Model Citizens (2015) Movie Script

(upbeat music)
- [Voiceover] It
wasn't so long ago
that trains were
part of everyday life
in America and the
developed world.
- [Voiceover] Here, there's
something for every taste.
From Dad's favorite,
the electric trains,
to the latest design
in space rockets.
Still, even the comparatively
old-fashioned train sets
have innovations that keep
them abreast of the times.
For example, two trains
on the same track,
yet individually controlled.
- [Voiceover] And
then things changed.
We thought we had to say
goodbye to childish things.
But no one knows why.
Of course, no one would
call this a childish thing.
Maybe a little
explaining is in order.
- I don't think the public
understands the distinction
between model railroading
and toy trains.
But I think they would
enjoy both of them
if they did understand
that distinction.
And I think the people who
use one or the other as a hobby
would also appreciate everybody
understanding the distinction.
It would actually make
their hobby more fun.
- [Voiceover] This is
scale-model railroading.
It's pretty serious business.
(folksy music)
This is scale-model railroading.
And so is this.
(train chugging)
This too.
This is not.
Neither is this.
Nor this.
Not scale.
- The advantage
of three railers,
particularly with
younger children,
is that they're virtually
indestructible toys.
And I say that knowing that
I have several locomotives
that have survived
a four-foot drop off
the table and still run.
- Notice the construction here.
Very solid metal.
(metallic tapping)
That's not plastic.
So that's the way they
used to build them.
I remember my Lionel set.
you see a lot of
sparks and stuff.
They had electrical pick
up for that middle rail.
my brother and I, we
both had Lionel trains.
What we used to do is,
I'm ashamed to admit this,
but we used to run the
trains into each other.
Stage these elaborate
train wrecks.
- Model railroading
isn't a toy, per se.
It's cute, I admit that
it's cute, can be cute.
It's more that it is
interpretation of life.
In miniature.
Sometimes a good interpretation,
sometimes not so good,
sometimes abstract art.
But it's somebody's
And it moves and it runs.
And if it's done right, it
can be a thing of beauty.
There is a lot of
misperception about
model railroading out there.
And bless their hearts,
as they say in the south.
Usually they say
that when they're
about to say something
bad about somebody,
but bless their hearts.
That misperception
is based upon a
misunderstanding of what
model railroading is.
We look at model railroading,
and the NMRA is primarily
what we call a scale
model railroading
operation, which is what,
scale means the
relationship between
the real thing and a model.
So if you have a 40-foot boxcar,
and you have a scale of
one inch to the foot,
well that boxcar's
gonna be so big.
That's scale-model railroading.
Toy trains, or tin plate,
which most the public thinks
model railroading is, Lionel.
Normally not scaled.
In other words, that
40-foot boxcar may be
actually shorter or
long, actually shorter.
Because it's a toy and
they're trying to fit it
within a packaging unit.
Or they're trying to
make it a certain way.
And they don't really care that
it's not absolutely to scale.
- [Voiceover] Okay.
But there's room for
everyone in this hobby.
- Thank you.
- [Voiceover] Describing
model railroading
and the people who do
it can be contentious.
It's not hard to
offend in a community
with such loyalties
and passions.
But there is one thing all
model railroaders can agree on,
model railroading
is good for you.
- I lose myself in this hobby.
No matter what's
going on in my life,
it's very relaxing
just to sit out there
and work at the work bench.
- For a lot of people, it's a,
stress relief.
To some people, it
would drive 'em nuts,
but to a certain
group of people,
working with that train,
working with your hands,
it's something that
kinda calms you down.
- There are two things that
are very important to me,
one is the ability to calm down,
chill out and soothe my head,
by watching a train go around.
I don't know why,
some psychologist can
explain that to me,
but all I know is if I do,
if I have a train on
the track that I like
and it's running well, and
it goes around and around
and around, I get calmer
and calmer with each lap.
- A long time ago I had a
psychiatrist come in here
and he explained to
me how he himself
had built a model railroad,
in part for his own use,
but it was a way him getting
away from his day-to-day life.
- I think model railroading,
I think a lot of
people could hide.
Here in the northeast,
it's in the basement.
And I know a lot of...
Wives that probably
wish their husbands
didn't spend quite so much
time in their basement.
So I don't know if they're
hiding from their lives or
hiding from the
pressures of life.
They just go downstairs
and play with their trains.
When I first roll into my
train room and look around...
It's a feeling of calm,
until I notice a spider web
or a piece of dust.
And then I notice another
one and then another one.
And then I realize how much
work I have ahead of me.
And I tape a little
paintbrush on my hand
and I start dusting.
It, I never thought dusting
could be so relaxing,
I would say that...
It could be a substitute for
an anti-depression medication.
- The concentration
that comes in working on
a model, doing the research,
adding small details
parts to something,
is a little like yoga
in its concentration.
I mean you cannot
worry about the
world outside when
you're working with small
tools and a magnifier,
trying to get
something just right.
And with every small detail,
again, you're evoking
something from that period.
It is, in some ways,
I think, a protest
against the world as
it is because you say
I'm going to be God for a while,
I'm gonna create a happy ending.
I'm gonna create characters.
It's a protest against
the world as it is.
I don't accept the
world as it is.
In some ways, with
a model railroader,
you're creating a world.
For a little bit of
time, there's power.
- The whole concept of
having a small
empire that you're
in complete control of,
I think, appeals to some.
- [Voiceover] Just
drives you crazy
trying to keep the
world in shape.
Come on up there, that's better.
- What isn't compelling
about the idea
of creating a world the
way you wanna see it?
The way that you
wish the world was,
or the way it was
at a time where
you thought it was just
particularly great.
- To me, the act of
creation that way is just,
is just great.
And model railroading
is the venue,
it gives you
something to aim for,
rather than just, I'm
gonna build a dollhouse,
I'm gonna build a bicycle.
