Model Railroading As A Vice

Discussion in 'The Caboose' started by MilesWestern, May 4, 2006.

  1. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    By Edward Prendergast, December 1975 MR.

    A man walked into a hobby shop the other day. He was obviously in need of help. His eyes were glazed; his hands trembled; his clothes were ragged. He needed a haircut, and he obviously hadn’t bathed lately.
    He approached the clerk.
    “I need a kit,” he said, scratching at his beard. The clerk nervously shuffled some sales slips and pretended not to hear.
    The Disheveled customer tried again.
    “I need a kit, what can you do for me?”
    “Nothin’,” the clerk replied. “Get outta here!”
    “But you gotta help me, man!” Panic and pleading mixed in his voice. “I’m in bad shape.”
    “Look, I promised your family last time I’d help you kick the habit.”
    “But I gotta have some. I can’t make it through the weekend without something.”
    His fingers gripped the counter. “Just this once. Anything. A flatcar, a switch, a plastic girder bridge.”
    The Sales clerk looked into the haggard eyes and felt a combination of pity and revulsion. He has seen cases of people hooked in model railroading before: the total abandonment of all else in pursuit of a scale model devil that danced down a primrose path of brass rail and miniature crossties.
    It usually started innocently. Perhaps a friend had invited him over to stop by the hobby shop after work. It was fun at first, and it felt natural. After all, didn’t he ride a train to and from work every day? At first it was just a magazine or two; maybe an inexpensive boxcar to amuse himself when he felt a little uptight.
    At First he hid it from his wife and family. When his wife did happen to find an unfinished hopper car, he said the dog must have dragged it in, and he jokingly tossed it into the trash as if it meant nothing. But later that night he crept out to the garbage can and retrieved it. Thereafter he hid his models in the garage.
    From then it was all downhill (or downgrade.) Oh, he tried to limit himself to one or two inexpensive models a month. But somehow one always led to another. After the first few cars, it was a locomotive: a small plastic dockside. What harm in that? Then he bought a little roadbed for it to run on. Then he bought an ore car. I suppose that signaled the beginning of the end, because the ore car had led to a mine building. The mine building led to a mountain, the mountain to a tunnel, the tunnel to a bridge, and so on.
    He began to look forward to time spent at his workbench. He resented intrusions in his precious time in the basement. He lost weight by missing meals. But he didn’t care, because the money saved on food could be plowed into track and power packs. It seemed that life made sense only in miniature. Friends commented on his voluntary seclusion.
    He paid them no heed. He way emotionally sidetracked. There was the day the boss had called him in and politely but firmly pointed out that his work wasn’t what it had been. He had mumbled an excuse about family problems and promised to improve. But that very day he had purchased a passenger station kit. He had entered the terminal stage!
    He actually felt good. He had become a master modeler. His fingers danced with frenzied energy each time he assembled a new kit. Even friends had to admit that he seemed a genius of the miniature.
    Trouble really began when his regular supporter was arrested by the police for pushing counterfeit Lionel catalogues. This was the first time he felt panic. He searched frantically for another source. Finally, he connected in a cheap, dirty part of town he found a pizzeria that sold only poor-quality plastic kits under the counter. It was enough until his regular supplier got back into circulation.
    But when his regular supplier re-opened, prices had gone up. He now found that he needed $20 to $30 [this was BIG money in 1975!!] a week to calm his nerves. He began to steal to support his habit. He was mainlining! First he shoplifted cheap jewelry. There were always a few shady hobby dealers who would take a cheap watch in trade for a tunnel portal. Then he started grabbing unattended shopping carts. He began stealing cars (automobiles that is) Finally he turned to jack rolling. {Miles Western: what is jack rolling?} His first victim was a street-corner Santa Claus. Then he hijacked an ice cream truck.
    Of course, these deeds attracted the attention of the police. If he had glanced over his shoulder, he would have noticed a shadowy figure inconspicuously disguised as an astronaut trailing him wherever he went. It was the hobby squad. It wasn’t him they were after; it was the bigger boys: the Japanese connection.
    It kept getting worse. He fell in with a crowd of traction addicts. He attended kitbashing parties. Someone turned him on to brass.
    Finally he was reduced to this, pleading with his hobby dealer. Yes, the clerk had seen it all before.
    “Look man, you need help,” he said. “You’re too far gone to help yourself.”
    “What can I do?” he asked
    “Why don’t you give the MRA a call?”
    “Whatsat, man?”
    “ The MRA, Model Railroader’s Anonymous. They can help a man in your shape.”
    “No; it wouldn’t work, I’m too far gone. I have no willpower. I’d only fall again. I couldn’t stand the withdrawal process.”
    “Look, friend, you’ve got to,” the clerk said. “They’ve got this new therapy. They ease you off slowly on plastic airplanes. Ant then, anytime you feel the urge, you can just call them on the phone and they’ll help you.”
    “Plastic Airplanes! Ugh! Well, all right, I’ll give it a try.”
    For the first time there was a sound of hope in his voice.
    “That’s the sprit. You go home now and I’ll have the MRA contact you.”
    The man headed toward the door. There was a spring in his step and hope within him. He went out into the sunlight full of resolve. He would lick this habit. He’d get this scale model monkey off his back.
    As he headed down the street, he passed a dungy doorway of a vacant building. Suddenly a shadowy, shabby figure emerged from the gloom.
    “Pssst! Hey, meester! Ya wanna buy some feelthy rare coins?” :D
  2. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    So, how about that article? :D
  3. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    I am sorry I dont get it.
  4. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Ahh, that ugly mirror of introspection!! Who among us will admit to being that poor
    tortured soul, creeping longingly along the dingy aisles of some seedy shop which is
    slowly strangling by the demons of internet shopping! Could he put that street-lamp
    into some dimly imagined diorama, or use that second-hand steamer with the crumbling
    paint, maybe just as a dummy on the repair track?? Where will his path lead from here?
    Maybe down to the old siding, where he can glean a rusty spike or a date nail for his sorry
    collection of memorabilia. Old modelers never die, they just fade into the wispy steam
    of oblivion...:rolleyes:
  5. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    Exellent wiritng cidcase, it really does capture what some older modelers may feel, you diescribed it so well it was as if it were a movie, playing infront of me.
  6. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Get that monkey off my back?? What monkey..? That's a 2-6-6-2!

    Gus (LC&P).

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