece and nephews and I’m sure when the time comes they will continue to be kept alive by my own children!
Fast forward a few years I was lucky enough to be gifted my first electric train set in the form of Hornby’s Thomas the Tank Engine. I have never been able to part with this set, nor can I imagine a time when I will. It’s not the most valuable model in the collection in monetary terms, but in terms of sentimental value it is worth an awful lot! Not long after that the train collection started to grow, with each birthday and Santa delivery bringing more trains, with another Hornby train set marking a new level of model railway joy; it was none other than the most famous steam train in the world, the Flying Scotsman!
Model trains date back to the nineteenth century, indeed their history is almost as long as the real things that industrialised and created the modern world. It was Märklin who produced the first train set as we know it today, a German firm who were looking for a boys toy to supplement their dolls houses. It was inevitable that even if the British were not the first to create train sets, the birthplace of the steam train would soon catch on. The man most associated with developing model trains in the UK was of course Frank Hornby. Hornby is still the trade mark name that most people associate with model trains. I strongly believe that the model railway industry in the UK depends on Hornby, as like it or not, when a parent wants to find the ultimate present for their child who loves trains, it is a Hornby train set they will look for.
Now there are many out there who will be adamant that they are a model railway enthusiast and not someone who simply plays with trains. Most modern railway models are super-detailed scale models and not toys. A lot of work is put in by manufacturers and modellers (myself included) to make a model look as realistic as possible. Indeed my favourite model is that of 850 Lord Nelson as pictured above (click here to read more about other enthusiasts favourite model trains.) Such delicate precision models are not for children. But despite that I would argue that it is a little bit of “you say tomato I say tomato,” as to whether we adults play trains or model railways. At the end of the day it is all done for fun and as we become older the fun becomes more advanced. We create worlds in miniature and these are not virtual worlds, they are real, tangible and like the real world they are never complete. In our worlds we may step back in time, recreate a scene or create what might of been or could be. In these worlds the railway is king and in the most part it stands still as the train speeds through it. Despite the extra skill and attention to detail, we are still playing trains, just on a different level.
Playing trains is something to be embraced and enjoyed. It is this joy and fun that will inspire the younger generation to play trains and experience the same joy we do. Wouldn’t you like your child to have a hobby that begins with playing for hours with their toy trains that will eventually lead then to master carpentry, electrics, electronics, painting, soldering, construction, research, reading, photography and countless other skills to feed their growing enthusiasm? I can think of few other hobby’s that can be so simple to join in with and still find something new to enjoy when they are retired. It is a hobby for life, a great one and in my opinion the greatest!
One of the aims of this website is to support a hobby that has personally given me so much pleasure and share this with the world and of course to support our heritage railways. It is with quite some sense of pride that I have been asked by John Lewis Insurance to fly the flag of the model train in their Your Toy Story campaign. Please check out their website http://whatmatters.johnlewis-insurance.com/toy-story/model-trains/
This post was written in collaboration with John Lewis Insurance.