How Lucky We Are, or The Musings of a Psuedo Olde Farte
I have only been in the live steam hobby for around 2 years now and every time I think about it, I realize how lucky we are to be active in what has to be one of the greatest hobbies in the world. What makes this hobby great is not the fact that we recreate, with fine detail, some of the most powerful machines ever created, but the fact that we can share our hobby with friends, family and others that are not so inclined, in particular the young ones, that maybe some day will grow up to be live steamers themselves because of their fond memories riding our trains.
While I have had many hobbies to keep me busy over years, ranging from stamp collecting, model railroading (O gage), amateur radio, photography, SCUBA diving and a host of other interests, for the most part they were hobbies that were internalized and not easily shared with people not already participating in the hobby. Yes I can show people my photos, or stamp albums, or let them watch me talk around the world etc... but none of these activities ever brought sheer joy to the observer.
In our hobby we have the best of all worlds I think. We can internalize it to our hearts content, spending thousands of hours building that museum quality miniature replica of a Big Boy, enjoying the hobby from that standpoint, however we can also share our hobby with the public in the form of train rides that are truly unique. The smiles and sheer joy I see on our young riders faces makes this hobby one of the best there is. Give a 4 year old the most valuable postage stamp in the world from your collection and he or she would probably lick it and stick it on something as they could not understand the value,but give him or her a magic miniature train ride and you most likely have created one of those fond memories that will stick with them the rest of their lives. Perhaps when they grow older they will even venture into the live steam hobby, remembering how much they enjoyed it in their youth, keeping the hobby alive, providing the next generation with those magic train rides.
With the world moving so fast with digital this, plastic that and artificial everything, there is something very real, something magical about a live steamer. It represents a link to the past that opened this country up, expanding it from coast to coast. There is nothing artificial about running a live steam locomotive down the tracks. It is a very special, and rewarding experience and one that when shared only makes it that much more special.
Over the past two years I have been to a few Fall and Spring meets, primarily at the Riverside Live Steamers and at the Orange County Model Engineers. I think what impressed me the most was the level of friendship and helpfulness by the members of these clubs to a "newbie" in the hobby. Everyone's willingness to share their knowledge, experiences, techniques, war stories and camaraderie is a big part of what makes this one of the greatest hobbies. I look forward to when our club will be in the position to have a spring meet and invite all of our live steam friends down to share some good times at our track.
In another month I will have my 55th birthday, not really old, but no spring chicken either. Definitely more birthdays behind me than in front of me, that is for sure. "Playing trains", as some like to call it, has awakened my inner child, pointing me in new directions, keeping me active, meeting new people and learning new things while seeing the wonder in them. It would have been very easy to crawl into my cave and stay a "workaholic" which I am sure would have shortened the number of birthdays yet to come. Another reason why this is such a great hobby and why every time I go play trains, I think how lucky we are..