CLOSE
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Calling All Neil Young/Locomotive Superfans: The Singer Is Auctioning Off His Model Trains

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

If you love both classic rock and miniature locomotives, have we got an auction for you. Canadian rock icon Neil Young is auctioning off some of his personal belongings, and the set includes some of his cherished model train collection, including train control devices he invented himself.

Fans of his music may not realize it, but Young has been an obsessive model train buff since childhood. According to Gibson.com, he got his first train set at age 5, and continued to expand his set in his family’s basement well into his teens (despite the shocks he would get from running the trains after the basement flooded during rainstorms).

A silver model train with multiple cars
Julien's Auctions

As an adult, he poured his musical fortune into building up a massive collection of rare models and creating a sprawling rail system at home, which he used to bond with his son, Ben, who has cerebral palsy. He eventually bought out the prominent toy train company Lionel, becoming a model train titan in his own right. He also invented controls that were easier for Ben to use, creating a digital system that can control 99 trains at the same time.

Three model trains
Julien's Auctions

Some pieces from Young’s huge train collection will go on sale from Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles on December 9, giving fans a chance to own a few pieces of both music and model train history. Some of the prototypes and trains on sale are worth up to $15,000. Some, like the HORDE Tour Psychedelic Vanderbilt Hudson locomotive, Young even brought on tour with him. (In one instance, Sonic Youth co-founder Kim Gordon remembers him obsessively tinkering with a model cow to make it “moo” more realistically during dinner while they were on tour together in 1991.) Many of the trains are rare models that come from the Lionel archives, and some feature typewritten details about them by Young. One custom-painted train is even signed by Young.

The auction also features slightly-less-dweeby items, like Young’s guitars and classic cars, if that’s more your speed. You can check all the lots out here.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
holidays
40 Years Later: Watch The Johnny Cash Christmas Show
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Over the course of his career, Johnny Cash made a series of Christmas TV specials and recorded a string of Christmas records. In this 1977 TV performance, Cash is in great form. He brings special guests Roy Clark, June Carter Cash, The Carter Family, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison ("Pretty Woman" starts around 23:50), Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers. Tune in for Christmas as we celebrated it 40 years ago—with gigantic shirt collars, wavy hair, and bow ties. So many bow ties.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios