No Compromises

 photo Desktop-3ftRule_zps3a4cd64a.jpg

That’s crazy. Of course there are compromises in the model railway hobby. Unless one is tackling a minimum-space prototype like the Bronx Terminal – as Tim Warris at Fast Tracks is doing, very successfully – one must make compromises.

Even my layout – two small towns, with a grand total of eight turnouts, and train lengths averaging five feet – is a study in compromises. The prototype towns I’ve chosen to model are 3.4 miles apart as the railway runs. That’s 280 actual feet when converted to S scale – far too long to fit in my layout space. (Even if I had the space, I wouldn’t want to hand-lay all that single track, or populate the surrounding area with trees. I have enough to do as it is, thank you very much.)

Another example of a compromise I’ve accepted is the right of way fence posts that I installed in St. Williams this past weekend:
StW-RoW Fencing photo StW-RoW-fenceposts_zps84594fbb.jpg
(Click on the image to read more)

I’ve created a railway right of way that’s much too narrow when compared to my prototype. With a fence line planted 10 feet off the closest rail, it’s only about one third the width of my prototype’s right of way for single track. (And even my prototype’s spacing is narrow by today’s standards.)

But I had a choice to make: In my space, I could model the railroad right of way full-width, or I could narrow it and use the space I saved to model farms, houses, tobacco kilns, and other elements that provide context to the railway. I decided it was more important to put the railway into the scene – to tell a story about serving the farms around St. Williams, for example – so it’s a compromise I was willing to make.

I even make compromises where some others would not. As an example, I have a number of freight cars on the layout that do not have full under-frame detail. The stuff one can see when the car is on the layout is definitely there. But things like the train line, which is often tucked up between the sills? I don’t bother adding it if it’s not already on the model, because nobody is going to see it unless they turn over the car (and doing so during an operating session is definitely Bad Juju: A good way to make sure one is not invited back).

And (gasp!) I have rolling stock with incorrect details. A set of single-sheathed CNR boxcars I modified for my layout is a good example of this:
CNR-461000-Fleet photo CNR-461000-02_zps221177b3.jpg
(Click on the photo to read more about these cars)

The prototype I’m representing with these cars had Z Braces – the models have Hat Braces. And while the ribs on the ends are the correct style, they should be a different arrangement. But I wasn’t prepared to carve off the braces and ribs and replace them. My modelling skills can’t compete against production-level tooling.

I did, however, carve off the over-thick stirrup steps and replace them with thinner ones that I formed from brass bar. I modified the roofs to make them more accurate to the prototype, because I could do that without damaging the cars. And I added fishbelly centre sills.

I wanted good looking cars that wouldn’t bring down the calibre of the layout I’m trying to build, but I also wanted to focus on building the layout. At some point, when the layout is “finished”, I can revisit the rolling stock and either upgrade these cars or replace them with scratch-built models.

So, yes, compromises are a reality in the hobby – and I’m happy to pick my battles.

But making compromises is also a slippery slope. That’s why, if someone were to ask me about the philosophy I follow in this hobby, I describe it as “No Compromises” – knowing that I’m going to make some regardless. This is only a personal philosophy – you may agree, or not, and if you don’t agree then I do not mean to offend and apologize if I do. But I think “No Compromises” is a better approach than a number of the others expressed in the hobby – including two much popularized ones: The “Good Enough Philosophy” and “Three-Foot Rule”.

If you’re not familiar with those, they’re simple and related. The idea is that a model is good enough if it looks fine from three feet away – the distance many of us view even foreground models on a layout. It’s often expressed as, “If I can’t see it from three feet away – I don’t need to model it.”

(I’m often puzzled that some hobbyists are willing to accept a “Good Enough” effort, even before they make the effort. I’ve never run into this approach in other past-times. I work my border collies on sheep, with the goal of taking them to herding competitions. And everybody I know in the sport wants to improve their herding skills. We all want to be able to do this:

Actually, even though I’m a novice at herding – nowhere near as good as the people profiled in that documentary – when I watch the movie I see things I want to do better than they did in their runs. And I know that they want to do better, too.)

