03 June 2010

Playing with Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale by Sam Posey

I read Playing with Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale this weekend. The first part of the book talks about the author, Sam Posey, and his early fascination with trains. He then talks about the processes he went through while building his own personal train layout, a project that took sixteen years. This part of the book is quite enjoyable, as there are a lot of parallels between model trains and miniature soldiers. You have to pick a scale and a time period. Then comes research and planning (and buying!). After a lot of painting and filing and filling the project begins to take shape, and at some point you look at it and declare it finished (although that spot over there could use a little more work and there is a unit over there that could use a few extra things to be just right).

After discussing his personal layout he ranges out into the seedy underbelly of model railroading and visits the layouts of some of the hobby's personalities. Just like in wargaming, there are divisions within the hobby. There are operators, who try to run realistic layouts often based on a very small time period, even down to a certain railroad on a certain day of a specific year. Then there are the artists, who see their layouts as a way to express themselves. Perhaps a real train wouldn't run that way, but if it serves the purposes of the artist, then that's how it will run. Posey covers a broad range of society with his visits and addresses the problem of the 'graying of the hobby,' something often discussed on miniature wargaming forums. Both hobbies seem to be getting older and are full of those proclaiming that the end will come with the end of the current generation. Both sets of naysayers are probably wrong.

I enjoyed the book very much. In fact, I stayed up much of the night reading it. It's a pretty quick read and gives a lot of insight into what it is that makes hobbyists tick, whether they focus on trains, wargames, or something else entirely.


  1. I am going to have read it. I have model trains. Big G scale. Don't tell anyone...

  2. Some guys never grow up - but that's not necessarily a bad thing - again....boys and their toys!