Now I'm gonna build a train,
I'm gonna build a town,
I'm gonna build a city,
I'm gonna build a layout.
The creation part of it is
what's so cool about it.
- John Allen, who was a
prolific modeler back in the
early days of model railroading.
He always had these little
whims built into his scenes.
A stegosaurus pulling a boxcar?
Come on, who does that?
What other hobby do you know
could do that and kind of say,
it's my world, so what?
- I might go to, let's say
I go to somebody's house,
and I look at their
model railroad and
let's say it has a
lot of toilet humor.
It might have, say,
a scene where
there's a prostitute,
or things like that.
And you wonder what
made him put that there
because this person that has
a prostitute and a John
modeled on his layout...
It might be your
pastor at your church,
and it kinda makes
you wonder, like,
hmm, is he trying to
live a secret life there?
Or something like that.
But I have noticed that.
You look at somebody's
layout and you'll
have a scene on
there that I'm like,
I wouldn't think of you
planning a scene like
that in your head.
I did meet a priest that had a,
maybe not a priest, a pastor.
I don't know if there's
a difference or not.
That had a dirty
scene on his layout,
I was very surprised.
- It's just a toy
that we have fun with
and it gives me pleasure
and I get to,
create, I get to create stuff.
Just like a painter would
take a blank canvas,
I take a car out of a
box, it's unpainted.
Put it together the way
I want it put together.
And I get to paint
it the way I want it
and I get to weather
it the way I want it.
When I'm happy
with it, then I...
Really, I put it
back in a box again,
and store it until the next
time I wanna look at it.
It seems kinda silly,
but that's my deal.
- A lot of us see,
incorrectly, I'm sure,
we see model railroading
as an art form.
And I think it really is.
In other words,
If you paint a
backdrop, that's art.
If you paint a locomotive,
or weather it to make it look
old and used, that's art.
If you put a building
so that it looks
right in a scene, that's art.
If you arrange several
buildings into a bigger scene,
that's art.
So when you start
getting into art,
you can offend sensibilities
pretty quickly.
And so I think the line is
right there at some point.
But I think if you've
got everybody in a mellow
mood and discuss it,
I think we could probably come
to some kind of understanding.
- [Voiceover] Okay.
So why should we care
about model railroading?
(train humming)
- What model railroading,
like any other
creative pursuit...
Is the participant gets
actively engaged in it.
Model railroading, in
the end is going to
train your brain by
requiring you to do
lots of different
things to be multimodal.
I honestly think that
the combination of
thinking about engineering,
about fine-motor control,
about the kind of
problem solving that
operations involves.
Or even designing a
layout and figuring out
how you're gonna fit stuff in.
All that kind of flexibility
that's required to do it,
I think tends to keep
people's brains pretty sharp.
I think the worst thing
for brains is sort of
the degree to which we end up
doing the same thing
over and over again.
The ways in which
we end up becoming
passive not active.
Obviously you could do
that as a model railroader,
but if you're gonna take
it really seriously,
you've gotta be active
and you've gotta really
be working in many
different modes at once.
(jaunty music)
- I retired about,
oh, 10 years ago.
And I began kinda
searching around for
a hobby or something and it
was a natural progression
to get back into
model railroading.
- The most important
thing is to have a hobby.
I see too many people whose
entire lives are their jobs.
And if your job's
really rewarding,
let's say maybe
you're a trial lawyer
or a doctor.
And your life is
important to a lot
of people and all that, great.
But most lawyers and
doctors I know are retiring.
And one of,
our kid's pediatrician, in fact,
called me up and he says "Okay.
"It was my turn to
take care of the kids,
"now it's your turn to come
help me with model railroading."
And I think that's very
smart of him because
what are you gonna
do with your time?
You don't want to idle.
And there's too many people that
just retire and literally die.
And I think it's
almost out of boredom,
I don't know what
the physiology is,
but they just stagnate because
they got nothing to do.
(slow instrumental music)
- I think anything in
which you have a passion
not only can keep you young,
it can keep you alive
and keep you going.
And I think model railroading
has that potential.
So does golf.
So does...
I had a very good friend who
came down from the
state of Oregon
to a great organization
in California.
There was no commitment,
but it was sorta of okay,
you know, when the current
Executive Director retires,
you'll become
Executive Director.
Well that didn't happen and
he was very disappointed.
And all he could do was look
forward to his retirement.
He retired.
He was gonna write a book.
He was gonna lecture.
He moved out to
Rossmoor Leisure World
and he was dead in three years.
He didn't have anything to do.
He didn't have anything
to keep him going.
So, model railroading,
can keep you alive.
But so can a lot
of other things.
You gotta have a passion.
- When I retired from
the state of California,
where I worked for 40 years,
there were a couple
of people in my office
who didn't retire
and they could've.
I'd asked them, "Why
aren't you gonna retire?"
And they said,"I'm
scared to retire,
"because I don't
have anything to do."
And I thought my
God, that's tragic.
They were so lucky,
happy, for me.
Because they said,
"You're so lucky,
"you have something to
do, you have a hobby."
Oh my gosh, it isn't like I'm
the only one with a hobby.
One thing that we're
looking at is trying
to reach out to people
who are near retirement.
The kids have grown up.
They have maybe a little more
income that they can keep now,
instead of paying for
the kids' expenses.
And they wanna do
something meaningful.
Well, this is a
meaningful hobby,
it's a constructive hobby.
- One of the things that
I think distinguishes,
not just model railroaders,
of course, but,
model railroaders
among others is that
they've never given up playing.
That the play part of their life
is maybe more important than
the work part of their life.
Which I think is
actually a healthy thing.
- Everybody comes to
the hobby with their own
viewpoint, with their own
motivation of why they
play with trains or
operate trains.
I mean, you don't wanna say
they're playing with trains,
because that would
be too childlike,
so they say they
operate the trains.
But it's still definitely
a form of play.