(The same thing can be said of golfers: I’ve never heard a golfer say, “Well, today I shot 15 over par. That’s good enough for me.” Golfers always want to improve their score. Always. Well done, golfers!)

But back to model railroading. Maybe it’s because I have really good eyesight – my wife jokes that I’m her “Seeing Eye Human” – but the Three-Foot Rule has never worked for me. But I think these compromise positions are even harder to justify with the advent of affordable, high resolution digital cameras and large computer monitors on which to display the results. These are invaluable tools for improving one’s modelling – providing one wants to improve.

The lead photo for this post is Exhibit A. It’s a photo taken on my layout in Port Rowan, which I’ve thrown up on the screen of my desktop machine. Yeah, it’s a 30″ cinema display. But the point is, my camera has rendered the scene in sharp detail from within inches of the lens to infinity, and the resulting image looks good even when the caboose in the photo is seven times the size of the model. At that resolution, the little details stand out – as do any compromises. Coarse or poorly rendered details look awful at this level of scrutiny. So do details that I know should be there, but aren’t. When this photo was taken, the scene was not finished. It still isn’t. But what’s there, I think, stands up to close examination.

When I catch myself trying to apply the Three-Foot Rule or the Good Enough Philosophy to my own modelling, it’s often because I’m finding it difficult to figure out how to create a small detail and I’m looking for an excuse to not do it. When I find myself heading down that path, I step back from the bench and figure out how to overcome the hurdle.

That (to me anyway) is the value of the “No Compromises” philosophy. It forces me to approach the hobby with the goal of perfection and then think about the compromises I’m willing to make, rather than deciding before I even tackle a project that the end result only needs to be “Good Enough”. Along the way, I’m forced out of my comfort zone and need to learn how to do things I wouldn’t otherwise attempt.

That makes me a better modeller – and makes the hobby even more rewarding.

Back to the bench. I have a project underway that needs to be better than it is.

23 thoughts on “No Compromises

  1. I understand you “no compromise” rule but a recognition that there will be compromise maybe means “minimal compromise”– it is not “good enough” or “three foot rule” but compromise because of the reality of space, modeling materials, etc.

    Any way you cut it you are doing a great job.

    • Hi Bill:

      Thanks for the kind words.

      The problem with “minimal compromise” is that I would already be starting at below 100%. What, exactly, would that be? 90%? 85%?

      In herding competitions, everybody starts with a perfect score. Points are then taken off for errors. Everybody goes to the handler’s post thinking, “How do I keep my perfect score?” and sometimes, you have to gauge which points you’re willing to lose and which you’re not. It happens very fast – much faster than the decisions we make about layouts and models – but the principle is the same.

      I start out with the intent that I’m going to accept no compromises, and then when I’m faced with one – as we all are in the hobby – I can make an honest assessment of whether it’s a compromise I’m willing to make. If I started with a goal of 85%, then it would be that much easier to make those compromises without thinking them through. I’d never end up better than 85% – and I’d probably end up a lot worse.

      I’m reminded of a thread on a Yahoo group that I inadvertently started when I reported on the results of my first operating session on this layout. I noted that that my goal was fault-free operation. I define that as “no derailments” and “no stalling”.

      Well… some people said, “There are always going to be derailments or a need to poke stalled equipment, so why set such a lofty goal?”

      I think that’s a good way to ensure that there are lots of derailments and lots of stalling, because that attitude would make it somehow okay for things to happen. As it turns out, I have very, very few derailments. Most sessions I have none at all. And when I do, I investigate each derailment after the session’s over to try to prevent it from happening again. Part of me knows it’s highly unlikely I will achieve a faultless layout – but if I don’t set that as my goal, the layout won’t run as well as it does.

      I’ll end by stressing that as with everything on this blog, I’m merely reporting what I’ve done or what I’m doing – what’s worked for me (and, occasionally, what has not).

