If you are looking for a new hobby – or a part time job with no paycheck… read on!
Folks with limitations or disabilities often feel left out when it comes to finding something fun or different to do for a hobby or a truly creative project. Some of us are just not that athletic anymore – or perhaps never were. Years ago I tried wheelchair basketball, and I discovered I was no better shooting hoops from the chair than I was when I could run up and down the court! Oh well. I tried knitting and soon began to despise that. I am not into things that tedious, and I hate being near the end of something and having to rip it all back out because I dropped a stitch 2 days ago. So, I quickly gave up on becoming a knitter.
I have always enjoyed painting and sculpting and have just recently found a way to take that to a whole new level in a different place… creating scenery for our local Train Station that we are filling with model trains.
Back in 2009, we heard that the local RR was going to burn down our ancient Train Station… it was over 120 years old and had been abandoned for over 50 years. The roof leaked, the steps were broken, windows smashed out – I mean, what do you expect from 50 years of disuse? But the wood in it was still sound – except for the roof, and in fact, it still smelled like turpentine when we cut some of the boards when making repairs. Quite honestly, the new wood we have used to repair the place is just inferior to the 125 year old stuff we had to remove. Back then, 2x4s were actually 2x4. Imagine that!
Anyway, long story short, I got on board with trying to save the Train Station, and finally, after many years of hard back breaking work, we are at a point of finishing the building and making it handicapped accessible. As a lifetime member and member of the Board, I have tried to make sure that every part of our station is usable for someone in a wheelchair – with the exception of the attic, of course. We have been blessed with getting grants to help us to do most of this work, and most of the work has been done by volunteers. You can follow our progress on our Train Station blog: http://onley-spots.blogspot.com/. We have received grants for the biggest jobs, but our ramp was funded by 2 members of our group.
Inside the station, the train layouts are somewhat accessible to someone in a chair. Sadly, it has been a bit of a battle trying to get things the right height – if you have not been stuck in a wheelchair, it is hard to understand the limitations. Needless to say, there will always be limitations. But, some layouts can be made on a small scale and completely done by anyone who has fair eye-hand coordination. This N scale layout was done in sections on my dining room table, and placed in a cabinet for display in the office of the Station. It is accessible to someone in a chair to work on or if the train jumps the track.
The layout table for the next size up (HO) has an area where wheelchairs fit comfortably in one section, and hopefully, we will be able to lay our own track and build our own scenery and control our own trains.
The next size up is called O – this is the basic Lionel size train. This particular layout is not as comfortable for working, its size limits accessibility, and this layout is just a couple inches too high making one really stretch to reach anything beyond the first line of track. One could make scenery for different areas but would need help placing things on the layout. The controls are not all accessible on this layout for someone in a chair – another reason I, personally, love the smaller scales.
This has been my first experience with Garden scale trains (G scale.) This mini diorama is an illustrative piece to go with the book set, the Boxcar Children, that we will be using with our little kids during our Read Along Hour. This is made with foam pieces fitted together and painted. I use ordinary acrylic paint – it works best for me, water clean-up, fast drying time, and thus works pretty good for the slightly older kids and adults. You are limited by your imagination only. The trees are trimmings from bushes in my yard… there is always something that needs to be trimmed, and I save those pieces instead of throwing them out on the compost pile. The gravel is actually kitty litter, and the ground cover is moss, also scooped up in my yard. Twigs, pebbles, crumbled leaves, dried flower petals all make wonderful natural looking scenery. The best part of it is, I am able to get these things free and glue or shove them in place on the foam board.
Buildings can be built from cardboard, balsa wood, or kits can be purchased and glued together, painted to suit your scene or altered to suit your mood. People and animals can be added to make your scenery more interesting as well as cars and the usual junk you might see laying out in the yard. Again, you are limited by your imagination – or your budget as these kits and figures don’t come cheap.
The good thing is, if you find a place like ours, those kits, paints, bags of moss and other fun things are available as are the trains, track, and general tools for putting this stuff together. Someone will have already trimmed their shrubbery so there will be tubs of twigs and branches for trees. Eventually, (may I say soon?) we will be able to have classes in making and painting scenery. I hope to include making people and animals out of Sculpey.
You need pretty good eyesight and coordination to work with the smaller sized trains, but the larger size trains, O and G are easier to handle and not as fragile. Scenery on the N scale often needs to be placed with tweezers!
We are in the process of adding on what I call the Rugrat room where we will have Brio and Thomas trains for the little ones, a reading center, and a work space for making and painting scenery or having meetings. This room will also have an ADA compliant bathroom when it is finished. This will be Santa’s sitting room in December when his train arrives at our station. The first year he came, we had to put him under a tent IN the building because the roof leaked so bad and we were having some serious rain!
Ah, what progress we have made, and even tho I cannot get up on ladders or climb under the big layouts, I still feel I have been a valuable part of the team that got this project going and hope to be a part of the classes we will have for kids and adults regardless of their abilities as we move forward. So, wherever you live, check around and see what is available. It might be something you have never thought about doing, but if they have a ramp, go up it and check it out! You might be surprised!