Life in Miniature: Model Trains and Creativity at Otterbein

Posted on: August 28, 2023

There’s a thriving town built around a railroad at Otterbein Lebanon – homes, a bustling downtown, a factory, a sawmill. People inhabit the town and drive to work, go on strike, show off their motorcycles. It’s a scene you might see anywhere.

But at Otterbein, it’s all created in miniature in the model train room, located on the first floor of The Gallery building.

Model Railroading at Otterbein SeniorLife

David, a Lebanon resident, model train enthusiast, and member of the model railroading group on campus, has been invested in the hobby for more than 40 years.

He explained that the model railroad at Otterbein Lebanon has a 1:160 ratio, also called N scale. One inch on the model equals 160 inches in the real world.

The scenery around the railroad evokes a vibrant small town, complete with a movie theater, a truck depot, a church, and farms. David said the theme is called “freelance” – meaning it’s not modeled on a specific time period.

David estimates the amount of work that’s gone into the model at more than 3,000 hours, 2,000 of which have been his.

“You get kits, you have to paint them, you have to put them together, you have to decide where they’re going to be placed. It has taken a great deal of work,” he said.

David said he most enjoys the details, which could include adding scenes of people playing basketball or setting up plants, at the size and scale of Otterbein’s model railroad.

“I could do so much in a small space. And yet, the detail can be just as good as in [a different] scale,” he said. “We have a much larger area for landscaping, cities, industries, and so forth than you can in the other gauges.”

Related: Spirituality at Otterbein – An Interview with Pastor George Phillips >>

Otterbein Lebanon model trains lit up at night

Improving Creative Wellness Through Hobbies

Model railroading, for people like David, is more than just tinkering – it’s an art form. When he works on the model, he’s thinking about things like color, texture, shape, and space.

The good news is research shows that creativity is not only fun, it’s also great for your overall well-being.

According to one study, “creative engagement can reduce anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances.” It can also boost your brain function, help you learn new things, and make you feel physically better, too.

If you’re not into model trains, there are plenty of other ways to reap the benefits of creativity. Try one of these ideas:

  • Coloring a picture or painting
  • Composing a recipe
  • Playing or learning an instrument
  • Taking a new route for a walk
  • Writing in a journal

Explore a new hobby – or pick up an old one – to feel the positive benefits of a creative boost.

Explore More Dimensions of Wellness

At Otterbein, we believe to be truly well, we need to focus on nine different aspects. The degrees of complete wellness that we promote at our communities are:

  • Physical
  • Environmental
  • Cultural
  • Vocational
  • Creative
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Social
  • Spiritual

Download this free guide to see how we encourage complete wellness at Otterbein, plus get tips for boosting your own well-being today.

Read Nine Degrees of Wellness