Last weekend, after an 'absence' of several years, I helped run one of the Model Railway layouts working at our Little Train Show. Over the years I have travelled with layouts, my own and club layouts to Invercargil, Timaru and Christchurch to help provide a better show than just what the 'local guys' can come up with. Layouts which because of the originator's own ideas are a little different.
I do this principly to help raise funds for the host club but the thing I remember most is the happy faces of children as they are introduced to the idea of model trains, the sheer enjoyment as they either stand on chairs to look at layouts wrongly designed for the operator's convienience, or else held in the arms of Dad or Mum, or often this year it was grandma and grand dad, I guess mum and dad working to make ends meet or just to have a little rest from the kids.
One of the problems of course is the wish all children have to TOUCH and this is a NO NO as far as modellers are concerned, the trains are expensive and easilly de-railed, the layouts the result of many hours of painstaking work. Some years ago our club was given a sheet of plywood onto which a scale image of a railway had been pasted. I organised legs and edging and laid three rings of track to match the image. Other clued up members built a triple control system with separate timers for each circuit. The first few years we ran this we charged/asked for a 50c donation with total proceeds going to a child charity. These days, years, it is just open slather as the kids roll up.
As far as touching most children are pretty good and understand the 'no touch' rule. Perhaps they have not learnt to dis-obey their guardians. I remember one little boy, happilly standing taking in the layout I was running. I was obviously just a little nervous and kept an eye on him, out of the corner of my eye etc. But he didn't touch UNTIL! Grandma came back and in his enthusiasm he pointed to something on the layout ... WHAM ... grandma's hand came down on his. I was very sad at this un-needed smack.
Another time I was running a railway at "Santa's Cave" and an older boy put something on the track .. silly idiot he didn't look around to a few feet away I was keeping an eye on things. I just coughed, or something like that, and he looked up at me and promptly removed the stick or something he had placed on the track.
But these are isolated cases from hours of running.
While a lot of club members come along every week to run their trains on club layouts, clubs do not have many or any trains of their own, for others it is the creating of a miniature piuece of railwayania which is the main point of their interest and keep on adding to layouts until there is nothing more to do, whereupon they start building another. I guess I fall into that later group and only run for the benefit of the Club.