Stillness by Rick Bragg

Night train through the SouthOk, this is kind of cheating to post this on my train site, but it is a great essay and really brings back the memory of trains from my youth, and my feeling for them now. A great way to head into the NRMA convention in Atlanta.

Then, sometime around midnight, I would hear it. The whistle came first, a warning, followed by a distant roar, and then a bump, bump, bumping, as a hundred boxcars lurched past some distant crossing. They were probably just hauling pig iron, but in my mind they were taking people to places I wanted to be. A braver boy would have run it down and flung himself aboard.

From Stillness by Rick Bragg, published in the July 2013 issue of Southern Living.

Model Railroading in the 21st Century

OK folks, a couple of weekends ago at a local tech conference, BarCampCHS, I proposed a session called “Model Railroading for the 21st Century”. The proposal received an overwhelmingly (and surprising to me) positive response. So, I delivered it and the folks attending really seemed to enjoy it. What’s more, I know for a fact that at least one person who had no prior model railroading experience went to the local train show the next day and bought over $80 in trains to get started!

I just wanted to know what you thought of the presentation, what I might add or change, of if I should leave out anything. I plan on trying to give it some more around town to reach the uninitiated.

Thanks!

Model Railroading Presentation

Early Cars

My first car was a 1971 MGBGT. While friends and classmates were getting Honda Civics, Chevy Chevettes, VW Beetles and various other mundane things, I held out. There was the exception of my friend Eddie Matthews who had a nice Mustang Mach 1, but that was primarily because his father had the good foresight to keep the car from earlier days, not because he chose to buy it.

But I waited. Waited until my sophomore year in college because I was determined that I was not going to have just any old hunk of metal. I was determined that I was going to have an MG. Now I will admit this was a bit unusual for me. First of all I was not really a car MGBGTperson. My parents weren’t car folk, I hadn’t been raised really appreciating different types of cars, and what cars were in my families blood were of the muscle and NASCAR variety. Second, I am a fairly impulsive person. I tend to get an idea and then act on it within say, the next ten minutes or so. For me to wait any length of time had as much to do with my financial situation as my single mindedness.

All of that as it may be, I had fallen in love with MGs. From the TCs and TDs that I had built models of, to the MGB of Stockard Channing that I got to drive on occasion as an errand boy, to the GT that I would see around town and was fascinated by, I had somehow gotten that British car disease that is both inexplicable and undeniable. And I still have it to this day. I have branched out beyond MGs to Austins, Triumphs, Land Rovers, Jensen Healeys, Vanden Plas, Jaguar and tons of others, but my first love will always be MG.

That first MG was a burnt orange 1971 BGT. While most other people would have gone for a convertible, there was something about the hard-topped coupe that always struck my fancy. I could kind of had a back seat, though that was not so important to me, and the hatchback made for lots of cargo space. But it was really something about the lines that caught me. The BGT just has a sleekness that the roadster does not have. When I saw that car on a local used car lot I knew I had to have it. And much to the chagrin of my father, have it I did.

My mother was a bit more light-hearted and saw the car as fun and interesting. I think my father just saw it as impractical, small, and problem prone. All of those things may actually have been true, but I loved the car anyway. If love is blind, then British car love is dumb, deaf, rose-colored and oil-stained. And head-over-heals, bat-crap crazy.

Man, I miss that car. (Not the one in the picture, which is not mine. Mine looked almost exactly like that though, right down to the wire wheels.)