- I think when people
say we're not playing,
they're really, I understand
why they'd say that,
they feel a little
defensive because
in common usage,
play is a bad thing,
it's something only kids do.
I think
those of us who
have looked at it,
whether through the
fields of education,
psychology, probably have
a different meaning
of the word play.
So when a model railroader
says he's not playing,
I respect that what
he's really saying is,
"I take this seriously,
"I'm doing some really
serious, interesting things."
I would argue that play
is much more complicated.
Rembrandt and Da Vinci played.
Einstein said, "Play is the
highest form of research."
So, in a sense,
you can be really serious,
working really hard,
making really good stuff
and also be playing.
And I think that's what
model railroaders are doing.
- There's a difference
between playing with toys
and scale-model
railroading, for sure.
Or scale-model airplanes
or scale-model boats.
But there's real joy and
it's not profit oriented,
it's not work oriented,
it's leisure time oriented.
And I think the minute you say
leisure time, in some
way you're saying play.
- I think you have to have a
little bit of a kid inside you.
I really do.
And a little kid gets to play.
The adult gets to
learn new stuff.
And that's one of the things
that's great about this hobby.
And I don't we should ever
be afraid of being kids
and playing.
That's a real good
part of this hobby.
- [Voiceover] Not all model
railroaders would agree.
At least, not openly.
Because model railroading
is serious business.
- There are a lot of
little niches in this hobby.
You'll find people
who are attracted to
full-size railroads
in their current form.
You'll find people
who are attracted to
full-size railroads in the past.
Modelling a certain
period of the past.
Modelling the present.
You'll find people whose
specialty is scenery.
You'll find people who are
in love with freight cars.
People who love
passenger trains.
People who love
building track work.
People who adore
the electronics.
And the electronics
have come a long way
in the hobby over the
past couple of years.
I would say my specific niche,
if I had any, is
probably freight cars.
My interest in
full-size railroads,
although I have some things
that are present day,
probably ended,
somewhere in the late 1950s,
specifically for the
Santa Fe Railway.
So I don't do a lot of
what they call railfanning,
which is going out
along the tracks
and taking photographs of
current prototype locomotives.
I'm not interested, that's
not the period I model,
so most of my modelling
comes from research.
Books, old photographs
and things like that.
- Model railroading
is a niche hobby.
Within that niche hobby there is
an infinite amount of niches.
You can break down on
ideas of scale,
of era.
Whether you like
passenger trains or
freight trains.
Which particular railroad
line you like the best.
How much you're gonna
be concerned about
getting the details
absolutely right,
the fidelity to prototype,
it's often described as.
Your personal tolerance
for how much whimsy
you're gonna have on your
layout, in your models.
- You have people
who do scenery.
You have people who
love doing buildings.
So you have artists,
you have architects,
you have
people who love to
play conductor.
- There's a whole side of
the hobby about operations.
So instead of just running
the trains around the layout,
you start running them the
way the railroad ran them.
Which means that
there were rules that
you had to comply with.
There were train
orders that were issued
that governed the
movement of trains.
You had to wait
while the conductor
walked back from
uncoupling the car
before you could
move the locomotive.
So there's a whole set of,
aspect, to the
hobby, if you will,
that's focused on operations.
And there's some people
who just love to do that,
and that's all
they ever wanna do.
- I enjoy operation.
I'm one of these guys
that goes to these
half day or day-long
operating sessions.
With the cards and the routing
and the dispatchers,
I love that stuff.
- There's a lot of
people that'll build
switching layouts.
Which are generally small
shelf-type layouts that
become puzzles.
And you try to get,
you try to create
what actually happens
in the real world.
You try to solve the
problem of getting
cars from one place to another
in the least amount of time.
- I like trains
that are weathered.
And that means trains that,
rolling stock and locomotives,
that look as if they've
been through the elements.
They have dust on them,
they're not perfectly washed
and gorgeous.
They don't look like they
come right out of the box.
I like to add a certain
level of detail.
- Extreme weathering is
cars have been out there
for years, on the rails.
beat up, faded.
And then a lot of
us have taken it
to that level, you
weather the cars,
to make it look exactly
like the prototype.
- There's a whole tribe, I
like to call them tribes,
of model railroaders
that do subways.
And mass-transit type things.
- Most of the thing for me,
is making accurate models.
Whether I get to actually
run the trains or not, eh.
I do once in a while,
a couple times a year.
- I'm fascinated by the
passenger train industry.
And of course, that's why we,
the Coachyard specializes in
nothing but passenger trains,
famous passenger trains
of the United States.
That's my fascination.
It was an era of travel that was
a very unique, very stylish,
very elegant.
You had the various first
class versus tourist class,
but yet the dining
experience was fantastic.
The lounge experience.
It was just a great
way of travelling.
It was a much slower pace
than how we travel today.
- [Voiceover] The
comfort has increased.
They're trying the
Pullman appeal.
- [Voiceover] Many
model railroaders
remember the old days.
Even if they didn't
actually experience them.
History is such a big
part of the hobby.
- My grandfather,
whom I never met,
because he died when
I was six months old.
He worked on the railroad.
So I grew up
and have grown up
with this image,
this sort of lore...
- Actually it has got
all Pullman fittings,
but it was actually
built in Canada.
- There was an old
Pullman car parked in
that area where the tracks were.
And I just would
have all of these
images of being in the
Pullman car, riding the train,
through the night somewhere
to some distant place.
A couple of times
we met some people
who I believe lived in
the car at the time.
And they took me and
my brother through
and they showed us
how everything worked.
They pulled down
the fold-out beds
and they showed where the...
How the sinks all worked.
And then they showed
where you sat.
And it was just,
for a kid who was,
maybe, seven, eight
or nine years old,
it was just fascinating.
- I got into railroading,
I think,
because of my brother.
My brother always loved trains.
He was in the Navy.
And this is in the late 50s.
He came home on a 30-day leave.
And he brought home a number
of HO gauge brass locomotives
that the Japanese had
begun manufacturing.
