How Dombivli resident Subhash Rao turned his hobby of making model locomotives and train coaches into a creative passion


From making paper trains to displaying scale models of some of India’s major trains in exhibitions, Dombivli resident Subhash Rao’s hobby of making miniature locomotives and train carriages, turned into a creative passion. Rao, 40, was invited in 2019 by the National Railway Museum to exhibit his art. Rao talks about his lifelong passion and his journey to becoming a ferroequinologist.

When exactly did your fascination start?

The sight of local trains outside my house window, coming and going, or should I say now Up and Down, fascinated me as a child. All the things I loved had to have a train reference; be it toys, a compass or a school bag. Later, I realized that I had never seen a toy train on the market that looked like the real thing. This encouraged me to make my own paper train, using cardstock boxes, water, and sketch colors.

Is it in college that it became a hobby and more?

When I started traveling by train during my college years, I could take a closer look at every detail. I started collecting references by taking photos, studying technical drawings, looking at the work of famous artists, then working and creating diagrams on my own to start creating a model. Slowly but surely, my taste turned into passion. The card stock was replaced with a sheet of plastic and a sketch pen with spray cans. I realized that with a little repair, ordinary household items like cables and wires, refills, floppy disks, toothpicks, etc. can be great for adding details. Slowly my trains started to look more accurate without spending a lot of money. Every day, I invest time to create the models.

How many miniatures have you created so far?

I have made nearly 15 different trains including the latest by Vande Bharat also known as Train-18 with Mumbai People (DC AC-DC), YP, Humsafar, Tejas, ICF Coaches, Duronto , Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, Neral -Matheran toy train, the Deccan Queen, WCM5, DMUs, Locomotive, and much more… Recently I upgraded to HO scale. My latest model is the WDG4, the first imported EMD also known as the Godfather.

Apart from the locomotives, have you also created miniature trains?

Local train from Mumbai DC, Bhel AC/DC, Siemens AC/DC and Bombardier. DMU, Humsafar, Tejas.

How do you find time for your passion?

I have completed commercial art from LS Raheja art school in Worli and am working with an advertising agency. After returning home to Dombivli after work, I spend an hour or two working on my models.

How much do you spend on a figurine?

Each train must have cost me less than ₹500, but the time and labor I put into building each model is invaluable.

Tell us about your latest creation?

My latest creations are WAP7 & WAG9 in electric and WDP4 & WDG4 in diesel. I used solar plank sheet, toothpick, network cable, pen refills, etc. to complete this model. It would have been difficult to complete this model without the help of my friends – Yash who helped me get detailed photos, Kalpesh who helped with exact scale dimensions and Jeremiah on the components to make the locomotive work . These locomotives run on a 12v DC adapter which is connected to the metal rails and wheels of the locomotive, and transmits power to the motor where the driveshaft is connected to the bogies. They run like the real thing. In addition, the locomotive is equipped with a directional headlight and a position and tail light at the rear.

Do you have the opportunity to exhibit your work?

I had my first chance to exhibit my art through the Dignity Foundation at Nepean Sea Road. followed by that of Churchgate organized by the Western Railway. I feel privileged to have exhibited my models on behalf of Central Railway in Nagpur during Railway Week and at the main CSMT building. In 2019, the National Railway Museum also invited me to exhibit my art on their premises.

Q: Are you looking to convert your passion into a business model in the future?

A: I don’t want to convert my hobby into a profession. If I do, it won’t remain a hobby.

I cannot limit my fondness for trains by giving it terms like Trainspotter, Foamer or Railfan, but rather ground my ambitious intention to study the art thoroughly; I can almost consider myself a ferroequinologist.

Q: What is your ultimate goal?

A: My dream is to create a small network with farms and fields, tunnels, bridges and trains running around. I struggled a lot. I even made tracks by hand using aluminum strips. But now my hobby is taking good shape. I hope to realize my dream very soon

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Posted: Sunday March 20th 2022, 00:05 IST


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