When the Seattle Model Railroad Show comes to the Pacific Science Center each year, it’s a must see for my four year old son. But I selfishly look forward to it as well for one reason and one alone: I get to see the amazing world in miniature created by folk artist, Babygramps. He is an American original. 78 years old, he earns his keep by performing in local music clubs on his National Steel guitar. His recordings have been praised by no less than Robert Christgau, distinguished rock critic of the Village Voice:
A deep original with a rooting in blues, …a fondness for folk and pop novelties of every description, a fascination with word games, …and his own throat singing and National steel (guitar) techniques… If you feel like being amazed, he’s a better bet than most
But this isn’t the subject of this post. I’m flabbergasted at the utter originality of the rundown Appalachian railroad town which he’s created in miniature replete with toy trains, factories, abandoned farm vehicles, paddy wagon, churches and old time ads. He pays meticulous attention to detail down to the pieces of broken glass in the church belfry and the hanging moss on the rotting fenceposts. Personally, I’m deeply interested in American folk art. And what Babygramps does reminds me of the great folk artists like Howard Finster. In Babygramps’ work, one sees the same obsessive attention to chronicling every detail of life in his imaginary world.
Babygramps hosts a website detailing his music career. But he has not yet seen fit to record at his site his interest in old railroads and the lost world of rural America. One hopes he’ll rectify that some day. And one hopes that his art will also be recognized for its utter originality.
The Model Railroad Show is hosted by 4th Division, Pacific Northwest Region, National Model Railroad Association.