The Navy would
shell Korea.
(intense music)
- [Voiceover] Spring is
a bloody time in Korea.
- And the battleships
and the large cruisers
would come back to port.
And they literally would shove
the brass gun shell casings
over the side in the harbor.
And the Japanese sent
out their pearl divers.
And they dove down and retrieved
the brass gun shell casings
and took them back and
melted the brass down
and made them into
things that they
could sell back to the sailors.
Brass models of ships,
and brass models of trains.
So my brother came
home with a whole bunch
of these beautiful brass models.
Which, at the time,
were the latest and best
that was available in
HO scale railroading.
And we decided to
build a layout.
- I have been a model railroader
since I was a small child.
Starting with a wind-up train,
and then a first
simple electric train,
which I still have,
at home, and it's
still operable.
And then I went to
finer and finer scales,
finer level of details
in my trains.
And now I am what I'd call
a scale-model railroader.
I come by this honestly,
my grandfather was,
worked for 56 years for
the Santa Fe Railway.
And his father before him
and even I worked
for the railroad
in the 1960s, out of Chicago,
working my way through college.
So I did a little
railroading myself.
And it's just always
been a part of my life,
and my family's life, as I say,
for a couple of generations.
So I guess there
was no way for me
to really escape from trains.
Had I live, grown
up, somewhere else
other than Chicago,
the railroad capital
of the nation.
Let's say had I grown up
in Boston, or Nantucket,
I'd probably be modelling ships.
But I model trains.
I picked 1954.
The railroads were
all at their heights.
There were many
different railroads.
There's something
going by right now,
in the background.
And that is music to my ears.
- You've gotta have
that drive in you,
that bug that keeps
saying, "A train!
"I hear a whistle, I
hear one, where is it?
"I gotta go see it."
- The Strasburg's coming in.
(train bell tolling)
The locomotive will cut off
and move ahead to a switch
and then back down the track
and couple up on the
other end of the train
for the trip to Paradise.
It's a four and a half mile run,
it's called the
Railroad to Paradise,
or you can call it the...
(train whistle blowing)
You can call it the P and
B for Paradise and Back.
- [Voiceover] It
goes to Paradise?
- There's a little
town in Pennsylvania
called Paradise, Pennsylvania
and that's where it goes.
Paradise, Pennsylvania
is usually joined with
two other towns, or
sometimes three other towns,
to make a sexual joke.
There's a town
called Virginville,
there's a town called Blue Ball
and there's a town
called Intercourse.
So if you do from
Virginville to Blue Ball
to Intercourse to Paradise,
it makes a certain
kind of warped sense.
- Well it's hard
not to be interested
when a steam engine goes by.
I mean those things are alive.
They pant and they
moan and they whistle
and they chug and they
chuff and they creak.
And you just can't ignore a
steam engine when it goes by.
And I think
Americans in general,
because we're a
product of history,
we weren't born here,
except for Native Americans,
we all showed up from somewhere.
And so we have a sense
of where we were before
and we have a destiny.
And that's Europe,
that's Africa,
that's China and that's Japan,
and that's everywhere.
That's the beauty of America.
(train whistle blowing)
(awe-inspiring music)
- [Voiceover] For most people,
trains tap into something deep.
- I think if you scratch a
lot of model railroaders,
what you will find,
right under the surface,
is, in many cases, we're
trying to re-create
a special time and
place in our own lives.
- I was born and raised
in the Kensington
section of north Philadelphia.
And I was within walking
distance, north of me,
of the main line
of the Pennsylvania
Railroad, which ran,
the passengers ran from
Washington DC to New York
and all the western
freight trains.
And if I would go the other
direction from my home,
I was close, within
walking distance,
of the Reading Railroad,
which was a big coal hauler.
They brought the anthracite
coal from the coal fields
in Pennsylvania down
to the Delaware River,
where they were
loaded onto steamers
and plied up and down
the eastern seaboard,
the Gulf Coast and
even South America.
- I grew up in
northern New Jersey,
in a town called Phillipsburg.
Phillipsburg was a
big railroad town.
In its heyday, I
think there was like,
five or six railroads
that all converged
into that town.
It's actually right
across the river,
the Delaware River,
from Pennsylvania.
So we're really
close to the border.
Bethlehem Steel was close by.
And Phillipsburg was a big
industrial town as well, so,
hence the railroads.
- Well Sacramento, of
course, is the launchpad
for the Transcontinental
from the West to the East.
But even before that,
before the Central Pacific
Railroad got started here,
pretty much right
where we're standing,
the Sacramento Valley Railroad
got its start here as well.
Just a few years before the
Central Pacific started.
- Railroading is what
linked the country,
the golden spike at
Promontory Summit.
That magic hasn't gone away,
it is still pretty cool to see
a mile-long train zipping
along at 60 miles an hour.
Less cool at 10 miles
an hour over the road
that you're trying
to get across,
but, it's pretty neat.
- Now, when I grew up,
back in the late 50s
and the early 60s,
we didn't have the
security we have today.
So I used to get on my bicycle
and I would ride down
to the local yard,
which was probably about
10 miles from my house,
and you could just
walk into the yard.
Watch the engineers
switch the cars.
Go to the engine terminal,
watch them on the turntable.
Always fascinated with this.
- I actually grew
up along the lines,
a main line for Conrail.
That was the first step that
brought me into the Conrail.
But it wasn't until much later,
like around the
mid-90s, early 2000s,
that it really took off.
In fact, there's
actually a funny story.
When I was younger,
my parents were
restaurant owners,
but two blocks behind
the restaurants,
is the main line, is
the same main line,
from where my parent's,
you could see from my
parents' apartment.
So I was about,
maybe five or six.
I kinda snuck out and the
weather was nice, it was warm,
because I kinda snuck out and
went down a couple blocks,
just plopped myself
on the park bench
to wait for the
trains to come by.
