He glanced at the knife: my most embarrassing moments as a model railway builder

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There I was happy in my own little world of model trains. And then I saw the odd expression on the face of a lady walking past. “No wait, I’m really not odd. I’m just doing this for my toy trains and this is my favourite alleyway for twigs”. You favourite alleyway?? Twigs??? Toy trains????

She scarpered faster than an Intercity leaving Paddington.

I hate to think of the story she must be telling her friends.

I was collecting twigs for making model trees. Twigs really add realism to my trees and I’ve discovered an alleyway just around the corner from me that has a row of bushes and trees on one side and where there’s always a wide variety of different sticks and twigs lying in the gutter.

It was while kneeling in this gutter, happily examining twigs, that the lady walked past.

There I was a grown up man madly shoving sticks into a laptop bag.

I have to admit it would have looked odd.

And then there was the moment I’ve come to call train terror.

I was travelling to Bristol for work. I do this regularly – it’s a great opportunity to take a peak at the train works around Didcot Railway Centre or Swindon Steam Museum if time allows – but I digress.

I was sitting at a table in coach B of the GWR HST. We’d just left Reading and I opened my bag to get out my laptop to write a few emails.

I reached in and felt something metallic in the bag. I fished it out and found myself holding a scalpel.

The guy opposite looks decidedly uncomfortable.

“Oh don’t worry, it’s for a train” I tried to reassure him.

He glanced knife and then at another passenger, his concern visibly increasing.

It took me a good few minutes explaining how I make model railways and the blade was for model making. Afterwards he was fine and we had an interesting chat about the hobby but for a few minutes there I suspect he was very close to running off and calling British Transport Police.

But these aren’t my most embarrassing moment.

No, that incident falls to a DIY store.

I use a lot of PVA for my layouts. Lots. And Lots.

And rather than paying inflated prices in model and craft shops, I use industrial quantities from a trade building store.

I’d dropped into the store to pick up more of the white gloop. The store was filled with large white-van builder type guys. I walked around nodding in a manly fashion at them, picked up the glue and plonked it on the counter.

The till operator, who looked like he could bench press a Ford Transit scanned the item. ‘What’s this for’ he said.

“It’s for a tunnel”, I said

And earned looks of approval from my fellow construction workers.

‘Big project! Water or ‘lecky’ another enquired approvingly.

‘Neither. Trains!’ I said.

Admiration spread across the store. I could imagine them thinking of Crossrail or Channel Tunnel scale building works.

“What you need PVA for on that” said another, joining in.

“It’s for gluing the little plastic tunnel entrances to the Papier Mâché” I’d said before I could catch myself.

“Do you know if this dries white, I don’t want it to discolour my olive green sponge bushes”.

Silence.

There was no way I was even going to try and explain this was for tiny model trains.

I handed over the money and left, disappearing behind a white van parked outside the store as quickly as I could.

These are my embarrassing moments in pursuit of our hobby, what’s sent you bright red?

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