Geographies in Miniature: Model Railroading's Relationship with Geography

Authors: Craig R. Laing*, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Topics: Cultural Geography, Recreational and Sport Geography
Keywords: cultural geography, model railroading
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The hobby of model railroading requires its practitioners to be versed in both physical and human geography. Efforts by modelers to create realistic miniature worlds require an understanding of natural landscapes, cultural landscapes, and regional differences to allow them to set their work in a recognizable location. Therefore, there is a relationship between geography and model railroading. The purpose of this poster is to examine this relationship in several ways. First, this research identifies states that are the most often, and least often, modeled by a content analysis of 28 years of Great Model Railroads, a yearly publication that has profiled over 280 model railroads. While hobby leaders have claimed that model railroaders model states with the highest densities of railroad mileage, this study shows a modest correlation between states modeled and the amount of railroad mileage in each state. This suggests that other variables account for why model railroaders model the locations they do. Using research from the field of nostalgia, combined with narratives written in Great Model Railroads, this research explores the role that nostalgia plays in explaining this. Second, this research describes specific examples from the hobby’s literature and work done by model railroaders to further elucidate the relationship between geography and the hobby. While most model railroaders do not hold degrees in geography, many of the discipline’s principles are understood and applied by modelers in their re-creations of the full-scale landscapes that geographers examine.

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