Of course, when my dad found me,
it wasn't the greatest
thing in the world.
At least it was fun
to be able to kinda
run away for a little bit,
to be in my own little world.
- [Voiceover] All of us are
born into a world of rules.
It takes most of us
a long time to learn
how to live in the
world of grown-up rules.
That's what childhood
is all about.
- [Voiceover] Washing up of
the more conventional kind.
A chore that comes
'round about once a week.
Obviously excellent training
for future husbands.
- [Voiceover] Then one
day, when we're grown up,
the rules we follow are our own.
(jaunty music)
For some, the rules
are pretty intense.
- Some people want every
detail down to the last
bolt and rivet.
Those purists are
very often called
rivet counters.
- My primary focus
is really a lot,
the super detailing,
the rivet counting.
- I'm one of what
the people call
a prototype guy, I'm the
guy that counts rivets.
I know that a specific boxcar
has a specific door with
a certain amount of ribs,
certain amount of ribs,
and certain amount of ribs,
separated by a rivet panel.
I know this.
Yeah, prototype modelers,
what you call us dorks.
It's, I don't know, some people,
it bears with it a kind
of respect to some.
an eye roll from others
that we're worried
about silly things that
don't really matter.
And if you put it
into perspective,
none of this stuff matters.
- Over the years I've become
more and more,
I suppose obsessive is
the only word for it,
in getting a finer
level of detail.
One of the things is,
I like taking photographs
at close quarters,
of models.
And so I like
photo-realism, if you will.
I like getting in
close with a camera.
And so I think,
it's not true with
every model railroader,
but there's a
certain group of us,
who really could use a little
more prozac in our diets.
Because we are
obsessive-compulsive about
a certain level of detail.
That would be me on some days.
Not everything,
but with specific
models, absolutely.
- I would say every hobby
gets a different portion,
share of obsessives who become
obsessive about that hobby.
And so we certainly have ours,
but I don't believe
that you have to be
an obsessive to be good at it,
or to be interested in it.
- [Voiceover] One Mecca for
obsessive model railroaders
and rail fans alike,
is the the Tehachapi Loop.
(energetic music)
The Tehachapi Loop,
connecting southern California
with the San Joaquin Valley,
is a helix, or spiral,
on the Union Pacific Line
through Tehachapi Pass.
The Southern Pacific
Railroad built the loop
in the 1870s to allow
trains to climb and descend
in less space than would be
needed without the helix.
The Tehachapi Loop
is represented
on layouts around the world.
It's a real unique section of
rail that's out there
and we were able to
put it in here in N scale.
This is a pretty close
representation of
what the Tehachapi
Loop looks like.
And it's awfully
cool to see a train
snake over itself on that.
- [Voiceover] There may be
no more famous depiction
than that on the La Mesa
Club layout in San Diego.
- [Bill] We find ourselves at
the Tehachapi Pass area.
(serene music)
- [Voiceover]
Cablevision by Elders.
- With me I have two
distinguished guests.
Here we have John Rotsart,
who is the Director Executive,
or the Executive Director,
however you wanna look at it,
of the Model Railroad Museum.
- [Voiceover] The famous San
Diego Model Railroad Museum
can trace its origins
to the early 60s,
when a bunch of young
guys who loved trains
decided to start a club.
We had some issues on,
just growing up.
And not
creating mayhem.
Because the
city of La Mesa
had an abandoned
firehouse building
in downtown.
Nebo Hall, on Nebo Drive.
And we requested
the city to give
the firehouse
to us
as a model railroad area.
So we were basically
street legal
to that extent.
By the late 1961.
- [Voiceover] Eventually,
the La Mesa Club,
learned to play by the rules.
(slow instrumental music)
With a half century of history,
they can do whatever they want.
There are a million ways to
be a model railroader today.
You don't even have to
declare your loyalties.
Though many do.
- There are some people who,
like the kid we
all knew in school
who memorized every
statistic of every
baseball player out there.
And there were some who only
dealt with a single team.
I'm interested in
the Santa Fe Railway,
and in a certain part of the
Santa Fe Railway in 1954.
So you might say I'm
only interested in those,
to use the comparison, I'm only,
used to the home
games the Chicago
White Sox played in July
of 1954.
So that's how
specific I've gotten.
And that means I only have
to have a certain focus
and I only have to have a
certain amount of knowledge.
I can't identify
half the locomotives,
most of the locomotives
that are running
out there on the tracks today.
In 2013.
I don't know what they
are, I don't care.
I have some passing
interest in it,
but I'm interested
in what ran in 1954.
And that's the extent of my
knowledge and all I need to know
and all that really
interests me.
I've narrowed my focus and my
knowledge in that respect too.
Which is great,
because my little brain
has only enough room.
- The funny thing about
prototype modelers
is that we're just
like football fans.
If you're a prototype guy,
you like your
Burlington Northern.
Or I like my Burlington,
the 1971, that's what I do.
And anything in 1972,
I don't do it because it
didn't happen with this stuff,
it's too new.
Anything before that,
yeah, it could be.
But the stuff after it,
1975 Burlington Northern?
It doesn't work with this.
But it's like a
football fan in that
a Kansas City
Chiefs fan is never,
on his worst possible day,
gonna be wearing
a Raiders shirt.
Or he's never gonna be wearing
a Cleveland Browns shirt.
He may wash his car with
the Cleveland Browns shirt,
but he's not gonna wear it.
And the same thing
with train guys,
is they're loyal
to their railroad.
I probably wouldn't be wearing
a New York Central shirt,
I would wear a Burlington
Northern shirt,
I might wear a Great
Northern shirt.
SPNS shirt, maybe.
- I want my stuff to run
and look very realistic.
But I also want it to run
in a realistic setting.
So I've done my homework
and I know what this railroad
that I'm modelling looked like.
I grew up in one of the
towns that I'm modelling.
I did not grow up
in most of the towns
that I'm modelling so
I went back to Indiana
and Illinois and I
went to the libraries
and I went to the
Historical Societies
and I knocked on doors.
