OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThose of you who have read a lot of my work – is there anybody there? – may have noticed several stories based on the idea of model railways. I like toy trains, and a good friend has for years been taking me to model railway shows. I have written here before about my theory that the model railway is another form of narrative, and indeed this has been the metaphor standing behind those stories.

Recently, he took me to the Maryport exhibition of more general models, among which there were two or three excellent model railways, busily telling their stories. I took a few photographs, small snippets of the lives that were implied in various vignettes I found. The background to the layouts in which they were placed, these little incidents, caught like snapshots, are the stuff of narrative.

In the pictures I have chosen to include here, two are war stories, and two from everyday life. The scenes raise all sorts of questions, and offer all sorts of possibilities.

What are the guys talking about? What have they just done? What are they about to do? What’s on their minds? The guy with his hat pushed back for instance. Has he had a liquid lunch, and is he giving the man in the uniform a hard time?And who are those two guys on the bench in the background?

What, and who they are, of course, is the murky citizens of our of subconscious, of our memories, and hopes, and fears.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve written about a half a dozen stories based on model railways, seen and imagined. The Cold Blue Morning of Gidley Jones is one such. It was taken – and this surprised me – for a reading by Liars League in London, and you can access that online. Also, it forms part of the collection Talking To Owls. A much shorter flash fiction, The Scale of the Disaster, appeared in an Earlyworks Press anthology. Train (Coming Round The Bend) – the title taken from a chorus line in a song on The Band’s Last Waltz – appeared in the self-published collection Second Time Around, which I did back in 2006. There were a few stories in that collection that I was particularly pleased about – over half of them had appeared somewhere or other previously. Train, had not, but my writing buddy, Kurt Tidmore tells me it is one of the two best stories he’s read of mine, which tempts me to put up a reading of it on Vimeo. I’ll give you a nudge when I do!

A reviewer of TTO was enthusiastic about Gidley Jones. I’ve been surprised by these responses, coming as they do, from people who don’t overtly share my interest in the source of the metaphors! But maybe that validates the idea in itself, that these intricate models are a form of narrative, and a source of inspiration for narrative.

Perhaps even, like the more traditional photographs of landscapes, and townscapes, and portraits that are so often used in writing workshops, these little pictures in three dimensions can be used as ‘kickers,’ or at least ‘nudgers’, for original short stories of their own. Have a go, if they take you that way!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA