Valid Choices

This morning, after reading a blog posting called Stick To Your Guns by Mike Cougill, I got in touch with Mike and asked, “Is this me?”

Turns out it was not – he was commenting about something that happened to another modeller he knows – but it sure sounded familiar. It hasn’t happened to me a lot – perhaps because I blather on at length about why I’m doing things the way I am – but like the subject of Mike’s post, I have had a couple of readers get in touch to warn me that my layout is going to end in nothing but heartbreak, because I haven’t included enough spurs and industries to provide entertaining operation.

Mike makes a very good point – one completely missed by some people in the hobby:

Advice can be very valuable, when the giver takes the time to understand and respect the choices being made by the receiver.

(At times, I can be as guilty of this as anyone, and will try to do better.)

I do find it curious that so many people in the hobby – at least in North America – continue to promote the idea of a large, multi-deck, basement-filling empire not only as the best choice, but sometimes even as the only real goal anybody should strive to attain. To those with the time, money, lifestyle and enthusiasm to tackle a club layout, I say, “Good luck – fill yer boots!” At the same time, I hope hobbyists in the mega-layout camp recognize this is not the route for everyone. For me, for now, I’m happy trying to do something modest – a very small section of the sleepy branch line to Port Rowan, Ontario – but do it to the best of my abilities.
M238-PenningtonBridge photo M238-LynnValley-03_zpsa71f935f.jpg
(Click on the photo to visit my layout blog)

I will never convince those who worry that my Port Rowan layout will end up in the dumpster due to lack of interest that I’m happy with my layout design. And frankly, if it ends up in the dumpster, So What? It’s happened to layouts I’ve built in the past – and it may happen again. I can’t say. Right now I love what I’m doing but I can’t predict the future as it pertains to my interests in the hobby. Few people can. And nobody – myself included – can predict the things that happen in life that are beyond one’s control, that may influence or even dictate one’s hobby choices.

But I’m not worried about any of that. It’s a hobby – one I care about a lot, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m not building fire-fighting equipment or a space shuttle: If I get it “wrong”, nobody dies. And for me, the journey is as important as the result.

Mike – a really thoughtful post. Thanks for writing it. And to my readers, give Mike’s post a read – and then remember to do what you find most satisfying in the hobby, regardless of what the rest of us advise!

14 thoughts on “Valid Choices

  1. Trevor
    Mike’s blog is good advice. Big layouts mean big expense, time to build and a maintenance headache.
    I read somewhere that a layout takes 10 hours for every square foot of layout. That is a huge investment in time if you have a basement layout plan.


  2. Amen, I have a layout that covers the UPD&G and CM yard in Colorado Springs CO that was 120 feet by 1900 feet. I love the opportunity to detail it to the nines and just enjoy the twice daily switching of the area after the twice daily UPD&G mixed train scheduled trip into Colorado Springs from Manitou Junction. I do model part of Moreno Ave. where the CM passenger trains speed along a their max allowed 8 miles per hour within the city limits of Colorado Springs. It is fun to do a prototype area up correctly an enjoy all the little projects when it strikes your fancy or your research turns up a new detail.

    • Hi Tom:
      Now, when I first read your comment I thought you meant the layout was 120×1900! 🙂
      Of course, I went back to check that and I’m relieved that I can interpret those dimensions as referring to the prototype. That’s a nice, compact place. In fact, I did a quick calculation on Port Rowan several months ago and decided the terminal takes up about 1700 feet from the first switch to end of track, so your prototype is about the same size as mine.
      I’d say, “Have fun with the layout” – but it sounds like you already are!

  3. As one who has put one semi-complete layout in the dumpster, the real key here is the “so what” attitude towards renewal or replacement. I’ve had the privilege of running on your layout and hope to again soon. It is a stunning piece of work and if doesn’t last an eternity, so what.
    You’re having fun, learning stuff and exploring your own boundaries. Tomorrow you may be inspired by something completely different. So what? It’s your hobby time, do with it as you see fit.

    • Well-said, Pierre (and thanks for the kind words).

      We’ll run my layout – and yours – a few more times before we consign them to the dumpster and do the monorail exhibition project we’ve always dreamed about.


  4. Totally agree.
    By the way, outside of North America (and even within large parts of it) few people have the basement, leave alone other resources, to fill with a multi-deck empire.

    • Good point, Simon: One I knew (as a regular reader of British railway magazines, including MRJ), but forgot to include in my post. Glad you did.
      Lack of a basement or other permanent space has definitely not prevented model railway enthusiasts in the UK from building some fantastic – and quite large – layouts. It’s even more impressive that these are designed to be portable, to be shown at exhibitions. And the best of these somehow manage to survive the rigours of travel to show off stunning model-building.

      • Sometimes, lack of resource drives creativity. I have been heavily involved over the years as part of the “road crew” for East Lynn. Trevor Nunn simply didn’t have the room at home to set up what was (initially) a 17′ long layout, and built with exhibitions in mind. As such, the layout was designed to be lightweight, robust, and to fit into his then car. We once managed to get the layout dismantled and put into the car in 15 minutes, but most of the rolling stock had been put away using the last 20 minutes of the show. One or two features needed strengthening, but on the whole it has stood the test of time very well, despite a notorious attempt to remove one of the leg sockets (see MRJ 86, I think – and yes, that was me!)
        Trevor has since moved house, and has a barn in need of renovation which could house the whole layout with space for a lot more, but as yet is still working on the house. The intention is not to fill the barn with more stations, but to put some distance between East Lynn and Nunstanton which will “open up” the layout (much as you have done between Port Rowan and St. Williams) and provide for an opportunity to see the trains running though open countryside, which is after all is said and done what they actually do most of the time!
        I hope we get to see this happen – I look forward to quarterly operating sessions, and open line might give me the chance to run something big (by UK standards) on is train set. (I did once run a 44 tonner, but the pilot steps caught on the ground level signals.)


  5. Hi Trevor,

    I found your blog about a week ago, and I’ve been a devout follower ever since.

    I love the concept of your layout, and your execution of it is remarkable.

    I appreciate the fact that you’re doing what you want (and quite well at that). Model railroading as a hobby is suppose to be something we chase that pleases us, not an attempt for us to please everyone else.

    I’m a 1:1 scale CP prototyper, and a 1:87 modeler myself. On the real things, we have a saying: ‘it’s railroading, not rocket science’. Railroads move freight (and passengers) as a means. The prototypes don’t make things complicated for interest. If you see opposing switches for industries, it was done for a reason other than ‘it’ll add operating interest’. The goal is to get the job done, and the customer served, not to make it more complicated. That said, within the GTA, there are several puzzles, complications and lots of ‘operating interest’!

    In the end, it all comes down to beauty being in the eye of the beholder. If someone wants to follow exactly what the prototype did, so be it. If you want to build a super complicated switching puzzle, go for it. It’s all about building what we enjoy. There is no right or wrong. That’s the beauty of model railroading!

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to seeing what you do next!


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