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Hobby Corner: A Lifetime of Loving Lionel Trains!

Originally posted November 21, 2018.

Hobby Corner: A lifetime of loving Lionel Trains!

America, reclaim your leisure time from social media!

Put down Facebook, TV and the shopping channels and reclaim your time and your well emotional well being! Hobbies are good for our mental health. Hobbies are creative outlets that exercise the creative parts of the brain. Time spent in an absorbing hobby promotes the healthy state of mind called flow, where you are so immersed in a creative process that time and space melt away. Hobbies provide a creative outlet, they make us more interesting, as new layers of knowledge and skill fill our developing selves our identities.

In my Hobby Corner, showcase people with interesting hobbies, people who don’t let Facebook, TV and shopping sites take up tons of empty time and space in their lives.

Today, I welcome Will Kenly, an aspiring young engineer who creates his own Lionel scale train cars as one of his many hobbies.

Q: You are very passionate about model trains. I understand that you have been collecting Lionel trains all of your life and that it is a hobby shared by your family. Share more with us about your hobby! How did you become interested in model (Lionel?) trains?

Let me give you a tiny peek at the train hobby my father and I share!

My dad was always interested in trains, it’s his passion. He shared the love of trains with his dad, my grandfather, when he was young as well! So, ever since I was a baby, I was exposed to trains. I have so many, many happy memories around trains!

When I was 2 years old, my mom bought a used plastic ride-on train at a garage sale. It had a small circular plastic track. She set it up in the dining room! I used to ride on it until I fell asleep. We have video of me going around and around the circle while asleep! We had, and still have, a Lionel train set up under the Christmas every year. We had, and still have, an HO train layout that my grandfather made. It’s on a 4’ x 10’ wooden frame. He built a 3-D landscape using paper mache, with lakes, a bridge and a mountain for the track to run along. He never painted it, but my mom and I painted it when I was 4 years old. The house we lived in at the time had a train room set up by the previous owner in the basement, He painted the ceiling sky blue with clouds. We put the HO set up in there. My dad bought some HO scale trains and we ran them several times a week for fun. But my real passion is Lionel scale.

Ever since I was an infant, we’ve traveled to New Hampshire for summer vacation. My Dad is from there. We love it! Every year, when I was a young boy, we’d go to Clark’s Trading Post and ride on their train! And, of course, we’d travel up to the famous Cog Railroad and ride on their steam engine! It’s not the same, now that the management has done away with the steam engines. Who needs a diesel? We don’t go there anymore. Now they only run one steam train a few times a week! No good!

I used to set up a large Lionel run in the front garden bed every spring. I leveled off the bed. I created a bridge feature. I set up the track and buildings and ran the track around the plants and pachysandra! People would always stop to talk to me when I was outside setting up or running the trains! A one woman who walked by said, “It must be spring, the trains are out!”

And that’s just a tiny peek at the train related activities we pursued as hobbyists!

Q: Were you always creating your own designs for model trains?

I was always messing around with track and drawing things on paper and then drawing on CAD packages.

Q: Tell me more about how you developed your idea for the model schnabel. How long have you been planning this design?

I’ve always loved schnabels, since I was a little kid. I dreamed about creating one. I loved the idea of designing and actually making one someday.

In high school, I did independent projects, designing and 3-D printing out parts for the teacher’s lounge coffee pot that was broken.

As a kid, I was always making things, with my Thomas the Tank Engine wooden set, my KNEX sets, my Legos and my Rokenbok layouts! There were layouts all over the house! I took over the sun room with my Rokenboks! My mom brought Legos with us even when we went out to dinner so I could make things. My dad and I were always in our shop, playing with small mechanical engines. Studying mechanical engineering was just a natural extension of everything I did as a kid.

Q: For our readers who don’t know much about trains, what is a schnabel?

I’ll look to Wikipedia for a working definition: A Schnabel train car is a specialized type of railroad freight car. It is designed to carry very heavy and oversized loads. It is engineered cleverly so that the load makes up part of the car. The load is suspended between the two ends of the cars by lifting arms; the lifting arms are connected to an assembly of span bolsters that distribute the weight of the load and the lifting arm over a large number of wheels.

The attractive part, for me, is the clever engineering techniques that were used to develop a way to carry heavy loads by rail. And, as a Lionel aficionado, I was always wanting a Schnabel train car to add to my Lionel collection!

Q: Is the purely creative process relaxing or fulfilling?

The creative process is so much fun for me. So relaxing, I get into the flow, and forget about time and space. As my mom the psychology says, it’s a very healthy state of mind and overall positive and healthy for a person to get absorbed into the creative flow and relaxing to the soul for a person to become absorbed fully into a creative process.

Q: And the iterative production process a bit more stressful?

Oh! I find the creative flow process so relaxing! But of course, the actual production, the actual fabrication of the train car is a long, iterative process. I had a big learning curve with the software. And it was a process, learning how different material reacts to the C&C cutting process! I cracked alot of wood and metal!

Q: Has your mechanical engineering education helped you?

Yes, it has. I love my studies!

Q: Do you have any other hobbies ?

I have so many interests and hobbies that I love to pursue! I love to ski! Hiking is a big favorite of mine and also boating on Squam Lake! The world is so interesting I don’t have enough time to do everything I love to do!

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m working on using different types of paints on my model now to see how I can put my logo on them!

Thank you for your valuable time & input!

America, reclaim your leisure time from social media!

Namaste, Kathy


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