Collector Series: Ross Hamilton’s train models
Ross Hamilton gives us a rare peek into his specially-built room where his collection of over 20 steam engine train models reside.
Once upon a time, steam-engine trains were the masters of speed that connected people and places across hundreds, even thousands, of kilometres like no other mode of transport can. So fascinated by their speed and power is Ross Hamilton, director of Asas Engineering, that today, he has amassed a collection of rail models and built to scale his favourite train station in the UK to continue reveling in their magnificence in an era when most of them have been phased out.
“Some people like cars, I like trains,” he tells matter-of-factly. “I like the power of it.”
It all started on Chistmas morning when he was 6 years old. He came skipping down from his room to a little train chugging along a track that circled the living room. Train models have enchanted him eversince and today, while he has progressed to more elaborate, more detailed models with equally bigger pricetags, the root of his passion remains the same.
“These are machines that ploughed through lands at over 100km/h in 1932,” he recalls affectionately. “Unlike cars, the designers of these trains could not incorporate wind tails, they couldn’t test to see how streamlined the trains were, yet here is the fastest mode of land transport.”
In this exclusive interview, he lets Malaysia Tatler take a rare peek into his specially-built room where his collection resides.
A small glimpse of youth
Over the past 30 years, Hamilton has collected over 20 train models, a mix of the N-gauge, 00-gauge and 0-gauge variety. He has also built a model of his favourite train station in the UK – the one in Berwick Upon Tweed – that spans across a workspace of approximately 10x5feet, with tracks that lead outside to circle his garden. It comes complete with homes, buildings and bridges, decorated with immense realism of trees, fish in the ponds and a pony grazing in the field.
“This is a town where my grandmother used to take us on holiday,” he gestures proudly to the mini town before him. “This is the exact model done to scale of the place. If you go to Berwick, you will see everything here. It is my favourite railway station and a childhood dream to have something from my youth to have now.” (swipe left for next page)
More than just a hobby
It is a space Hamilton has poured his heart and soul into. “When I first started, I can spend 2-3 nights a week in here,” he divulges. “I’ve spent the night, I’ve spent entire days. You lose track of the time when you enjoy your hobby so much.”
Things weren’t always so pretty either. He has had to re-do many aspects of it due to a lack of planning and a small fickle-mindedness on his end.
“I started out a little haphazard,” he admits with a chuckle. “I had to rip it up again because due to a lack of planning, I ran out of space. Everything has got to be in scale. It’s not easy because you have to fit something this elaborate into such a limited space.” (swipe left for next page)
They aren’t toys
The first thing one needs to understand about train models is that they are costly investments that require a lot of time and care (not to mention cost) to obtain. Creating the perfect environment for them so you can witness them run in their full glory is even more so.
“People think these are toys, but they aren’t,” Hamilton emphasises.
Each of his trains are hand-built and are obtainable only from the UK, where a dying breed of crafters painstakingly put them together down to the last detail. They can easily cost 3 times more than the generic mass-produced ones, due to the realism of each.
“There’s something majestic about it: the shape, the colours, the little details,” Hamilton points out. “Look at all the seats inside the carriages. And the noise that they make is very similar to the actual train.” (swipe left for next page)
Just like the real thing
Picking one up proved to us that it is heavy and incredibly solid to the touch.
“It’s heavy to stay true to realism,” explains Hamilton. “The heavier they are, the better they stick to the track, and the better they can pull carriages.”
A 12-volt electrical motor, fed with electricity from the rails by means of the wheels, powers each train. The direction in which the train heads and how fast can all be controlled via a grid that Hamilton himself wired and set up. He gleefully shares that he can have 2-3 trains running at once with his set.
“I get great enjoyment out of seeing them running,” he shares. “It’s just this amazing feeling, after putting in so much effort and seeing it working. The end result is the real beauty.” (swipe left for next page)
A step back in time
Over the decades, many steam engine trains have been replaced with faster, more efficient electrical trains. Hamilton holds on tight to his models as a way to relive one of his favourite times of life – when he still saw the world with the innocence of youth and things still had a human touch.
“The new bullet trains don’t have the character of these steam engine trains,” he says. “They’re nice, they’re efficient, streamlined. As an engineer, I can appreciate the working of it, but they don’t hold any interest to me. They don’t have the character.”
“I suppose it’s the era where I was brought up that makes me so fond of steam engines. To me this is my era.”
Check out one of the models in action:
(Video: Ross Hamilton)
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