I’m a Soldier. But unlike many who join the Army to get away, I never really wanted to leave my hometown. Sure, I wanted to see the world, and see it I have, from South Korea to Germany, but I have never really had much desire to live permanently anywhere other than Oklahoma. I knew that deep down within even as a 23 year old second lieutenant, a recent college graduate, packing up my little pickup truck and driving to Fort Benning, GA to report for duty.
That was nearly eight years ago.
Now, I find myself missing home more than ever. My wife is a Texan and echoes my feelings. We’re reluctant inhabitants of the East Coast these days. But we long for those wide open spaces, a land of kind people, strong winds, and good barbecue. A place where everyone says “y’all” and you don’t stand out for wearing cowboy boots to church. That sentimentality drives my modeling in many ways.
I got the chance to go home for Christmas, and other than a short 36 hr. dash home a while back for a good friend’s wedding, this was my first time home in 3 years. I feel especially blessed that we could make the trip during this pandemic. Amtrak roomettes are great for social distancing!
Don’t worry, stick with me, I’m getting to the musings about modeling.
I was reminded why I love home (and I sorta lump my wife’s beloved Texas into that “home” category now… shocking, for an Okie, I know…) and why I choose to model the Oklahoma prairies. The way I felt driving around or gazing out the window of an Amtrak train. The laughs with friends and family. The cup of coffee I shared with some railroad friends. Modeling, as an art, helps us connect with that part of our brain and that part of our soul.
I poked around windy, lonely farm towns and grain elevators, watched in awe as BNSF stack trains roared by, and quietly sipped a beer and watched the dark countryside fly by at 79 mph aboard Amtrak. Home.
I felt affirmed in my modeling endeavors with Farmrail, for sure. But coming home after a long absence allowed for some fresh perspective too. Here’s some things I started thinking about:
- I love modeling Oklahoma. But Kansas and Texas have factored importantly in my life too. My family largely lives in Kansas and some of my happiest memories are of “chasing trains” in Hutchinson, KS with my grandpa. Texas was my first home with my wife, and where I started my Army career. The visual components are very similar; have I limited myself by refusing to look at a prototype not far across the border? I’m particularly interested in the Wichita Terminal Association… grain elevators in an urban setting, and a terminal railroad that uses UP and BNSF power… what’s not to love?
- Speaking of trains that evoke emotion. Amtrak has often been important to me. Nearly all our vacations since my wife and I have been married have been on the rails. More importantly, when we were newlyweds, the train connected us when we were apart. I was stationed in Texas, my wife was finishing her law degree in Oklahoma. We took the Heartland Flyer to see each other on the weekends. Its a great little train, and I’d love to model it, especially in the picturesque scenery of Big Canyon. Of course, that means modeling the 20+ daily BNSF trains that accompany it… perhaps it would be more manageable in N scale?
- Is less more? I poked around the Blackwell Northern Gateway RR on Christmas Eve. The railroad has one or two on-line customers, but mostly makes its money on car storage these days. They run “as needed”, usually about once a week. I operate my layouts maybe once a week. Given the space, would peak realism be to model an even sleepier short line (Farmrail stays pretty busy for a small railroad)? Maybe stretch is out over a large space? Maybe go up to O scale, where my two strong points in the hobby, scenery and weathering, can really shine?
I’m not giving up modeling Farmrail anytime soon. I may not ever. But I’ve got one eye on the future, and I’m excited to see where it takes me. I might just have to take Jeremy Dummler’s advice and purchase an O scale freight car, weather it up, and see how I feel about it.
In the meantime, we’re in a full court press to get the Frederick layout mostly finished, because I’m about to have a whole lot less time for modeling. We are weeks away from meeting our baby girl! Lets see if I can get this last grain elevator finished before then. More on that later.