Chennai: The train hoots and hisses as it chugs to a start. You hear the rhythm of the metallic wheels shrieking as it glides over the track. The steam engine exits ‘Prithvi Avenue Junction’, passes through small mountains, a tiny bridge, slips into a tunnel, sneaks beside a town and then reaches ‘Prithvi Avenue Junction’ again. The journey takes less than a minute.
You just read about Sundaram Parthasarathi’s railway model at work, built in a room at his apartment’s terrace at Prithvi Avenue, R A Puram. The passionate hobbyist has been making miniature models since 1989. Today, the ingeniously crafted railway station with marshalling yard and town presents a complete picture. Any person observing his models will be left in awe, thanks to Sundaram’s minute attention to details.
CRAFTING AS YOUNG BOY
The 67-year-old told News Today, “From a young age, I used to make models out of cardboard.” As a little boy, he used to visit the Perambur Railway Station and with eagle eyes look at the trains rolling down the track. “Back then there was no Internet to look for information about how to make railway models,” says Sundaram. “So I went to stations, returned home and made replicas using cardboard.”
Railway modelling is an expensive hobby. Yet, Sundaram made sure to keep himself occupied by researching and crafting using scrap. “As I come from a middle-class family, I couldn’t ask my father money to buy models,” he says. Later, Sundaram got busy with studies. After completing his Mechanical Engineering degree, he moved to the US in the 1970s to pursue his Masters.
He returned to India and found a job at Ashok Leyland. “I was sent to the UK by my company,” he informs. “I came across railway models there. This hobby is quite prominent in the west. My childhood passion got rekindled.”
Sundaram returned to Chennai with many parts necessary to create his train toy land.
Throughout the board, there are microchips and other electronic boards. But Sundaram has carefully hidden them under miniature buildings and barracks. About five years ago, Sundaram electrified all his train sets. He shows a board which he calls ‘the train brain’. Several circuits, switches, electronic boards keep his train town in sync.
He uses sound decoders which he has placed inside the train compartments. So, when the train starts moving away from the ‘station’, real sound effects like the hiss of the steam, the shriek of the carriages is played. “I have hidden the speakers under this coal compartment,” smiles Sundaram lifting the train’s engine.
Other interesting parts include a town which has a movie theatre, a shopping complex, a petrol pump and even a play ground. Sundaram uses cardboard to create his buildings. For the mountains, he used thermacol. “I paste them with plaster of Paris and then paint them,” explains Sundaram. “I keep trying to come up with simple ways to make my model as realistic as possible.”
Sundaram also informs that even if railway modelling is an expensive hobby, there are methods one can adopt to make models. “I always use scrap,” he smiles. He proceeds to explain how he builds miniature lamp posts. “To make the stem of the lamp post, I used tin can and rolled them up,” he says. “For the shades that come over the lights, I used pen caps.”
Likewise, Sundaram often tries to replicate whatever products he uses in his model. For example, in the marshalling yard, he bought an expensive solenoid which was needed to make the tracks shift the trains’ route. “I started learning basic electronics and made a cheap solenoid myself,” he explains.
HAVE A HOBBY
Throughout the conversation, Sundaram kept emphasising the importance of having a hobby. “These days, children are always using phones and they don’t really have a hobby,” he says. “But it is essential to have one. It can be anything. Children will have a holistic approach to life. They will use their mind to be more creative.” Also, senior citizens should have hobbies or else post-retirement they may get bored, he feels. Sundaram is willing to teach and share his passion to budding railway model hobbyists. Reach him at 98412 91293.