I am not a great railway modeller, but I played with a model railway as a kid.
After years of hiatus, I have reignited this interest in a very modest way of late. Today, I entered into a model shop to acquire some couplings, a OO gauge point and a new ‘Annie’ coach to replace one stepped on a while back. If you don’t know any children who like model railways, this won’t make any sense at all. Let me simply state that I have recently set up a small model railway for one of my progeny, combining some Bachmann and Hornby track with a Hornby Thomas the Tank Engine, his coaches Annie and Clarabel and sundry trucks.
And then I saw something I just had to acquire. Model gravestones! I get to grin in a selfie with some Hornby Skaledale OO gauge mortuary monuments….
Why would I purchase these? What possible utility do they possess? What significance? Too small for teaching, too few for modelling really, I am not really sure why I bought them. I just had to have them, acquire them and pose with them. Tragic? Maybe. Odd? Probably. A bit sad? Undoubtedly.
I guess it amuses me in relation to my academic profession as a teacher and researcher of death, burial and commemoration in the human past. Human osteologists get to pose with bones all the time. Museum curators get to sprawl all over newly found and newly conserved artefacts. What do I get? Where’s my photographic identity for the digital world involving mortuary artefacts? I can stand next to monuments and gravestones, but for the indoor context, I don’t have a ready equivalent to the lab-coat toting bone-boffin. So perhaps here is my attempt to compete with cadavers and skeletons, a modest miniaturised world of death in the palm of my hand.
Perhaps one day I will create my own model railway with model megalithic tombs, Bronze Age barrows, Iron Age square barrow cemeteries, Roman tombstones, early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, and a medieval church… In the churchyard of the latter, I could put these!