Machines Are Meant To Be Used

It has been a long time since my last post. In that time, I’ve moved my family to its first house. Homeownership is another item I can add to my life resume. It’s been hectic, to say the least. As I’m writing this post, a team of contractors are hammering away at the house, installing new windows and siding.

The move from an apartment to a house necessitated packing all of our crap. Some items have been moved at least twice before: once from my childhood home, and into two apartments. I’m proud to say that I use most of my personal belongings. They don’t just sit in storage and collect dust. However, there are two large storage bins that have not been opened since my parents vacated the family home in 1993, and those bins contain model trains.

My father (with some help from me) was an avid model railroader. We had a modest, and un-finished, HO layout in the basement. Whenever my dad had a free moment, he’d either be building something for the layout, reading about layout design or taking me to a train show. I clearly recall sitting with my dad at the kitchen table in the evening assembling Athern kit cars or detailing  structures. That was a special time. A time for father-son bonding. Although much of the layout was dispersed-taken apart and given away after my dad’s death-I kept many of the kit cars and locomotives with the hope that someday they would be shared with my children.

My son has a Thomas the Tank Engine fetish, so it was no big surprise when he saw the bins of HO trains and asked to play with them. They’d been hidden from his sight in our basement for the first three years of his life, so now was as good a time as any to introduce him to the wonders of motorized hobby railroading. He somehow got hold of one of the coach cars, carrying it everywhere with him for the past two weeks asking, “Can we go to the store and buy tracks?”

How could I resist?

So yesterday we went to the train store and bought a set of tracks and assembled an oval on the kitchen table after dinner. The picture does not adequately portray his sense of wonder when the train sputtered forward under its own power. He’s been talking about the trains ever since.

Sputtered forward. Sputtered being the operative word. It turns out that when you don’t run an electric motor for close to 20 years it doesn’t work so well. The motor gets bound up (seized?) and takes some coaxing to get going. The trucks, too, don’t spin so easily and resist forward motion.

We got the train going with some lubricating oil and a gentle push. The experience reminding me of something: machines–no matter how small,  whether for work or hobby–are made to be used. Leaving a machine unused or unattended for any length of time is bad for the machine.

My son and I have about ten other locomotives to lubricate and revive. Many hours of running them around the track to get the motors functioning again. Many hours, I hope, of father-son bonding.


About robertkerner

Educator, registered nurse, attorney, inquisitive mind
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