Railways / Railroads and Trains as metaphors – Part 4

Displaying a model railway to make a point


Time with children / Introducing the Theme section of the service 17 Jan 2021

Tip: I write out in full what I am going to say during the Time with Children. I then ad lib what I actually say in the service, confident that I will make the key points. 

Here are the notes I wrote for this service:

"One of our Bible stories for today is about God calling Samuel in the night.

Samuel was a boy about 9 or 10 years old. He lived in the temple with the priest Eli. One night when he was sleeping, he woke up and heard a voice calling, “Samuel, Samuel.” Samuel thought that Eli had called him, so he went to Eli’s room and said, “here I am.” And Eli said I didn’t call you, go back to bed. This happened three times. After the third time Eli said to Samuel it must be God who is calling you. Next time you hear the call get up and say “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.” And that is what Samuel did and God gave him a message about Eli’s family.

Samuel grew up and became the most important priest and prophet of his time. And God kept calling Samuel and giving him messages about what was going to happen and what God wanted Samuel to do.

There are other stories about God calling people in the Old Testament. God called Noah to build an ark before the flood came. God called Moses to lead God’s people out of Egypt. In the New Testament Jesus called Zacchaeus the tax collector to get down out of the tree and share a meal with Jesus.

The other Bible story today is about Jesus calling Philip to be a disciple. Then Philip called Nathanael to come and see Jesus, and Nathanael became a disciple too.

I think that God calling Samuel and Jesus calling Philip is like a guard calling passengers to climb on board a train. Our journey through life is like a train journey.

Came and have a close look at this model railway I have made. [Uncover shunting layout – say that adults may like to come and have a look too]

This passenger train only has one carriage. Is that going to be enough to carry all the people when God and Jesus have called? No. Let’s add another carriage. ["Hand of God" adds rolling stock one at a time.] It isn’t as nice as the first carriage, but it will do. Is that going to be enough? No let’s add another carriage. And another. And we’re going to need some food and supplies for our journey so let’s add a couple of goods wagons of supplies. And we need a van for the guard. Maybe we need another engine to help climbing hills.

This railcar isn’t ready to leave yet. And it might go in another direction. Its passengers haven’t been called yet. And this loco is getting serviced in the loco shed ready for its next journey.

Let’s check that the points are switched the right way. Are we ready to go? Yes. OK so now the signals drop to show the line ahead is clear and off we go.

At the end of their shift the engine driver and fireman will get off the train to rest. And a fresh, new driver and fireman will take their place.

Sometimes in our lives we will we want to get off the train and stay in one place for a while. When we feel called again and ready to move on, we can catch the next train."

We then sang This Ol' Freedom Train which is covered in the previous post.


Physical objects which people can hold, or even just look at, help them to engage with the message. 

This layout is simple and leaves much for the imagination to fill in. But, I like making the buildings from scratch and get pleasure from the hobby.

Both adults and children enjoyed coming forward out of their seats to look at the layout.


Share with your congregation hobbies or crafts that enjoy, e.g. wood turning crochet/knitting, pottery, painting, dance, book binding…

You will surprise yourself with the links you can make between your hobby and the scripture readings for the day. I sit quietly for a few minutes, with my eyes shut, and wait for an idea to form…

People will appreciate learning more about you, and will be more receptive to the messages you present to them.

7 February 2023

p.s. Come back next week when I share how discovering the actual place an artist stood to create the scene in a screen print, reminds us that things might not be as we assume they are.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.