This post is written with the help of Peter Coates, who is a member of Weaver Community Arts Group, and the inspiration behind the 'Train of Thought' Project.
On a damp Autumn evening of 2021 I was flicking through the TV when I stumbled upon the TV channel ‘Yesterday’ which had a new series about the iconic British model train maker Hornby. So, watching the series evoked childhood memories of having a train set and I admired the artistic craft of the model railways’ layouts featured on the series.
The Hornby series got me thinking about the possibility of having a model railway layout as an art installation project. A 3D landscape with a moving train could incorporate themes and issues on a layout.
Now the next station stop of the Train of Thought project, was on an afternoon when a fellow artist and friend came over to mine and we discussed the possibility of me getting my first train set in decades, since I was inspired by the Hornby series.
We found out that Hornby sells a train set based on the Eurostar, which has a livery inspired by the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine album. So, I decided to purchase this model because its colourful, bright, psychedelic livery appealed to the artist in me.
I am a member of Weaver Community Arts Group, which is for people who have mental health issues and want to do art.
We had a temporary home at Culture HQ in Runcorn’s Shopping City from September 2021 to March 2022 due to our normal home at Grangeway Community Centre still being used as a Covid testing centre. We were invited there by local artist Claire Pitt, Culture HQ’s Curator.
During the period at Culture HQ, Claire would see our group on Tuesdays and suggest art projects the group might like to do.
In a conversation with Claire and the members, I mentioned my new interest in model railways and how this could become the basis for an art installation project around mental health. I said that we could call it ’Train of Thought’, which Claire wrote down in her notebook some time in February 2022, and so we had a title for the project.
A couple of months passed, the art group moved back to Grangeway, and the time at Culture HQ was over.
Then, in the Summer of 2022, Claire met the group and we discussed, planned and designed the Train of Thought project.
At the next meeting Claire brought into the group a local artist Gail Coxon to collaborate with the group on the project.
So, members of the Weaver Community Arts Group, along with Claire and Gail, came up with the themes and ideas for Train of Thought from their collective experience of mental health, as well as how to portray this artistically through the medium of a model railway layout.
At the next meeting with Claire and Gail, in collaboration the group had produced a fully working model railway layout that captured the four mental health states of mind of psychosis, mania, depression and anxiety, using a tiny Z gauge train going round the Train of Thought track. And all of this in a Treasure Island chest - you can see the making process here 'Making of The Train of Thought'.
So, the Train of Thought project had gone from just an idea, to an actual working art installation, using a model railway to encapsulate mind states.
The Train of Thought locomotive goes through the different lands of the surreal and Vincent van Gogh inspired world of psychosis land, to mania land, shown as a shopping mall and consumerism. Next is depression land, shown as a messy bedroom with signs of neglect in the form of unwashed cups and plates, and finally anxiety parkway, which is represented as a station with constant delays.
We hope people will see and enjoy this unique model railway installation and appreciate the beauty, skill, craft, design and effort.
Our aim is to provoke a positive conversation around mental health as well as for people to just enjoy the relaxing ASMR qualities of watching the train going round the track - like a Train of Thought
Culture HQ was a temporary art gallery and workshop space during Halton's year as 'Borough of Culture' in 2021. This is an annual initiative from the Liverpool City region Combined Authority and will return to Halton in 2025. As well as hosting a year long programme of exhibitions and events, it also became home for some community organisations and a conduit for local artists to feel more connected to Halton's cultural networks. All the artists involved with this project connected through meeting at Culture HQ, either attending events, exhibiting work or running workshops. Thanks to funding from Halton Borough Council, Culture HQ remained open till March 2022, allowing groups like Weaver Community Arts Group to stay connected to the local community and develop this Train of Thought.
We would like to thank Weaver Community Arts Group for having the ideas and enthusiasm for this project, Gail Coxon for bringing to life the ideas in her own unique style, Millie Chesters for providing the illustrations based on the story, Lauren Quayle for documenting the project, Claire Pitt for coordination and Halton Borough Council for their involvement in this project.
If you would like to know more about the project, then please contact Claire Pitt via email@example.com
This project has been brought to life thanks to funding from Halton Borough Council