As a kid I was not obsessed with trains. Airplanes were more my thing. I did like electric trains, or at least the idea of them. Mostly I liked models. Maybe it was because I was the youngest of three boys and I spent my entire childhood feeling powerless, but I loved looking down at a miniature world, able to observe everything from up high. Master of all. Take that, feelings of inadequacy!
I never had an electric train set. My brother had one but as far as I know the engine never ran and I don’t really remember him ever setting it up. It lingered in a box for years before I finally took it out and set it up on an old ping pong table along with my AFX track. Since the engine didn’t work I would just push the train around the track until I got bored, which would usually take about 15 seconds. The “landscaping” consisted of a few not-to-scale army men and some Lincoln Log houses. One day my dad sold the whole box of trains, track, and AFX cars at a yard sale for $.50. Thus ended my experience with model trains.
I always wanted a miniature world. That opening scene in Beetlejuice, with the model town, fascinated me. I wanted that, or something like it. I didn’t so much want to have it as to build it. I used to love building plastic models of cars, planes or ships. At the beach I’d build towns out of sand and drive my trucks around them.
I always wanted to build a treehouse. That never happened either.
Eventually I got older, got a job, got married. Lots of things never happened, which was fine. Lots of other stuff, stuff I never expected to happen, happened. Life was perfectly fulfilling. One day, while rummaging in the basement, I came across a pair of my landlord’s pilot headsets and some “learn to fly” books. It had really never occurred to me that learning to fly was something I could do. I did some homework and within a week I announced to my wife that I was going to take flying lessons. She fully supported me. We didn’t have a kid, rent was cheap, we had two incomes, I could afford this.
This is not a flying blog, this is a blog about building a model train layout. These things are related and I will tell you how. I will do that… now.
One of the things I noticed while flying somewhat slowly at low altitude in a small airplane is that, from up high, the world looks like a model. Houses and roads and lakes are all in miniature. Up there the entire world was the train layout I always wanted. I could observe it all, even the people. From a Cessna at 1500 feet you can see the details you can’t see from an Airbus at 35,000 feet. Flying over a lake you can see schools of fish in the water, you can see people in canoes. Cars on the road, rows of school buses parked on the weekends, amusement parks, churches, bars where bar fights were occuring. Your own miniature world.
I would go on to take a couple of solo flights but stopped the lessons before I got my pilot’s license. That’s ok. Again, tradeoffs happen in life. Every few years since then I seem to find myself going up in something, a glider, a biplane or a helicopter, filling my need to observe my miniature world.
But that real, or rather fake, miniature world, the one that would be built with plywood and glue, would, like the treehouse, be something I always thought about doing but never actually did. Such things require money, space, effort, and time. All of that can be hard to come by.
Anyway, whatever real miniature world I could build would never be as good as the one I’ve built in my head. Same with the treehouse.