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Points of Articulation

Poe Ghostal
The Great Train (Club) Robbery

Toys are about fun and imagination - something collectors can often forget. When everything is a licensed property with clearly defined characters, your figures stop having adventures and start being simply re-creations of what you saw on the screen or page.

Being inflexible in your thinking is not simply the domain of we action figure fans, however, a fact we were reminded of recently thanks to this Twitter thread:

Had a little moment just now where I remembered how much I loved the Hobby Show in Toronto. 

Picture ComicCon. Now add model trains and remote controlled boats. AND comics. AND prop vendors - to this day I regret not buying an Aliens pulse rifle cast from the original prop.
I did model trains with my dad at least in part to go to the Hobby Show every year. And I integrated whatever I found there into our model trains, much to the chagrin of the Erin Mills Model Railroad Association.
See, it was the kind of train club where everybody builds a section of track and then at a show you can connect them all together and have a massive model rail line. 

My four foot section was particularly great.
I built a detailed little downtown cityscape with restaurants and apartments, but then I bought a bag of rubber animals that were much too large and had them ransacking the city. 

The octopus on top of the apartment building, clutching a Volkswagen, he was my favourite.
Many members of the Erin Mills Model Railroad Association complained about the content of my section of track. 

So I bought a bunch of Battletech mechs, rigged them up with fibre optic lights and miniature smoke generators, and had them take on the gigantic mutated animals.
Yes, I spent months rigging fibre optics and building little circuits to make lights go on and off at random, and yes I really did rig up little smoke machines. They were tiny heating elements and you'd use an eye dropper to put little bits of oil on them, which burned off.
Surprisingly, this did not placate the Erin Mills Model Railroad Association.
So next I went out and got a lot of rescue vehicles, and added first responders saving the people in the city from the giant robot / giant animal brawl. 

This made no one happy.
I was presented with an ultimatum at the next meeting of the Erin Mills Model Railroad Association: I could make my module "realistically prototypical," or I could be barred from participating in shows. 

Now, let me tell you a little about "prototypical".
They gave my dad a real hard time at a show, because he had both stainless steel silver-sided CN rail passenger cars, and also some of their later black, white and red paint scheme. 

"You can't run those together. That's not prototypical," was the complaint.
My dad, who loved these guys but also could not stand them when they got persnickety, went on a seemingly endless monologue where he ridiculed this idea. 

"My father worked for the Railroad for fifty years," he started.
"I remember the day he came home and said to me, 'You'll never believe it, Bruce: they painted EVERY ONE of the passenger cars overnight while we slept!'"
He went on for ages along this same theme, how the Railroad had managed to do a logistically impossible thing in mere hours, instead of the two year rollout they had planned for strategically refitting and repainting the cars in waves. 

Eventually they gave up.
I figured if my dad could get them to back down, I could too. And I could do it without giving a single thing up on my section of track. I would make them accept my rubber animals, my robots, my smoke and lights. 

And friends, I did.
I accidentally started a revolution in the train club.
I bought an incredibly tiny miniature of a man using a movie camera. I put him beside the carnage. 

I added a tiny director's chair and a couple of airstream trailers. 

It was a movie set.
There was a lot of sputtering at the next meeting when I unveiled my updated section of track, but no one dared to suggest that movies were not real. One person suggested that there were no movies where robots fought monsters, but I was prepared for that.
I brought a VHS copy of Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, which I offered to play for them. I also showed off my new Japanese commuter train that I had saved up my money to buy.
Finally, they had only one demand - that I make it clear with some text that this was a movie studio. 

I used our brand new laser printer to make an incredibly tiny CLOSED SET sign. I put a little bouncer-looking gentleman beside it.
So, that revolution in the train club?

Turns out for years these fun stealers had been forcing changes on other people's sections of track, and I inadvertently gave them ALL a way out: tiny movie company signs. 

I printed dozens of them. We used them to counter every complaint.
The best was a man who had built a magnificent Old West stretch of track that the club leaders were concerned was "too far out of the era we are trying to portray".

Movie set. Done.
Anyways, that's the story of how a bunch of adults who should have known better tried to make 12-year-old Aaron have less fun and instead led to me having way more fun. 

Because if it's a movie set then the Batmobile can totally be coming out of this hill under this mansion.
So here's the thing: people are asking if there are pictures, the module is still mostly in one piece at my parents' place. It still exists! I promise, the next time I'm out there I'll dig it up and take some pictures.
I did love making tiny trees and spray painting ground up foam to make scale grass - I've thought a lot about making a mountain pass for my slot cars, but I'm not sure I have the time or space. 

Maybe I'll tell this story to my kids and see if they want to build it with me.

What an amazing story! And how joyless must those modellers have been to stop their fellow fans from being creative with their own sets? You can see the thread for yourself here. If he does share any pictures, we'll update this page to let you know.

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