      As I’ve noted elsewhere, I avoid suggesting that others do as I have done. It’s a hobby – we’re free to pursue it as we wish.


  2. I really appreciate your very thoughtful and articulate description of what I hope also to be my standard. My eyes aren’t as good as yours (20/800 yikes) but my nearsightedness allows me to model to a 3 *inch* rule. In HO that’s probably close to S or O at more than 3″ 🙂

    I’m curious what camera equipment you use for such great photos.mi especially like the great depth of field. I don’t recall your going into detail about it before, but if I somehow missed it, my apologies and a pointer to the link would be fine. Thanks for producing such an excellent blog – I really enjoy following your process and thinking.

    • Hi Chris:

      Thanks for the kind words.

      I haven’t discussed cameras because there are many great cameras on the market. Everybody has their favourites.

      I happen to use a Canon EOS Rebel T2i, but others have taken photos of the layout on point-and-shoot digital cameras – or even smart phones – with terrific results.

      Smart phones have really changed the game again. Back in the days of film, very few people used a camera as a modelling tool. With the advent of digital cameras, more people started using one to improve their modelling because those larger than life photos really do show off any shortcomings on a model. But I think people still, primarily, took photos of their own work.

      With smart phone cameras, though, it’s possible to have a camera with you wherever you go. That means we don’t need to plan to take pictures (e.g.: we don’t need to pack the camera and tripod). If we see something that inspires us, we can whip out the phone and capture it.

      This can be the unexpected “good idea” we see on a layout tour, or even something in the real world that we feel can help us in our modelling. A good example of this from my own experience is the photographs of forests that I shared on this blog recently. The pictures of the forest edge and forest deadfall were taken with the camera on my phone.


  3. No compromise means not selling oneself short. It does not mean working to exact scale of everything. Those who think it means otherwise haven’t grasped the point.

    • That’s right, Simon.

      My thought – now that I’ve slept on it – is that I intend to approach each project with the goal of not compromising on anything. I do this even though I know I will have to at some point in the project. But by bringing this attitude to the workbench or the layout room, when those points of deviation arise I consider each one carefully to determine why a compromise might be needed. It’s a reality check – a way to ensure that I’m not making a compromise simply because I can’t be bothered to do it right.
      It also means I never step back from a project and say “That’s good enough”. I step away and ask, “Is that good enough?” It’s a final check on my work, against my benchmark (which is, “no compromises”). It’s a way to gauge what I have built and ask, “Is there something else I need to do, or something I could do better?”
      As an example, I’m rethinking one of the structures I’ve built. It was from a kit and I’m unhappy with how some aspects of it turned out. It’s partly because I’ve learned better techniques – and partly because of some shortcomings in the kit’s manufacture. I plan to build another, similar structure from a kit but make modifications as I go. If it works as planned, I’ll replace the original structure with another kit for the same structure, and rebuild it using the new (better, proven) techniques.

  4. From the start of the model rail hobby, the prototype modeller has had to compromise. Nickle silver rails soldered to PC board ties instead of 33′ rails bolted together and spiked to wood ties set in loose ballast. This is a necessary deviation from prototype. We make so many of these compromises that it is in our interest in replicating whatever we can as accurately as possible. “Choose your battles”. I recall Rich Chrysler’s
    approach as being directed to a complete layout, and that he admitted to compromises. But his layout overall was so well executed that one could only cavil at small details on it.

  5. Thanks, Trevor, for your thoughtful and provocative philosophy regarding railroad modeling. I have often accepted the “good enough” and/or “3 ft.” criteria on occasion, but you now have made me feel guilty for doing so! I have on occasion attempted “the best I can possibly do” approach to modelling projects, and found it to be rewarding, as I was able to do better than the “good enough” or “3 ft. rule”, even thought it was neither “perfect” nor “no compromise.” I don’t completely understand your “no compromise” philosophy with some compromises, but it may take me some time to digest what you have written in this blog. Thanks for getting me to thinking more in depth about how to set my own modelling goals.

