Are model trains "toys" or not?

Inspired by one of Spender's comments in another thread here, I think this is a good topic for discussion in its own right.
Basically, Spender committed (in some folks' eyes) the cardinal sin of calling *all* model trains "toys". Well, I'd like both to suggest he's right, as well as suggesting the error of his ways.
Wait a minute--how can I have it both ways? Can I have my cake and eat it too?
Yes. So far as agreeing with him, that all models, regardless of how expensive or exquisite they may be, are toys, this is what I call the "man from Mars" view. Supposing a group of aliens were to land among us and study us; they would inevitably categorize our activities and possessions in various ways. One of the top-level divisions would be between things that are essential for life--food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care--and those that aren't. Model trains clearly fall into this latter category; hence, they are toys, in the most generic sense of the word. They're solely for amusement, for enjoyment. (The only people for whom this isn't true are the pushers--the dealers we buy our stuff from.)
But Spender really ought to be more careful around here, in this den of railroad modelers. Because despite the truth of the matter explained above, there clearly are distinctions to be made between the more obvious "toys" on the one hand (like tinplate, including a lot of the offerings in O scale), and what are rather mysteriously called "scale models" on the other hand, meaning anything that aspires to a higher level of realism or fidelity to the prototype.
Not that there's anything wrong with the "toys" (meaning the more toy-like models). To illustrate: I visited the California State Railroad Museum last week, and of course went upstairs to see the models. There are several displays and layouts in various scales. One of the largest is a beautifully-done O scale pike, probably larger than the average size dining room in an American McMansion.
So far from being realistic looking, this was done to perfection with all the stuff one gets from (I'm guessing) Lionel and MTH; the "grass" that looks like green fabric; the buildings that look like, well, plastic buildings. But the overall effect was quite enchanting, and one could certainly see how kids, especially, could be transported to a different world entirely if they were lucky enough to own such a "pike". Certainly not the kind of layout I'd ever build (or buy, even if I could), but one with its own qualities nonetheless.
So there really is enough to go around in this hobby, from the most anal rivet-counter to those who love to just play with toys.
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snipped-for-privacy@but.us.chickens says...

I think the difference can be stated simply: If a child plays with it, it is a toy. If an adult plays with it, it is a hobby and a model.
In short, the difference between a model train and toy is in the way it is perceived and used.
Personally, I don't care what you call them. Just don't knock mine off the track. <G>
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Ken Rice spake thus:

There you go. My take on it is "I don't care if you call them toys or not, just so long as I get to play with them".
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On Thu, 24 May 2007 11:03:47 -0700, David Nebenzahl

Thank God. As new as I am to the hobby, at least I have - if only by accident - offered something worthy of the group.

I immediately saw an error in my statement when I started reading this. I knew a man who used to buy every loco Lionel made, year after year. He had no track. All he did was unpack the trains and put them in glass cabinets.
So along with being toys, model trains can be considered art.
An old neighbor, I had lost track of him some 15 years before his death. Man, I wish I had been in his will...
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On Thu, 24 May 2007 23:30:56 GMT, Spender wrote:

Collecting beer cans and puttin them in display cases does not make them art. Collecting "Village 69" or whatever clunky and kitschy pottery houses the Franklin Mint or whoever makes does not make them art. Buying a sappy Kincade print with a few dry-brushed flecks of pale yellow-white does not make that art.
Collection mania may be more pathological than playing with trains.
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Steve Caple spake thus:

Indeed it is. Especially since it takes out of circulation trains that *I* could be playing with instead.
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In the humanities class I had to take in college, I got the basic idea that the text book authors defined "art" as anything you created with the intent of it being art. Wow, look at the boogers on the mirror. What do you mean that's not art? (I think I have a definition of art that works: Art is a non-mass produced item designed or displayed to evoke an emotional response from a general audience.)
Well, anyway I'm OT here again. Happens.
So, you be the judge: Is my G RS3 and boxcar display on top of the entertainment center art? Me? I call it a good place to store the stuff when I'm not using it.
Puckdropper
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Puckdropper wrote:

Any time you find that you are defining a word using that same word as the main definition, you've lost it!

Why can art not be a mass produced item? I think I know the answer, but I'm interested to hear your opinion. (I bet you don't hear that very often)
Take a painting - that would seem to fit your definition of 'art'. As the artist, produce a limited number of prints of that painting - is that still art? (my clients seem to think so) Get 50,000 prints made in China and have them distributed by a major chain store - is it no longer art? Ditto ditto at 50c a copy - still art?

Does it evoke an emotional response?

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Greg Procter spake thus:

Since you brought it up, that seeming contradiction is very easily disposed of. It's simply the difference between original art and reproductions. Nothing new, at least not since the widespread availability of printed reproductions, which goes back to the 19th century.
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On Sat, 26 May 2007 04:46:03 +1200, Greg Procter wrote:

By a broad definition, Kincade's stuff is "art" - albeit incredibly schlocky, on a level with Keene paintings of kids with huge eyes, or 90% of El Greco's output (ever been to Toledo?).
But for Kincade's McArt stores to take a print, have a "certified Kincade (r) highlighter" apply a few daubs of paint, and sell this glorified poster at original art prices, they've passed from the realm of art dealing to bunco artist.
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That's one of my many problems with the book & class.

What I mean by this is that the item called "art" must be somewhat unique. Selling reproductions of the item doesn't make the original any less art, but the reproductions are not art.

