Passionate for model-making and aeronautics since childhood, Alain Pras eagerly devoured his first subscriptions to French aircraft periodicals such as Aviation Magazine and Pilote. As flying model planes was relatively inaccessible at the time, Pras focused his attention on building model trains, if only for the fact that the network of miniature rails could fit more easily inside a family living room.
The pivotal moment of his early career would be when he caught sight of a cover of Pilote featuring a brightly-colored image of the popular French jazz musician Claude Luter standing with a network of New- Orleans style model trains. Pras would continue to refer warmly to this image for years to come, as it marked the moment he decided to pursue a career in model architectural design. After studying the trade and completing his military service, Pras explored a variety of artistic domains, including stone lithography, before beginning to photograph the industrial sites he visited in the early years of his career. In 1977, Pras joined the French train model-maker Jouef, where he created train mockups for the first large exposition at the newly-inaugurated Centre Pompidou in Paris. Titled “The Age of Trains” (Le Temps des gares), Pras’ work was largely hailed by critics, including Le Monde’s André Fermigier, who wrote: “Alain Pras’ extraordinary models reconstitute faithfully and with a poetic truth all the charms of their originals.”