    Phil Gliebe
    Waynesville, Ohio

    • Working within defined constraints is not a compromise, it is an acceptance of reality. Trevor wants the standard of his modelling to be, at the end of the day, as good as he can get. This means accepting that the models produced now may not be as good as he could achieve in the future, so projects may be re-worked or replaced. It is being prepared to decide whether or not to accept a model, based on a simple question: “Is this the best I can do at the moment?” rather than contemplating one’s naval about every last possible detail, and inducing “analysis paralysis” leading to no output.

      Sometimes it is simply a question of balancing competing needs and priorities. Trevor is not concerned enough yet to sort out the required Z-bracing on those boxcars; he currently has 3 items of equipment that look the part and serve the function, and the extra time spent attending to this single detail would have delayed other projects. However, once those projects are completed, Trevor has a project waiting for him: upgrading or replacing them. Others may chose a different set of priorities, perhaps leaving construction of buildings until later in the process of building a layout. For now, though, the extra time required to bring them fully up to standard is better spent elsewhere. (This is a classic example of the 80:20 rule – 80% of the result comes from 20% of the effort.)

      Incidentally, the perpetrators of “good enough” also operated to a principle of “no compromise”. They would not accept a model which was not good enough. But their own constraints, principally the consequence of building a working model of a rail-based transportation system, i.e. the need to fill a large space with lots of railroad, in a reasonable time frame, meant that they would not have time to spike every tie, to put competition-level detail into every model, to work to Proto:87 (given the then available resources) and so on. They were not selling themselves short by any means, but their focus was on a bigger picture – typically a large basement filled with representations of an Appalachian railroad. In this context, suggested detail makes more sense than every detail.

      Unfortunately, it has led to many misunderstanding the “good enough” principle, and a blanket-wide promotion of these two words without any expansion to explain that it does not mean taking short-cuts, it simply means defining what you want to achieve, and working to that level.

      If you are a more-or-less lone modeller with an interest in careful operation of a simple line (on the not unreasonable basis that you can only run one train at a time, which as Trevor has shown can take up a couple of hours for 2 people to run) then a detailed model of a simple branch line or short line may provide all the pleasure you need. Instead of having 20 engines and 200 freight cars, the time and money could be focused on 2 engines and 20 cars, all built to a much higher standard.

    • Hi Phil:

      Don’t feel guilty! As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I never judge how others engage with the hobby. But this is a diary of sorts and I use it to post about my approach to the hobby as well as the projects I’ve tackled.

      The no compromise philosophy – with compromises – is not an easy thing to explain. If you’re having trouble grasping it it’s probably because I haven’t done a good job describing what I mean. Here’s an example from the hobby that might help…

      Let’s say you’re pursuing your NMRA MMR, and you decide one of the seven areas you’re going to qualify in is structures. So you look at the requirements and it says you need to build X number of structures of this type or that, and each structure has to be judged by an NMRA official and achieve a certain number of points to qualify as one of the structures towards your certificate.

      The follower of the “good enough” philosophy might approach this task by saying, “What do I have to do to get the points I need for a qualifying structure?” They then build the structure and tick the boxes. Does it have this? Yep – that’s 10 points. Does it have that? Yep – that’s another five. And so on. The NMRA guidelines say adding a sign to a structure is worth X points, so they add a sign.

      By contrast, the follower of the “no compromise” philosophy might approach this task by saying, “What’s the maximum number of points I can get and what do I have to do to achieve that?” Then, they try to build a structure that will get a perfect score. As they build the structure, they assess their work – and at some point they might decide something is not perfect, or that they might lose points because they don’t plan to do something. (For example, the NMRA might award points for adding a sign to a structure, but the modeller is building a model of a prototype that didn’t have any signs.) At that point, they decide whether it’s worth taking the hit on their score.

      Both modellers will end up with a qualifying structure – but I’d rather be that no-compromise modeller, knowing that compromises are inevitable.


  6. Trevor,

    I really do enjoy and do follow your website; great work.

