When I was little, I went to the store with my father and grandfather. When we got to the checkout counter I noticed grandpa was carrying a large, flat box. It looked to me like a train set. I said so. He told me, "No, it's a tool." I was pretty sure but I knew better than to argue. So we got home and eventually I was presented with a completed oval train track on a cut wooden frame, complete with an engine, boxcar and caboose. I was in little boy heaven.
Of course, it set in motion a train of events (I know, terrible) that would culminate in my brush with death during an ill-fated Model Railroading experience.
As I grew up, I became more and more interested in Model Railroading. Please note, this is not the same thing as "playing with toy trains", though that is considered by some to be an effective entry point for new aficionados. Check out this terrific Wikipedia entry on Model Railroading a.k.a. "Rail Transport Modelling".
Later on in life I convinced dad to spend some money on some serious Model Railroading equipment. He got me some HO scale track, cork roadbed, an MRC Train Control, and my first two model (as opposed to 'toy') road engines. One was a Burlington Northern GP38-2 and the other was a Canadian National F7. (The links have pictures.)
I was on cloud nine. I remember gleefully nailing cork roadbed to the ping pong table downstairs and running crazy track work everywhere. Seeing my locomotives in action for the first time was spellbinding. Here's a short YouTube Video of Model Trains running. Here's another video showing a model train operating at accurate scale speeds, with a working traffic signal light system! And if you have no life whatsoever, here's yet another video of the longest model railroad train I have ever seen, complete with terrific sound effects.
So I was running my engines down a stretch of track one time, and since I didn't have a camera handy, I used my eyes as a camera. I watched the trains from above, from track level, from in front, from behind, every angle I could think of. Of course, it didn't take me long to exhaust all the safe angles and start coming up with dangerous ones. I suddenly had a vision of watching the train from the track level, as though I were standing on the track. Brilliant!
I contorted my body so that my face was mashed against the track as hard as I could, and I got my head twisted around so I'd have a perfect view of the train as it came towards me. I grabbed the controller and got ready for action.
I'm sure you think you know where this is going, but really you don't. There are two pieces of information you need to know. Then all will be clear.
1) Model Railroad track flows with electricity.
2) I wear metal-rimmed glasses.
With my cheeks jammed against the track, the edge of my glasses ever so gently made contact with both rails, completing the circuit. There was a horrible flash, a very bad smell and I remember trying to scream but instead spitting and shrieking like a epileptic with Tourette's.
My experiment with camera angles was over. I slumped away in disgrace.
But I still love model trains.
P.S. Here's a silly video of Model Train Wrecks that has to be seen to be believed.
Next Story: What's the Letter that Looks Like a Swiss Chalet?
Previous Story: Ice Cream, We're Gonna Get Ice Cream