If the definition of the word utopia is “What you want to become true just becomes true the way you want it and this makes you happy forever,” so, yes, this is a utopia. Some people’s utopias consist of only a few model trains, miniature human, tree and animal figures that could be easily packed into a bag!

A club named Model Railroaders resides in an old apartment building’s terrace with a sea view in İstanbul, Kadıköy since 2006 and its doors open and close many times until midnight on each day of the week. Everything may sound normal up to this point but you notice the oddity as soon as you open the door slightly and realize that grey haired adult men are playing with trains just like little kids in there! 60 year old retired architect Haldun Bağbakan builds model houses and train stations by assembling the tiny pieces while the founder of the club 55 year old Harun Yamanlar exports manufactured supplies to the foreign markets and organizes special events only for club members. Another member as old as him looks for an essential piece in a rush to complete the layout. What they call a layout does not end with only a few pieces since the purpose is not just watching the trains go on the rails!

Model railroading starts with a foot long train
One of the patrons of Model Railroaders club 55 year old Kemal Omay has a locomotive collection consisting of 673 pieces. He also has 200 wagons that he rummaged around the world to include to his collection but his real passion is not to show case them; he reserved his living room for railroad layouts and worked every night on this project for nearly 4 years. His layout contains tens of miniature human figures, houses, snowy mountains, footprints on the snow, chair lifts and stations. As he states six of his friends, whom he met at the club come to work as laborers for him on the weekends. He pays his debts likewise to the needy. He also is an industrialist, his playgroup includes retired prosecutors, executives, and colonels, yet when these men get together their wives need to warn them to play without fighting! Their arguments are usually in the form of, “Those leaves are not appropriate for the season,” or “That guy’s clothing does not suit the train next to him,” because every layout has its own world.

According to Harun Yamanlar, the most difficult subject to deal is periods for the model railroading enthusiasts. Some work on coal trains, most of them adore steam trains, some of them are already experts on speed trains. The ones who work on vintage period are specialized in aging. They turn a perfect train that they paid hundreds of liras into a junk as soon as it is out of its box. When dealing with some task that they cannot manage, they ask for help from nearly 3000 active users of the club’s online forum. A member who lives in Eskişehir ships his train to another member in İzmir in order to have it aged and pays no charge at all for his service. They may have never met face to face but they know each other very well because they are both in love with same thing: trains!

Model trains are the replicas of originals
Model trains are one 87th the size of the actual trains. This is the most commonly used scale but it is possible to find the smaller or bigger scales. The one thing that never changes about them is that they are the exact replicas of the original trains from a gear to a door number of a compartment. Club members know the features of the models they possess by heart. In fact, Kemal Omay whose forgetfulness is well recognized among friends memorized some facts about each train that belongs to his 673 piece collection like in which countries they served, in which years, how to maintain them and their market values. He owns a valuable collection and he can sell any piece at any time with profit. To become a model train enthusiast you would not have to face with financial difficulties. You could start with a small budget and in a few years, you could own a train including all its surrounding details. One that smoke comes out of its chimney and the sounds it makes offer you peace. The one and only requirement is to go and meet those happy men at Kadıköy and tell them, “I like trains, too!”

Train means freedom!
One of the most important missions of model train enthusiasts is to popularize trains. Because according to those people a train represents freedom! Because while traveling by a train you don’t get stock in a small space like you do while traveling by car. You do not have to be on the road as if you have to be at the airport hours before your flight. The most importantly, you could turn the travel itself into a purpose.