Saturday, February 26, 2011
A couple of years ago I was approached by someone in the Children's Department and asked to do a model railroading program for the kids. I obliged and put together an elaborate slide show about real and model trains. The program went well enough, I guess, but it wasn't great. The presentation only filled the first 15 minutes of the hour. Worse, it went above the heads of many of the kids. I was aiming for 8-to-12-year-olds and most of my audience were much younger than that... [Picture a sea of strollers and you might get the idea.]
After I was done pontificating there was arts and crafts and a couple of loops of track that the kids could run some trains on; so not all was lost.
Fast forward a couple of years and I figured that the dust had settled. I expunged any evidence of the the slide show. Curmudgeonly, I have no interest in indoctrinating todays youth to model railroading.
Then, I got a phone call: "Hi Ron, are you still doing model railroading?"...
"Uh, yeah." I replied.
"Are you available to do a program for the Children's Department?"
"Sure." I said dumbly, and I was committed. Or should be committed, if you know what I mean.
I stipulated that my target audience is 8-to-12-year-olds and instead of addressing a whole auditorium, I wanted a smaller group... 30 kids perhaps...
So, what am I going to do? Why the hell did I say yes?! I was caught in a moment of weakness and now I'm bashing my head against my desk...
Alright, I can do this. Fake it 'til I make it. As long as I can get though the program without any tears or blood loss it will work out.
What to do???
Grandiose plans of having the kids scratch-build some rolling stock...
Scale that back a bit and have them build some card-stock kits...
So, how much do I need to pre-build and how much can they handle on their own?
Will they enjoy a challenging project or will they be frustrated and bored to tears?
What to do? What to do? What to do?
Well, the wheel-sets alone would have put me over budget and the weather is not conducive to setting up the table saw outside and running enough lumber to make the frames for 30 to 40 cardstock boxcar kits. Too much sawdust would be produced to do the job indoors in my Condo.
In the end, I bought up a pile of arts and craft supplies.
I set up a loop of track to let a train run and invited the kids to come up and make up another loop of track. It was all very hands on. Put the track together and pull it apart again. A paper-mache "mountain" and a good dash of potting soil.
Over the controlled chaos, I told the kids about different aspects of model railroading and how they could learn cool stuff about History, Geography and Science in a fun and creative way.
At the end, I gave them all the fold-up Box Car model to take home and build.
Half my HO rolling stock is trashed and mucked up with paste, but there wasn't any tears or blood loss...
So, by that measure it was a success...
As an end-note, the fold-up Box Car model started life as a Drawing on the Trainiax Website: Canadian National NSC 50-Foot 5092 Cubic Foot Box Car
Printed at 81 percent, it is more or less HO scale.