Not for me, but then I don't count... I'm too involved.
Puckdropper
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Even if that emotional response is outrage?
As to your locomotive, what if it evokes an emotional response from some, but not others? I don't kcare about an RS3, but get feelings of nostalgia when I see an old articulated steam loco battling a grade with a string of freight behind...
But to the original question, trains are toys to me... sophisticated toys, but toys nonetheless. But that isn't a bad thing other than the somewhat negative connotation that our society puts on "playing with toys." Is a person who hops a motorcycle "playing with a toy" when he rides? Probably, because he could easily take a car, bus or bike. But that isn't bad...
These things change... when frontiersmen lived on the edge of the wilderness, being a good shot with a rifle often kept you alive or put food on the table. But as that need for that skill became less & less, the guns they carried became more and more "toys." Few people today need to be competent with firearms, but they enjoy handling them just the same. The same could be said about many things... but those changes go both ways. There was a time when a personal computer was largely regarded as a toy. Today, more & more of us rely on them for many things other than entertainment or relaxation. As our needs change, so does the purpose of things around us.
My thoughts...
dlm
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wrote:

The military misses those days. In WWI & WWII, rifle training was nowhere near as difficult for the trainers. Most of the recruits had fired rifles before. Today, they are lucky if a recruit has even held a rifle.

So I'll refine my statement that model trains are toys once more. Model trains are also relaxation/meditative aids.
At least they are for me.
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"man from Mars" view. Supposing a group of aliens were to land among us and study us; they would inevitably categorize our activities and possessions in various ways. One of the top-level divisions would be between things that are essential for life--food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care--and those that aren't.<
This concept is really a Puritanism approach. That food, water, etc. is all that is required or needed for life. In our modern age I think most would say that we need forms of relaxation or our minds will figured something else out. What they would figure out most of us would not like! Under the concept that the human mind needs these things, they are not toys!
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I would say they are toys, or art to some. The origin of art in human culture was not a part if mankind's initial survival. It pretty much coincided with the development of cultures that manages to produce a surplus of food and water. That resulted in a situation where not every member of society had to work directly for life's basic needs.
In short, it was the birth of fart arounds.
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<snip>

Sorry, but I disagree with that absolute. Models come in all shapes and sizes, and used for all kinds of purposes. A model of an ship's hull built for hydrodynamic testing is not a toy. A model of a human torso built for doctors, or an architectural model of a nuke plant built for security exercises, or a model of an atom for a classroom are all _not_ toys. Just because something is built to a likeness of something else in a different scale (IOW, a "model") does *not* make it a toy. The purpose for which it was built is one of the things that makes something a toy or not...not the fact that it's a model.

Using that logic, that makes most everything a toy. Airliners are not essential for life. Does that make a 787 a toy?

So something that's solely for our amusement and enjoyment are toys? If I read books for enjoyment (say, a David Weber space opera, or a Dennis Lehane mystery), does that make them toys?

The "truth"? That sounds a teeny, tiny, little bit arrogant, don't you think? To label your own opinions as the "truth"? No offense intended, but I didn't know if that's the way you meant it.

Of course. One of the definitions of "toys" is that they were made to be played with by children. Lionel, American Flyer and the like (tinplate) were originally made for children. Therefore they are "toys". They are also models, but they are toys, too. Models like Atlas Dash 8-40CW's are *not* made for children with all their fragile parts that can be easily broken off, swallowed and choked on. It's a model, not a toy.
<snip>

Oh, there's room in the hobby for everyone (except for elitists like John Bortle, A.K.A. CNJ999...he can leave any time he wants. LOL Jus' kiddin' John. Mostly.).
To sum it up, you have the following definitions of "Toy" from www.m-w.com:
Noun - 1 obsolete a : flirtatious or seductive behavior b : PASTIME; also : a sportive or amusing act : ANTIC 2 a : something (as a preoccupation) that is paltry or trifling b : a literary or musical trifle or diversion c : TRINKET, BAUBLE 3 : something for a child to play with 4 : something diminutive; especially : a diminutive animal (as of a small breed or variety) 5 : something that can be toyed with 6 Scottish : a headdress of linen or woolen hanging down over the shoulders and formerly worn by old women of the lower classes
Intransitive Verb - 1 : to act or deal with something lightly or without vigor or purpose <toyed with the idea> 2 : to engage in flirtation 3 : to amuse oneself as if with a toy : PLAY <they're just toying with him>
Adjective - 1 : of diminutive size compared to a standard form or breed <a toy dog> 2 : designed or made for use as a toy <a toy stove>
Which one of the above do you think applies to scale model trains?
Paul A. Cutler III ************* Weather Or No Go New Haven *************
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Hence my feeling that unless a model is built with the intent of using it for some technical purpose in relation to the prototype, it is a toy (or art, to some.)
Model trains are built for the purpose of having fun. The only exception would be if the layout was classified as a diorama for the purpose of education.
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Spender wrote:

My train models are built to be a part of a greater representation of an operating railway which is in itself a sociological representation tool for gaining greater understanding of a recent but past society. They also serve to improve my craft abilities, as well as being testbeds for technological advances which I hope will one day improve man's place in the world.
Regards, Greg.P.
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wrote:

Do you really feel that railroads are going to make a big comeback?
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Spender wrote:

Railways never went out of fashion in the real world. OTOH as oil goes up in cost freight will have to travel by rail.
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