I don’t know why I was so upset when a group of 16 year old boys trashed the Market Deeping Model Railway Club display at Stamford, Lincolnshire back in May. They caused £30,000 of damage, destroying as they did some rare and utterly irreplaceable models. That over £107,000 had been raised by crowdfunding to replace the display, £10,000 of which came from pop crooner Rod Stewart, was a sure sign that there are far more good people than bad out there. I still felt very sad about it.
I have a thing about model railways and have had since I was a very small boy and my dad bought me a wonderful Hornby train set, complete with three engines, one of which was Mallard class locomotive Sir Nigel Gresley. I still have it in the loft and only wish I had somewhere to put it. For many years, it was my pride and joy as I watched and organised the set, switching the engines, changing the points and signals and – thrill upon thrill – moving my little tunnel around. (Yes, I did lie flat on the floor to see different angles of the trains going through it.)
Not a great deal of work went into my train set, but I would have been mortified if anything had happened to it. And to this day, I cannot pass by if there is a model railway exhibition anywhere in my local area.
Some people smirk at people who spend huge parts of their lives assembling their displays. I don’t. I envy them their patience, their ability and their feelings of joy when the whole thing is finished and up and running. Then, at the exhibition, the owners of the lay out mingle, fully of pride and joy, with interested anoraks like, well, me. Then a bunch of drunken kids turn up and smash it all to smithereens.
If I had been there when the display owners had turned up to see their work destroyed, I would have cried like a baby. I find that kind of love, that kind of dedication really sweet and moving. They don’t do it for money, they do it because it’s what they want to do pretty well more than anything else in life. They are me because they get the same kick out of watching the trains go round as I do.
I’m trying to be objective about all this because a small part of me can understand how young, immature people, full of Vodka, can do something stupid. But only a very small part of me indeed. No wonder their parents were “ashamed” and “disappointed”. They had every right to be. Seeing their boys sentenced today must have been humiliating.