On my railroad, I've built a number of homes where Jeanne and I have lived. I also built a model of Jeanne's father's business, and little fantasy shops, had our family members pursued their hobbies and interests.
Our family members love them more than anything else on the railroad. Forget the ships, bridges, and other details on a fairly large layout--some of the family buildings bring tears when our siblings, daughters, nieces and nephews, and other family members notice them. Jeanne and I are delighted when someone recognizes a home and exclaims, "Oh my God! That's Gramma's house! I remember when . . ." Or when Jeanne's 92-year-old mother sees either the Superior Automotive building, which her late husband built, or the "Ames Fine Men's Clothing Shop," which her father owned, and breaks into tears.
We're delighted when a modeled home sparks memories. Remember when Gramma Adams rode the kiddy trike all the way up to the Meadows? Remember when Gramma Adams hurt her knee playing football, and the doctor could only say, "Well, at your age, I have no sympathy?" Remember when Uncle Walter . . .
Sometimes it better than a photo album for evoking long-forgotten memories.
Here's my house in 1955 (when I was 7), when the garage was being built. My mother lived there from 1952 to 2000:
Here's the house Jeanne and I lived in from 1980 to 1991:
That's Jeanne's hand painting the flowers.
I guess my lesson is: get the family involved in your modeling efforts.