And I met a lot of
big German shepherds
when people didn't
want me there.
It's all part of the fun.
- Because I model
a certain period,
and in a certain area,
I will try to evoke that
area as much as possible.
With the vegetation,
the color of the earth,
what crops may be grown
in the nearby fields,
all that sort of thing.
It's all part of the research
and all part of the fun.
- [Voiceover]
Photographer Steve Crist
is a well-known rail
fan, and researcher.
Crist is as committed to
preserving railroading's past
as he is to documenting
its present.
And he's sometimes
surprised by what he finds
in the images he scans
for historical archives.
- I recognized it
as being from the
1989 celebration
of Union Station.
And I recognized it
because I'm in the photo,
right there.
This is also under
consideration for our book.
Fortunately we have
the original negative
also from that same collection.
- [Voiceover] Like Steve Crist,
Jack Burgess, a retired
civil engineer for the city
of Newark California, is
a committed researcher.
But unlike Crist, he
works in three dimensions.
Everything on his layout,
even down to the
paint and wiring,
accurately represents the
Yosemite Valley Railway,
as it was in August, 1939.
- 25 years ago I had a couple,
a brother and a
sister, visit me,
that lived upstairs in
this building in 1939.
Their father was
a section foreman.
There was no agent at the time,
normally an agent
would live up there.
And they told me what
was in here and so forth,
and told me about the
buildings along here.
They also told me
that they had a radio,
they remembered having a radio.
And I had thought about,
when I was gonna
detail this building,
putting the radio in there.
But I thought man,
you're in the middle
of this steep canyon,
it's probably a 2,000
foot deep canyon.
Very steep walls.
The road goes back and
forth back and forth,
climbing all the way
down, even today,
and then climbs
up the other side.
And so I didn't put it in there.
But then later they told
me that they did have it.
And then many years later,
I come across another photo.
And this photo, which
was taken about 1942,
I got a print of the
original negative,
which was only about the
size of an index card,
scanned it, blew it up.
But look real carefully.
Here you can see
their radio antenna.
So they were absolutely correct.
If I was modelling 1942,
I would also add these.
These are service stars.
And that would show
that whoever lived,
was living here at that time,
had two boys
serving in the armed services
overseas during World War II.
- I want my trains
to sound realistic,
I want them to
run realistically.
I want them to be
a simulator of what
really happened at
some point in time.
Some people define the
time as August 1939,
one of my friends has got
it that narrowly defined.
One of them is actually
modelling a day
that he has a lot
of records for.
Some people model a year,
I'm modelling the fall of 1954.
Others model, let's say 1955.
Others model the
1950s, or the 1970s.
You can be picky about that or
you can ignore it completely.
- I model,
what's typically
southern California
into Phoenix, Arizona area.
So you've got the desert.
And it's Union Pacific,
it's a former Southern
Pacific Railroad line.
Now taken over by Union Pacific
and that's what I
have, strictly modern.
It's really modern,
so whatever's new,
I'm trying to get for my layout.
- I've been, in the
past 20 or so years,
I've narrowed my focus
down to modelling
the Burlington Northern Railroad
in Western Oregon
in 1971.
- I'm working on Cajon
Pass during World War II,
which is kind of an unusual
area for most model railroaders.
Cajon Pass is the,
one of three gateways,
into the Los Angeles basin
in southern California.
It's located just northwest
of San Bernardino.
Two railroads come
through the pass,
Santa Fe and Union
Pacific come through.
Burlington Northern
Santa Fe today.
Southern Pacific is
nearby at Colton,
and Pacific Electric ran
through that area as well.
- There's guys like
Jack Burgess who model
the Yosemite Valley
in September of 1939.
And he doesn't add
anything unless
he can find a picture of it.
- You might say, well that
is crazy and over the top.
But one of the
great things about
narrowing into a specific period
and specific
railroad is you don't
have to buy everything
that's out there.
So it really focuses your hobby
and focuses your collection
on things that are
appropriate for your period
and for your railroad.
I run a branch line railroading.
This is a smaller
scale railroading with,
based mainly on freight
and what you might call
mixed trains, trains that
knit small communities
in America together
once upon a time,
before the interstates.
And so,
it's a very specific
sort of thing,
but it really makes for, to me,
more interesting
modelling because
I can say no to a lot of things.
Being able to say
no to a lot of what
is out there is a
very good thing.
- This is,
maybe typical of
model railroader.
Some will say not.
We have traveled
around the world
and visited many model
railroaders homes
and some have much
more than this.
And, of course, some
have a lot less.
So this is typical of a model
railroad collection, I think.
- I have a lot of
equipment that I've
collected over the years.
I also have a lot of kits
that need to be built.
So there's more than
a lifetime worth,
and I obviously don't
have a lifetime left.
But there's plenty
to keep me busy.
But to me,
it's sort of like the journey is
more important than
the destination.
The doing of it,
the creating of it,
the modelling of it
is more important
than finishing it, getting
it done, if you will.
And just enjoying the journey.
Is kinda what it's
all about for me.
- [Voiceover] Creatives,
control freaks,
and obsessive world historians,
you are not alone.
Of course, some of
you would like to be.
- Some of us are joiners
and some of us are not joiners.
- I don't even know
an N-scale guy,
I don't have any friends
that are N-scale guys,
not because I don't like them,
we just don't have
anything in common.
It's like five or six
different factions
and we're not rivals in any way,
we don't dislike
each other, but,
we just probably
wouldn't hang out
with each other because
he's a Lionel guy,
he's an N-scale guy
and I'm an HO guy.
And even some of the HO guys...
Kinda fit themselves in a
little box and don't come out.
Or I'm a prototype
guy so I don't even
talk to those ready-to-run guys.
We're all the same guy.
- There are two different
kind of model railroaders.
There's the people that
get involved in the
NMRA and they join these clubs
and they get together,
the camaraderie.
