Testing, 1-2-3 (Attaboy, Joe!)

In the September issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist, editor Joe Fugate encourages us to test things for themselves, rather than ask questions like “What’s the best turnout size?” or “What’s the best distance between decks on a double-decked layout?” and my favourite: “What’s the best colour to paint the sky on my backdrop?”

Joe hits the bullseye with this one.

I see this a lot online. People ask “What’s the best…?” when what they really need to ask is, “What’s the best, for me, given my preferences and situation?”

The only way to answer that is to do some tests for yourself. Lay some track with different size turnouts. Hang some adjustable shelves and move them up and down. Paint a piece of Masonite with various shades of blue and look at them under your layout lighting. And then in every case, determine what works best for you.

I won’t repeat Joe’s editorial here – like everything MRH does, it’s available online for free (you’ll find the September issue here) and I encourage you to read it. But I’ll remind readers that as I write this blog, it’s extremely rare* that I recommend that others do what I do. In almost all cases, I’m merely reporting what I have done. For the most part, it’s what has worked for me – although I sometimes present ideas that I have tested that did not work for me, too. (Those are equally valuable lessons – and lessons that are only learned by doing some tests.)
Nubbins photo Nubbins_zps55ffe123.jpg

*As I was writing the above, I was tempted to write that I “never” recommend others do what I do. But there are a few exceptions to the rule. They include:

1 – Safety. As an example, I would never recommend that house wiring be run through benchwork unless it’s properly protected. By that I mean, it’s enclosed in armoured cable or proper conduit, that can’t be drilled into or sawn through by mistake. All of my layout’s electrical needs are collected on a shelf under the layout near the water tank in the Lynn Valley. This is about half-way along the run of the layout, and near a wall outlet. Everything is then reduced to much safer levels before leaving this area.

2 – Experiment. I have done a lot of that, and I hope you do too. If you don’t, I encourage you to start. (At one time, a certain hobby publication’s motto was, “Dream. Plan. Build.” A better motto might have been, “Stop dreaming and planning – and start building something!”)

3 – Challenge yourself. While this is a hobby and how we engage with it is up to each of us, I try to push my knowledge and skills and find this is the most rewarding way to enjoy the hobby. I hope my willingness to try new things or pursue answers to questions such as “How did the railway handle LCL and how can I model it on my layout?” encourages others to do the same with their own layouts and models. (At the same time, note that I didn’t phrase the question as “What’s the best way to model LCL?”…)

4 – Blog. It should be obvious from my postings, but I find writing this blog very, very rewarding. Through it, I’ve made many new online friends and I’ve learned many useful things. I also have a great record of what I’ve done, that I can refer to whenever I need to. That can be incredibly handy. For example, I can search this blog on my phone while I’m at a hobby shop, to check what products I used for something. Since blogs are free to create, I encourage others to share what they’re doing via blogs of their own.

Great editorial, Joe. Thanks for writing it!

6 thoughts on “Testing, 1-2-3 (Attaboy, Joe!)

  1. Trevor, Good advice! Regarding backdrop color, I have tried several shades of “sky blue” before settling on one I like, and I’m sure others would find that their preference is different than mine. I like your philosophy of “Here is what I did,” not “here is what I think you should do.”
    Phil Gliebe
    Waynesville, Ohio

    • Hi Phil:
      And that’s exactly how it should be done – whether it’s a backdrop or another aspect of the hobby. Unless there’s a safety issue involved, it should all be up to personal choice – discovered through experimentation. That’s not to say we can’t ask questions – but better, I think, to say “Hey – I like what you did with your backdrop: What colour paint did you use?” than “What’s the best colour for a sky backdrop?”

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