God's Wonderful Railway?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by RobertInOntario, Oct 28, 2008.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I've read in a couple articles that -- at least in the British scene -- there is a rather high number of clergy who are railway enthusiasts. Some of these were Church of England clergy and bishops. One of the most famous was the Rev. Awdry who wrote the Thomas series.

    The trend may continue with Christians in general and I sort of fit into this category, being a committed Christian who also once seriously considered becoming an ordained Anglican minister.

    There are several theories as to why "men of the cloth" might be drawn to trains. The track routes, signaling and scheduling might symbolize the journey of the soul. Trains may also represent a desire for order and predictability. Another is that steam engines express the pent-up energy, anger and frustration that many clergy have, yet don't have the freedom to express.

    At any rate, I've mainly come across this in British publications and was wondering if the same thing is true in North America. I'd be interested in learning if any folks have seen a railway-clergy connection over here! No need to get into deep theology or anything controversial, just casual observations!

    I think the minister on The Simpsons was a model train enthusiast! :eek:

  2. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    I fit that category. I've been an ordained Lutheran pastor for 5 years now and been a modeler for just over 20. Yes, Reverend Lovejoy of Simpsons fame is a model train enthusiast. I think there was another tv character accused of the same persuasion...can't recall right now who it was.

    "Life is Like a Mountain Railroad" is classic Bluegrass, a genre where you find unabashed spirituality often mixed with railroading. A few Negro Spirituals (that's a specific genre, not a racial slur) are the same.

    I've heard that trains in tunnels, pistons pumping, etc. are, er, well, you know, reflections of a pent up, repressed sort of energy. Protestants are free to marry so that ought not be as much an issue, but perhaps there's a connection.

    I do know there's a connection between artists/musicians and modelers. Many organists are model train enthusiasts. Of course, many ministers have musical and artistic talent as well. Perhaps it's a connection to right-brain creative thinking? I wonder how many artist/musician/minister modelers are also more into scenery than operations? John Allen was an operator, sure, but more well known I believe for his artistry in scenery.
  3. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks -- interesting thoughts and observations. Yes, I think the clergy-train connection is evident both in the UK and here.

    The artist/musician aspect is interesting as well. Personally, I enjoy both operations and scenery, but really struggle with technical stuff like wiring and mechanical repairs. I'm a graphic artist at a magazine, so this makes sense for me. I also occasionally like "kit-bashing" locos -- again, this is generally more creative/artistic than mechanical.

    Yes, the train theme has been a common metaphor in many gospel songs, both old and newer ones.


  4. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    I'm a deacon for our church and I am hopelessly obsessed with trains. I'm also a graphics designer and love creating the scenery for my layout. I call it my art. I thought however, that the interest in trains was a man thing in that our brains crave that repetition, linearity and order that a nice long train mimics so well.
  5. jesso

    jesso Member

    I believe it is due to the similarity in funtions. Railroad's job is to keep trains on the right track and religion's job is to keep people on the right track. :)
  6. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Yes, good point. Trains are certainly an escape. But, believe me, we're all sinners! Even the best train on good track can be derailed! :eek:
  7. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I agree -- I think all of these are good points! I also enjoy the scenery aspect but struggle a little with wiring and really struggle with solving mechanical problems. Rob
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I've heard of a lot of clergy being involved with model railroading, but I don't know if the percentage of clergy who are model railroaders vs those who are not model railroaders is any different than the percentage of the general public that are modelers vs the percent who are not. I suspect it also may have to do with the fact that hobbies like model railroading don't have to be on a specific schedule. So many leisure time activities are scheduled for weekends, and the clergy never have a Sunday off unless they are a Jewish rabbi or 7th Day Adventist in which case they never have a Saturday off.
  9. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    So how do we explain agnostics like me?
  10. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    During the winter my colleagues in Ohio used to pine for 'golf season' in the Spring. I would usually make some reply about Model Railroad season followed by, "Oh wait, I get to pursue my hobby year-round!" And that was in Seminary, where the extent of my modeling was a few kits in a plastic tub that slid under the bed.

    Now that I'm living year-round in a more northern clime, I can understand better what folks up here mean when they say Winter is train season. The summers are too dadgum beautiful to miss sitting indoors at a workbench...unless you've got a nice view.
  11. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks for this feedback -- I appreciate that they're just interesting and humorous observations. Rob
  12. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Yes, winter is the model train season here in Ontario as well. Unless we're having one of our many humid spells and it's "500 degrees" outside, then I start to hibernate inside again until it cools off!

    I actually continue my train hobby during the summer by visiting various heritage railways. We have a steam railway, a vintage diesel railway as well as a streetcar/interurban railway (plus several other historical railway sites) all within an hour's drive or so. I actually enjoy riding on the real thing more than going to model train shows, but that's a topic for another thread!

    It's kind of sad, now that the fall is ending and the heritage railways are beginning to close for the winter.

  13. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    And me!

    I suspect it has less to do with one's religious affiliations than with the apparent need for religious people to reach out and connect/advertise with others of their faith. Right up there with the fish thing people stick on their cars.

    *edit* I should clarify that I mean I don't think that model railroading appeals more to religious-types than others, just that some religious-types seem more open about their faith than others, and tend to comment on it. There's a bunch of RC'ers in Christ, too...

    At least you guys don't go around to schools and geek out in public.... do you? ;) :p
  14. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Thank god for model railroading...........
  15. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Thank who?

    I don't know about you, but I do my own work.
  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I had a railway magazine many years ago that had an article that I thought was "Where there's Railways there's Parsons Marooned". I didn't quite connect all of it until a few years later I realized that Marooned was a separate article about floods.
    And don't forget that it was enough of a cliche that the main character in The Titfield Thunderbolt is a minister and a bishop (in uniform) shows up to help fire on their test trip.
  17. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    I'd like to meet you someday Mountain Man! You remind me a lot of my father.
  18. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I just finished reading the article tonight that inspired my question. This was the cover story in the Sept. 2002 issue of Railway Magazine, called "God's Wonderful Railway."

    The article goes on to suggest that large railway stations resemble cathedrals and, when there are no trains going through, can be quiet places to meditate. The architecture of large train stations can also be very church-like and the voice of the station-master echoing in the station can resemble that of clergy speaking/singing in church. Both stations and cathedrals are places where repetitive sounds and "liturgy" can be heard.

    The sounds of steam trains can remind some people of organ music in a cathedral ... so the article does explore the link between musicians and railways as well, which some folks mentioned here.

    At any rate, I find this interesting and helps me to understand myself a little better!, i.e. more reasons why I like trains and train-related things.

  19. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Ordained Independent Baptist...been working in building maintenance since my last position as youth pastor. Model trains were there long before that though, even when I was into medicinal herbs and spices and working as a carney.
  20. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    What did I do to deserve that? :confused:

    BTW - are there also clubs like Highballing Rabbis, Mullahs for Mallets or Burlington Buddhists? Or are only Christians affected by this malady?

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