Models and the Grand Hotel Melbourne

For reasons quite unrelated to this story I was staying at the Grand Hotel Melbourne last December. I had no idea about the impending Think Ahead Exhibition about to open at the Scienceworks, but the hotel was full of people who did.

The centerpiece of the exhibitions, at least to the nerdy crowd sharing this accommodation, was an exact replica of an 1898 tram named Matilda.Matilda

It’s true, in case you’re wondering. Everything they say about the nerdy enthusiasts that comprise the model train community. Almost to the man they are obsessive, bifocalled, shabby idiot-savants. And they all smell faintly of glue.

You’d have more chance of striking a conversation with their models than with them. Except if you ask them to discuss their latest project. Then the words percolate up hot with enthusiasm.

Members of almost a dozen model building clubs (No, I didn’t know there were clubs either) had converged upon the Grand Hotel Melbourne. The sumptuous venue was lavish enough and tolerant enough to put up with their idiosyncrasies, and it was walking distance from the Immigration Museum. And it was at the Immigration Museum that Matilda was recreated.

For, you see, these buffs were as interested in the methods of constructing this masterpiece of Victorian history as seeing the thing itself. Because Matilda no longer existed, the plans for her reconstruction had to be researched from archives, then recreated on a three dimensional modelling computer, and finally painstakingly remodeled from there. The chief modeller, Mark O’Brien, used a Three-D printer for parts he couldn’t buy, borrow or build himself. By all the gushing accounts I was able to make sense of he pioneered new methods of modelling. The modelling nerdies assembled at the grand Hotel for that weekend were intensely interested in these techniques.

Grand Hotel Melbourne LoungeWhat I found absolutely heart-warming (and, if I’m honest, quite uplifting as a guest at the Grand Hotel Melbourne) was the tolerance shown by the hotel staff towards these rather odd people. Each evening the Hotel’s lounge room was converted into a modeller’s paradise as the members of various fraternities brought their treasures down to share with the other guests. All the members were proud and generous, welcoming modellers and non-modellers alike to appreciate their work. And there were some amazing models. In fact, the very least of them can rightly be described as incredible.

Quite a few other non-modeller guests enjoyed these after-supper spontaneous displays. It was the perfect venue for such a thing: The rich, generous proportions of the Grand Hotel Melbourne gave the scene a charm and atmosphere even more intimate than the museum.

Grand Hotel

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