What you can learn from E.T.

Can it really be 36 years?

It doesn’t seem possible but the epic sci-fi movie about friendship that is E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is 36 years old this year – written in 2018, it’s even older now 🙁

36!! Time needs to slow right down!

The movie came to my attention again the other day when I came across it on Amazon Prime during my train commute to work and it still holds a special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons.

Its central theme of loneliness and friendship resonated with the 1982 teenage me.

Its masterful storytelling and filmmaking artistry inspired me and set me on a creative path that in no small way led to this blog and the icing on the cake was a model train in its pivotal scene.

Yep, you may have missed it but as with most of Steven Speilberg movies (he’s a big train fan) it’s there.

He even chooses what is undoubtedly one of the most emotional and scariest moments of the movie to slip it in.

When I first watched E.T. this scene shook me up and I still think it’s one of the best and most intense scenes of any movie.

It’s got it all in a 2 minute roller-coaster of emotions: happiness turning to fear when mum sees ET for the first time; the heartstrings being pulled as Elliot is pulled away from his sick and dying friend; the terror and shock of faceless invader in the doorway, and the fear at finding all exits blocked as the intruders break their way in.  All set to a gradually imposing musical tempo and Darth Vader-esque heavy breathing perfectly topped off by the pressing warning whistle of the model train as Mum screams “this is my home”.


Whoever on the production crew set up the layout also knew about model railways. Check out the plastic pine tree (it’s in the far right-hand corner of the table) that doesn’t stand up straight. We’ve all had one like that!

So what can you learn from this?

The takeaway is not to build your model railways in a living space or room.

It sounds obvious but I’ve seen and heard of so many people who do this. Myself included in my younger years. It may be tempting and easier but please don’t do it.

Putting them on dining room tables and floors is just asking for trouble. Okay, maybe not a visit from NASA and the FBI but your trains simply won’t get on with the mess and dirt that usually occupies such spaces.

If you’ve ever spilt tea over a brand new Hornby train you’ll understand!

Instead, “be gooood” and create a dedicated space for them. You and they will be much happier.

Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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