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A man who had to set aside his childhood hobby because of the demands of job and family has embraced it again now his children are older.
As a child, Adamstown's Col Bartley fell in love with model trains. He would spend hours watching with awe as the miniature locomotives huffed and puffed around a track.
But as he grew older, life got in the way. Mr Bartley married, had kids, and juggled the demands of his day job.
Time was too precious to devote enough time to his hobby.
Years later, with his children becoming independent, his passion for model trains reignited to the point where he is now an active member of the Newcastle Model Railway Club.
But the hobby is much more than watching toy trains whir around a track.
Mr Bartley spends months designing and building landscapes for his trains, often based on real locations.
A growing hobbyIn recent times, Mr Bartley said the hobby of model trains had grown.
There are now about 60 members in the Newcastle Model Railway Club, who meet twice a week at its Adamstown headquarters.
"It might be a reflection that trains have meant so much to Newcastle because of our coal and our industries, so there's a real interest in model trains in the Hunter," Mr Bartley said.
The group meets to discuss model trains and to build their latest landscapes.
"The hobby has grown; the amount of materials and the quality of those materials has certainly increased," Mr Bartley said.
"The age of computers is well and truly embedded in model trains these days.
"The trains have computer chips, so instead of just having one train running one direction on a track, these days you can have multiple trains running different directions with lights, sounds and all the associated operations that a real railway might have."
Using technology to add realismFor model train enthusiasts, there are different ways to design the landscapes.
'Freelance' layouts are produced when a person sources inspiration from a variety of landscapes — a hybrid creation.
'Proto-typical' locations are model landscapes built to replicate a real location.
Enthusiasts use maps of locations, as well as satellite imagery to accurately build their masterpieces.
In Mr Bartley's workshop, a model of a small English village with a network of tracks running through the town sits on his workbench.
"That's where the real skill comes into the hobby — creating that terrain to reflect the location that you're modelling, and then using the [correct] colours," he said.
"I've been at exhibitions and people go, 'Wow, that's my house, I grew up there', and that's fantastic.
"You go to a lot of trouble and effort to get to an exhibition. I travel as far away as Canberra, and some of the local guys go to places like Brisbane and Melbourne, so layouts have to be made to fit into a trailer or a van ... so you've got to think about those things when you're designing your layouts."
Mr Bartley said the hobby was special to him because it brought people together.
"People build layouts on their own. Other layouts are built where people come together, and a lot of layouts are actually family affairs," he said.
"With trains, a lot of us got into them when we were young, then as we get older, other things come along like sport and cars and family.
"But then when the kids grow up and the family leave home, a lot of guys find that box of trains they've got under the bed.
"It's a very satisfying hobby, and there's just so many different ways to enjoy it."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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