And then there's
the lone wolves,
and a lot of them are,
what I call, the lone wolf.
There's a lot of
people that are,
I'm not gonna use
the term nobodies,
because everybody is somebody,
but they're individuals.
And they have, I know people
right here in Pasadena,
they've got beautiful layouts
that no one even knows about.
They don't open up to the
public, it's just for them,
and their own
personal enjoyment.
- I'm a real lone
wolf kinda guy.
I'm not part of a club.
I don't have a group
of friends who I
operate with and
that sort of stuff.
I just enjoy doing it myself.
It forces you to get
out of that comfort zone
and meet some other people
and talk to some other people.
Have some people
do some articles
and that sort of stuff.
And now it's to the point where
the social aspect of the hobby
is really enjoyable to me.
And that's something,
12 years ago,
I would have never thought.
- I've tried to do
this all by myself
and not tell anybody.
So I said, this
time I'm going to,
find some good modelers
and have them advise me.
That's when I discovered
that there were
about five or six that live
very, very close to here.
And they could not
have been nicer.
- Being part of a club,
you have many, many
members with many skills.
If you have a problem,
you can consult with them.
- I went to get
a drink of water,
and I left the bell on.
Nobody could figure out
how to turn the bell off.
So it was driving
everybody crazy,
just sitting there going
ding ding ding ding.
- I mean, you can easily
get lost as a little,
individual island if you're
a modeler all by yourself.
Being in a club,
you have access
to people who have
kind of specialized sometimes,
in a particular skill.
So we have, in our club,
a guy who's very, very
knowledgeable about DCCs,
or a DCC guru.
We have somebody who's
really good at wiring.
So any kind of problem you have,
you can go to,
somebody in the club
will have a good answer for it.
- But generally speaking,
you have groups focused
around railroading.
You have groups
focused around specific
aspects of model railroading.
And you have groups
focused around
the history of the railroads.
- [Voiceover] Some clubs
have permanent layouts.
Others have portable,
or modular, layouts.
- [Voiceover] A
modular layout is
a series of four-foot tables
that are stretched around a room
with curves and everything
that you can imagine
and with some
accessories on the top.
(upbeat music)
- Some groups seek to model
a certain area as a group.
Let's say the southwest,
the midwest.
And so they try to maintain
a kind of consistency
in what they model.
Here, it was working
on Apache Canyon.
I belong to a group called
Southern California.
It's a southern California group
and most of our topography is
the same.
That is it models central
or southern California.
And so there's a
kind of consistency
from one module to another.
That bothers some people,
other people it doesn't.
We wanna give free
rein to people
in modelling what they want.
I mean, we don't
want necessarily
abrupt changes
from urban to rural
right next to each other,
that sort of thing.
We don't want a
farm right next to
oh, let's say a steel mill,
that kind of thing.
So we avoid that sort of thing
and within our own group,
we vet our choices.
We'll say to each other,
"Look, what we really need is,
"a 90 degree curve.
"And we wanna keep
it within this
same geographical location.
And so we talk to each
other and make sure
we're communicating
with each other.
As opposed to merely
building anything we want.
That's within our own group.
I think of our
layout in particular
as kind of a Whitman's
Sampler of layouts,
because we don't have such a
tight tolerance in terms of what
the modules can portray.
So you can go from one four
foot or six foot section
to the next and kind of be in
a different kind of layout.
So if you don't like the layout
that you're on right now,
just wait a few
moments and you might,
things might improve.
- One of the things
that's interesting to me
is to see that, in
model railroading,
people still have a
sense of community
at a time when,
as Robert Putnam pointed
out in Bowling Alone,
people are more
and more of their
personal time is
spent privately,
is spent in small...
Or spent in
pursuit, isolated pursuits.
This is a hobby that tends to
bring people together
in the community.
Many of us, through the hobby,
end up meeting people
who we would not meet
through our work life or
through our social lives.
So, in effect, I end
up having contact
with a much broader
spectrum of people
than I would through my work.
Form some fairly
deep and long-lasting
connections with people.
So because I belong to a
club that meets every week,
there really is a whole
community of people
with shared interests,
that I'm part of.
My sense is that I talk to a lot
of my colleagues and friends,
they don't have communities
like that in their lives,
they don't have those
kinds of connections
to some ongoing
community of interests,
outside of their work.
- [Voiceover] So what is the
future of model railroading?
(quizzical music)
- This is going
to sound callous,
but I'm not sure I care.
It's a hobby.
And it's not something
for everybody.
It's not like a religious cause
that we're trying
to convert people
to become model railroaders.
- There's a lot of
doomsday predictions
that it's going to end.
And with the higher amount
of prices and everything,
I think yeah, it does
look a little grim.
It's hard for someone
like me to tell
a 14-year-old kid, "Hey!
"Why don't you go out
and buy that locomotive."
And the locomotive's 300 bucks.
That's a hard pill to swallow.
I know when I was 14,
you couldn't get me to
buy a $300 locomotive.
I know of a million things
I could've bought then
for 300 bucks, and
it wasn't trains.
- It's kind of
expensive, it can be.
I spend,
I think I spend maybe about
$2,000 a year on trains.
Two to three thousand
a year on trains.
Three on the high side.
- Everybody's been predicting
the end of the hobby
for years now and I just see
more and more stuff coming out,
so somebody's buying it.
- I'm not so sure that
it's as dire as all that.
I do think
there are, we have a couple
of junior members in our club,
for instance, that do have
a huge interest in trains.
And are the standard-bearers
for the next generation.
It may not be as big
as it is right now,
but there are certainly
a lot of interesting
new technical aspects
that make it less
of an old fashioned,
sort of fuddy duddy hobby that
you may think it might be.
- [Voiceover] A tyke
trying his hands
with David's electric trains.
Next year, the
Eisenhowers will spend
Christmas day in
the White House.
