Sunday, July 5, 2020

COVID-19, Model Railroading and the Gateway Spur

Like many other things during the pandemic, the Gateway Spur has been shut down.

Unlike the real world, it wasn’t loss of traffic or customers or supplies or even to prevent the transmission of the virus.

It was simple loss of interest and energy.

It’s not like I wasn’t busy at other things; as a religion reporter for my local newspaper, my work continued unabated as I reported about the impact of the pandemic on faith groups.

And the little NGO I work part-time for had to do all sorts of recalibrations to adjust to the new reality.

I also started biking more, an hour or so each evening to stay fit and keep my mind off the loss of so many things because of the (stupid) pandemic.

I also read 8 or 9 books—a record for me. In normal times, it can take me a month to get through one.

But in other ways, the pandemic really weighed on me. Sports, concerts, festivals and so many other events all cancelled. Even if I was never going to go to or take in them all, I felt their absence keenly.

It was a sort of existential loss, a void that seems to last forever.

This lack of energy carried over to model railroading, I found it hard to be motivated to do anything on the layout.

I went down to the train room only a few times to run some trains—never mind think about doing scenery.

For me, the energy for the hobby just wasn’t there. Or for this blog, which I haven’t updated since April 22.

Am I the only one who felt this way?

I know some haven’t. People like Jason Shron of Rapido Trains has used the time at home productively to make some brilliant scenery on this layout. 

Which is amazing, considering he was also trying to keep his company afloat and keep three kids busy at home at the same time.

Others on the Canadian Railway Modellers group have posted photos of their modelling during the pandemic.

Since he’s in the higher-risk age group for catching the virus, Kevin Day stayed inside completed two kits he bought about 35 years ago.

Jon Calon of Calgary found a silver lining in the pandemic, noting a lot of sign shops and places that produce the clear sneeze guards are likely to be awash in scraps of material.

"Those scraps work wonderfully for model railway owners wanting to protect details and rolling stock close to the edge of the layout," he wrote.

"I just scored (free!) a couple of 8' long chunks of clear polycarbonate that are about 10" tall." 

Daniel Charest used the lockdown to add a mine to his N scale layout. This area was a piece of plywood before the pandemic started.

Nick Eh used the "COVID crap" time, as he called it, to model CP GP38-2 3031, a unit that brought back good memories from when he was a kid.

And good on John Strickland and the Mississippi Valley Associated Modelers in the Ottawa area found a way to combine social distancing with running trains by setting their modules up outside.

As for me, maybe things will change in fall modelling-wise. Summer always was a slow time, anyway. Perhaps things will be different in the fall for the pandemic and my energy. We can only hope.


  1. and us we kept producing video and fixing a major electrical problem on the layout, as for energy I am lacking some too when it gets too hot out there

  2. Interesting post, John. This pandemic has taken the 'starch' out of many, many things including our hobby. It's depressing. It's made many of us just shake our heads and think 'what else is next?' It's also made many of us aware just how vulnerable and fragile we all are in the vast scheme of things. But we'll all survive this in the end and model railroading will be our 'saver' (a term from the Ontario card game 'Euchre' not played much in Manitoba). For me personally, it's been taking one evening a week and making loads for flat, bulkhead and gondola cars. I look forward to that evening when I can get together with my modelling group and 'do my thing'. Thus far, I've make loads for about a dozen different cars. And a little "Dash Berlin" on the side doesn't hurt!
    Morgan Turney of CRM fame and currently retired.

  3. I've been similarly uninspired for most of the pandemic time. My biggest progress has been to stop feeling like I "need" to be productive... I'm not actually all that much less busy and I'm certainly more stressed.

    I've now done a couple of small low-key things on my layout and I've been happy with that.

    All the best!

  4. Hi John- Sorry to hear your not feeling 100% due to concerns about the Virus. I had open heart surgery -quadrupple by pass- back in April 2020 so now some months later I've decided to build a HO Layout- now in retirement and enjoying things- each day is precious. Best Wishes. KEV. (Sydney-Australia).