A Critical Look at Prototype Modeling

I took Dawson Station to another event this weekend. It was a Divisional Mini-meet for the Pacific Northwest Region of the National Model Railroading Association in Roseburg, Oregon. There were 35 – 40 people in attendance. When people “under 50” were asked to stand, there were only three of us. This is an old man’s hobby.

There was a modeling contest similar to the Pacific Model Logger’s Conference, albeit much smaller. Dawson Station won both its category, “miscellaneous”, as well as best in show, which came with enough cash to cover gas money. After the award, I gave about a ten minute presentation of the layout with a question and answer session. Talk about being put on the spot. At least I was given a heads up, and had a practice run with the cub scouts a while back.

More important than the competition, I had the layout judged for the NRMA’s Achievement Program for Prototypical Models. Think old man’s merit badge. Four of the Division’s senior members reviewed the layout with consideration as to how it captured the look and feel of Hull-Oakes. I had to document every aspect, and provide photos of Hull-Oakes and my layout taken at the same angles. To give you an idea of how thorough they were, they caught a major detail I had over looked, the chip hopper near the lunch shack. You can see my documentation here.

Also memorable was having lunch with probably the oldest member there. He has macular degeneration, and so couldn’t see much of what was going on. When we got back, I gave him the audio tour of Dawson Station which now includes not only the mill sounds, but frogs and a dog barking at night. Prototypical frogs, mind you.


  1. First, congratulations on the win! Very nice.

    Second, I wonder too at the aging of the hobby. I'm considerably younger than 50 myself (though not as considerably as I'd like), and I find that there is a real disconnect between older modelers and younger people generally that seems a stumbling block to bringing in new blood. Not that I'm saying those over 50 are mean old curmudgeons! Just that there's a very real generation gap.

    Interestingly, as near as I can tell, the age distribution of Western (i.e., non-Japanese) modelers who model Japanese prototypes (such as myself) seems a good reflection of the West's demographics generally. I wonder why the difference.

    And I wonder, too, how this skewed demographic has affected you as a modeler: Your motivations, perceptions, and actions. I would greatly enjoy reading about your experiences in this regard!

  2. From the start, I've designed the layout to be operated by kids. The fact that it turned out so realistic was kind of a byproduct of my interest in Hull-Oakes.

    I'm still scratching my head why there are not more kids involved. Or their dads. There was only one kid at the Pacific Model Logger's Conference. He was asking good questions of the presenters and also got to take home the landscape piece they did for a clinic. Pretty cool.