- [Voiceover] Technology
has received a lot of blame
for breaking down
society and making people
islands unto themselves.
We probably won't give
up our smartphones
and tablets anytime soon.
- [Voiceover] Down here
are the function controls.
- [Voiceover] But
we can adapt them
to our own created worlds.
- [Voiceover] I can turn the
headlight on the front him
off, and then I can
turn it back on again.
- We're now starting
seeing things
where more and more
interface between
mobile devices, smart
phones and computers,
and I think that's gonna help it
with a generation that
grows up with those.
- I think the future's bright.
We are getting more and
more into the technology
of the area in which I live,
Silicon Valley.
And so we have now a digital
world in model railroading,
basically in our
control systems,
which is extremely interesting.
We've integrated
computers into it.
We now have, you can
take your iPhone,
and run your train
using your iPhone,
for example, or Android.
- One of our junior
members a few months ago
had a tablet out and
was putting together
trains in the yard like
a pro with his tablet.
- The first computer
game was invented
at the MIT Model Railroad Club.
MIT has a model railroad club,
and in 1961, while
they were playing
with some surplus
electronic equipment
that they'd scavenged,
they created the
first computer game,
video game, called Space Wars.
- I do know that the
kids who are interested
in model railroads,
and there are some,
are very quick to adopt all
the new technology around it.
I know there has been,
have been a couple of products
that were train simulators.
I don't know how
well they've done.
I think one of
the challenges is,
kids don't have
the same exposure
to railroads that they used to.
So while they may
be interested in
a car racing simulation,
a racing game,
they're less likely to be
drawn to a train simulator.
And the other thing is that
one of the things that
tend to be about conflict,
whether it's athletic
competition or combat.
No one's yet come
up with a train game
that sort of has
that piece of it,
which I think is big
part of kids' play.
It's not the only
part of kids' play,
but it's a big part.
- One of the things
I think we're gonna
do more and more
are simulations.
There's a company in,
I believe they're
based in Australia,
called Trains, T R A I N Z.
And they have a
simulation software
and you can get
into their library
and you can actually build
a mythical railroad.
You can have like a grid
and you can reach in
and pull up some of the
grid to make mountains.
You can grab a bridge
outta the library
and install it and grab
a steam engine or diesel,
put it on the tracks.
And you can run the train,
you can be in the cab
of the locomotive,
you can be flying along
beside it in a helicopter,
you can be standing up on
a mountain looking at it.
Even if you don't wanna do that
as a full-time simulation thing
like a pilot would do,
have a flight simulator,
you can use it to test
run your model railroad.
- The really cool
things you can do with
technology, for example,
using your cell phone
to control a train
from another place.
I've actually
heard a story where
this one guy has a layout
where the dispatcher
is in Alabama, but the layout is
somewhere in
Northern New England.
Like Maine or something.
- What we'll do
is, we'll log on,
and I'll mark up
to run engine 70,
and Perry will mark
up to run engine 55.
And somebody else
in Pittsburgh will
mark up for another engine.
And we'll have
maybe a dozen guys,
all of us online, networking,
running a railroad.
Now is that model
railroading or not?
you're using your hands
to build these things.
So I would say, in a way,
it is model railroading.
But I don't think
the hands-on type model
railroading is gonna go away.
(jaunty music)
- Model railroading, supposedly,
is a kind of old-fashioned
hobby, it's not.
- Some of us lament
about the fact
that it's not taken seriously.
- The cliche, I
guess you could say,
is that model railroaders
are usually white, old men.
- Today I was talking
to a gentleman
who was showing a module,
and I asked if he'd built it.
He said no, my husband built it.
And I thought that
was great because
that's not something you
would've heard five years ago.
Granted, they're both
still white males, but,
it's still an improvement.
- When you think
of model trains,
we all have this vision.
And you know everyone
does, it's not a secret,
we have this vision,
it's this older white
guy with glasses
and his train hat
in his basement.
Little weirdo doing the trains.
And that's what's
portrayed in the media,
that's what portrayed
in the movies
and TV shows.
= I think what a lot of people
think about model railroading
is that it's only
about the trains.
In some ways,
I think the trains
are no more or less
than a delivery
system for emotions.
For me,
it's a feeling.
A time when I was a young boy
and everything was possible.
I model a time in post
World War II America,
when we were the greatest
power on Earth at that time.
When nobody bought a car that
wasn't made by General Motors.
When trains were made by
General Motors as well
and the American
Locomotive Company
in Schenectady, New York, ALCO.
A time when my
grandfather, a railroader,
a person to whom
I was very close,
was still in the
prime of his life.
What I'm evoking
through my trains,
is a kind of feeling.
And a kind of emotion
and a time of my life
that I loved very much.
And I think at the heart
of every model railroader,
you will find
something like that.
It's more than just
the trains, believe me.
- Model railroading is
really more than just trains.
- You know, you just
have to open up.
And be aware that there's a
lot of new stuff around you.
- Find your passion,
and just follow that passion,
whatever it is that
really interests you.
- Model railroaders, by and
large, are a bunch of nerds.
We're a bunch of
geek type of guys,
but no more so than
the computer guys.
We just like making
stuff and watching trains
roll around a layout and,
again, being able to create
stuff with your hands.
- Us geeks, we're
not afraid to just
go have fun doing this stuff.
- A dork's a dork.
I mean, we all have interests
and we're all a little that way.
I pity the guy that isn't.
Doesn't have interests
that would push him
over into the semi-dork
category, you know?
I'm a dork.
- You're kinda born with it.
- As I say, it's never too
late to have a happy childhood.
- That's how warped
model railroading is,
we're okay folks, really.
- [Voiceover] Whatever the
future of model railroading,
it may not be the world
as you want it to be,
but that's okay, you
can make your own.
(awe-inspiring music)
(slow instrumental music)
(robust music)
(train whistle blowing)
(conductor murmuring)
(train horn wailing)
Be yourself.
Do your thing.