How Dombivli resident Subhash Rao turned his hobby of making miniatures of railway engines, train coaches into creative passion

How Dombivli resident Subhash Rao turned his hobby of making miniatures of railway engines, train coaches into creative passion

Kamal MishraUpdated: Saturday, March 19, 2022, 10:49 PM IST
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Subhash Rao with his scaled up model of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway |

From making paper trains to displaying scaled-up models of some of India’s leading trains in exhibitions, Dombivli resident Subhash Rao’s hobby of making miniatures of railway engines and train coaches has turned into a creative passion. Rao, 40, was invited in 2019 by the National Railway Museum to display his art. Rao speaks about his lifelong passion and his journey to being a ferroequinologist.

When exactly did your fascination start?

The sight of local trains outside the window of my house, running to and fro, or rather now I should say Up and Down, used to fascinate me as a kid. All the things I liked had to have a reference to the train; be it toys, compass box, or school bag. Later I realised, I never saw a toy train in the market that looked like a real one. This encouraged me to make my own paper train, with the help of card paper boxes, water and sketch colours.

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

When I started travelling by trains during my college days, I could look closer for every detail. I started collecting references by taking pictures, studying engineering drawings, watching renowned artists’ work and then working and creating diagrams by myself to start creating a model. Slowly but steadily, my liking turned into a passion. The card paper was replaced with a plastic sheet and sketch pen with spray cans. I realised with a bit of mending, regular household items like cables and wires, refills, floppy disks, toothpicks etc can be of great use to add details. Slowly, my trains started looking more accurate without spending a lot of money. Every day, I invest some time to create the models.

How many miniatures have you created so far?

I have made nearly 15 different train sets, including the latest of Vande Bharat which is also known as Train-18 along with Mumbai locals (DC AC-DC), YP, Humsafar, Tejas, ICF coaches, Duronto, Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, Neral-Matheran toy train, the Deccan Queen, WCM5, DMUs, Locomotive, and lots more... Recently I switched to HO scale. My latest model is WDG4, the first EMD imported also known as Godfather.

Apart from locomotives, did you create miniatures of trains also?

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

How do you manage to find time for your passion?

I completed Commercial Art from LS Raheja School of Art, Worli, and work with an advertising agency. After returning home to Dombivli from work, I spend an hour or two working on my models.

How much do you spend on one miniature?

Each train must have cost me less than ₹500, but the amount of time I have invested and the dedicated work to construct each model is invaluable.

Tell us about your latest creation?

My latest creations are WAP7 & WAG9 in electrics and WDP4 & WDG4 in diesel. I have used a sunboard sheet, toothpick, networking cable, pen refills etc for completing this model. It would have been difficult to complete this model without the help of my friends – Yash who helped me get detailed pics, Kalpesh who helped with exact scale dimensions and Jeremiah on components to make the locomotive run. These locomotives run on a 12v DC adapter which is connected to rails and metal wheels of the locomotive, and transmits the power to the motor where the driveshaft is connected to bogies. They run as the real one. In addition to that, the locomotive has a directional headlamp and marker and tail lamp at the rear.

Have you got a chance to exhibit your work?

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

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

A: I don't wish to convert my hobby into a profession. If I do so, it will not remain a hobby.

I can’t limit my liking for trains by giving it terms like Trainspotter, Foamer or Railfan, rather basis my aspirational intention of studying the art thoroughly; I can almost consider myself a Ferroequinologist.

Q: What is your ultimate aim?

A: My dream is to make a small layout with farms and fields, tunnel and bridges and trains moving around. I struggled a lot. I even made tracks by hand using aluminum strips. But now my hobby is shaping well. Hope I achieve my dream very soon

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