Mesmerised by the miniature

Mesmerised by the miniature

By Susan Prior

When you step into the room, a miniature diorama greets you – a perfectly formed village with semi-detached and terraced homes – complete with the obligatory outhouses – a gas works, a coal mine with its poppet head, a Norman-era church, and an industrial area with warehouses, all connected by a series of four rail tracks, sidings, shunt lines, bridges and tunnels.

Trains, all scale model replicas, whirr and hum through and around the different scenes. The men stand around the set, transfixed, watching the fruits of their handiwork.

What is it that entrances us, young and old, with the small things? Jonathan Swift knew it when he wrote Gulliver’s Travels in 1726; his book resonates with us to this day, as does Lewis Carrol’s ever-diminishing Alice in her Wonderland, written in 1865.

Dolls’ houses, miniature art works, bonsai, model railways: the magic of miniature is enjoyed by the inner child in us all. So, I was a little bit excited to be visiting the Cannon Hill Community Model Railway Club to see their new model-train layout, which has been a work in progress over the last year.

This club is a relative new-comer on the model railway scene. Members Peter Ball, Gerry Trejo-Larin, and Stephen Clair kindly showed me around their clubroom – which is housed beneath the Cannon Hill Community Sports Club, well situated for easy access to the bistro and bar upstairs when sustenance is needed. It is also air conditioned, which was a particular boon on the hot day I chose to visit.

It is also referred to as a 20 mm scale, where manufacturers use 20 mm for the height of the average male figure, but funnily enough it is only measured to eye level because it becomes impractical for figures with headgear.

The members have contributed out of their own pockets to set up the railway, which is all in the American 1/72 scale (where one inch represents six feet in imperial measurements) or the 1/76 British scale. These scales have become increasingly popular over the years for many miniature genres (think military figures, dolls’ houses, cars, and so on). Projects ahead for the club include the completion of this first 6 m × 2 m layout, after which another 5 m × 2 m layout will be constructed and connected. After that, the members plan to construct Brisbane’s best show layout.

It’s an absorbing hobby, encompassing a range of skills and creativity, not least of which, says Peter, are respect, patience and tolerance. Gerry seems to be the master modeller (although none of them are too shabby) and has been responsible for some beautiful and intricate scale buildings and scenery. Stephen says he is a bit of a rooky, whereas Peter has been ‘playing’ with train sets since he was a boy. When the layout is nearer completion, they plan to have an open day and barbeque for the public.

Left to right, visitor Brian McKenzie and founding member Peter Ball watch as the trains move around the track.

But you don’t have to wait until then to get involved. At the moment, there are about ten members, two of whom are women, and they range in age from five years’ old to retirees. Peter emphasised that they are keen to encourage younger members, including teenagers (the executive officer holds a Blue Card). The club can cope with up to about 30 members in the space they have available. If you want to see what they are up to they have a Facebook page (and I am told that a website will follow). 

Membership is $100 a year for ordinary members, $70 for social or pensioner members, $80 for father–son or father–daughter members, and $40 for junior and student members. Find them in the Cannon Hill Community Sports Club, on the corner of Lang and Princess Streets, on the bottom floor of the clubhouse.

You can drop in and see them every Saturday morning from 10 am. At the very least, I guarantee you will be offered a cuppa and a delightful interlude immersed in a magical miniature world. You may well end up finding yourself involved in an absorbing hobby with other like-minded people.

Walk-ins are welcome.
P:  07 3901 0261

Nancy on Nolan

Nancy on Nolan

New Guinea, Pearl Harbor, and the ever-resourceful NGVR

New Guinea, Pearl Harbor, and the ever-resourceful NGVR