I was at Union Station last weekend, enjoying the model trains weaving around the extensive set-up in the lobby, when I noticed some familiar faces among the exhibit's tiny populace.
Laboi says that a few years ago, an African-American employee of Pierpont's
inquired as to why there were no black faces in the model's miniature
scenes. Laboi made an effort to track down some new figures and added
them to the set.
Last year, a Latino employee of Pierpont's asked Laboi why he
didn't see any brown faces. Laboi almost got frustrated. The chief
concern of most model railroad hobbyists, after all, is the
precision-scaled accuracy of the locomotives and boxcars circling the
tracks. The people, like the trees and lampposts and little stores and
cemeteries, are just landscaping. Didn't the volunteer model-railroad
crew have enough work on their hands without being expected to create a
PC, It's A Small World reflection of the world's diversity?
the Latino restaurant worker already had a solution. He donated a
handful of Homies from his own collection to Union Station's
When I visited the lobby again a few days later to
photograph the Homies, another model railroad club volunteer
told me he was planning to add more of the figures to the
conversation, Laboi wondered aloud when our society will be able to get
past the things that divide us, like race.
I think getting past it
shouldn't be the goal. If visitors to the exhibit are so drawn into the
miniature scenes that they want to see themselves reflected
in the tiny world, it means that the Union Station Model Railroad
Society is succeeding in its goal: to get non-enthusiasts invested in
It makes their small world that much bigger.