‘N-gauging’ your Christmas Shopping: indoor leisure and model railways

by Fiona Ferbrache

There are three shopping days left until Christmas and if you are short of ideas of what to buy children, why not take a look at the “Top Toys for Christmas” (Which?, 2010).  This year, “tech gizmos” and electronic gadgets feature heavily, but certain items may remind you of your own wish lists to Santa.  Take a look at the Top Toys of years past (see, Toy Retailers Association); do you recall the popularity of Teletubbies in 1997, shelves full of Ghostbusters in 1988, and 1984 as the year for Care Bears?  The yoyo appears twice in this list of favourites, in 1929 and 1998.

Another popular item is the train set:  In 1914, Hornby manufactured its “0 Gauge” clockwork model trains, while in 1925 it released its first electric train.  1981 saw Lego launch an electric train set, popular on Christmas lists.

Model trains are not just for children, as highlighted by Yarwood and Shaw (2010).  They show that railway modelling is a serious hobby that reflects the identities of its participants – producers and consumers – and involves the construction and running of scale-model trains on layouts comprising track and scenery.  Yarwood and Shaw draw on railway modelling as an empirical example of indoor leisure – hobbies and crafts that “have been neglected by geographers” (p.425).  Listening to the stories that modellers tell about their railway layouts, these geographers argue that model railways, and the way in which they are practiced, deserve closer scrutiny as active forms of representation engaging participants with particular spaces.

As you see, even a Christmas shopping list contains elements of geography.

Yarwood and Shaw (2010) ‘N-gauging’ geographies: craft consumption, indoor leisure and model railways. Area. Vol.42,4 pp.425-433

Which? (2010) Top toys for Christmas 2010 revealed. Which? Guide Online. 29 October, 2010

Toy Retailers Association. Online. Accessed 10 October, 2010

1 comment

  1. First off, N-gauge is absolutely the best size model train in my book. Just yesterday I was strolling through my local hobby shop and was impressed by the increased amount of model train stuff since my last visit. I went to a model train show a couple years ago and it was absolutely packed in the middle of a winter snow storm.

    Of course I also debated getting a new yo-yo a couple days ago; instead I settled for a ball in a cup!

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