    In re compromises, once we understand the limiting personal variables of skill, money, time, age (the advancing type) etc. we are all faced with the need to make compromises, in one way or another. And we do. But I don’t agree with the concept that any compromise is the way to the dreaded slippery slope. Part of the issue is that we can’t seem to find a definition for our own level acceptance and part of it is that them digital cameras can show us our “issues.” But we don’t look at our work or run trains looking through the lens of a digital camera. We stand there and view the work usually standing up some four or five feet away. And from that perspective we set a judgement. No one knows whether I have train lines under my box cars (they don’t) but the viewer does. So my thought is to set a standard and drive toward it. Use the digital camera as a tool but don’t be ruled by its accuracy, and, as someone once said, have fun .
    Thanks again for your blog, it is very inspiring.

    Roger Sekera

    • Hi Roger:
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you enjoy the blog.
      As I’ve noted, I understand compromises are inevitable and when I need to make them, I do. But this is really about attitude – about how I approach a project, and about how I assess the need for a compromise when I’m facing one. It’s the reality check to make sure that I’m not making the compromise because I’m feeling lazy or because that’s the easier option.
      For example, I need to create a plate to mount on the fascia to hold the switches that control the turntable in Port Rowan. The motor and controller is really nice, but came with a nasty piece of acrylic to mount on the fascia. I decided that since I have nice aluminum plates for the throttle plug-ins, I will have to make a similar plate for the turntable controls.
      The piece that came with the turntable is “good enough”. It holds the controls. But it would be a compromise for me to use it because it doesn’t meet the standard I’ve set for Things On The Fascia.
      It’ll be harder to create a proper plate. It will require learning how to use a milling machine that I picked up from a friend about a year ago. But… I will end up with a mounting plate that meets my standard, and I will have learned some new skills.
      Meantime, the nasty acrylic plate is temporarily mounted on the fascia with a C-Clamp. It’s awful enough that I won’t leave it that way forever – something that I might be tempted to do if I actually mounted the acrylic plate permanently.

  7. Trevor,

    As always very interesting points that have generated wonderful responses. Sometimes, the quest for perfection can lead to inaction on the part of the person involved (guilty as charged). The perceived inability to obtain a certain level of perfection can lead to nothing being done which in the end is a loss for the person involved. I especially enjoyed the golf analogy. Always be the best you can be.

  8. Another way to look at this is to ask, am I building my capacity to enjoy the craft on a deeper level or diminishing it?

    Mike Cougill

  9. I’m not sure your understanding of the “good enough” principle tallies with mine, or Simon Dunkley’s, based on your comments on his recent post.

    If I follow your response to Simon, you think that being a “good enough” modeller implies this individual will build to the minimum necessary to, in the example you give, get NMRA achievement award “points” – even though they could have done better if they had pushed themselves harder.

    It is hard to argue with the implied criticism of said person in this analysis, if your point of view is to focus on one project at a time, and your philosophy is to do each project to the highest level you can, irrespective of the time, effort, and expense this might involve.

    What Simon has said, and I would echo, is that a “good enough” modeller in the Allan McClelland tradition views all individual aspects of a layout – such as a single structure – as being just a part of “the project” – which is, to get a large layout that is capable of replicating realistic operations, to the stage where it is actually operational, within the modeller’s lifespan.

    If every single individual element of the V&O had to be built to “no compromise” standards, then there would never have been an operational V&O, albeit there might have been a few wonderful pieces of rolling stock and a few really good scenes created.

    Once the project is built to “good enough” standards, the “good enough” modeller might start to upgrade various aspects of the layout, or, might chose instead to actually spend their time in operating it realistically. Or, any combination of the above.

    The point is, building a large operating layout – especially one that attempts to duplicate any intense type of operation – usually involves picking one’s battles. So does even a small layout, for that matter, if you face significant time constraints. The constituent projects necessary to achieve the overall goal have to be prioritized and resources allocated in a way that advances the entire project.

    I think this is where the “V&O” “good enough” school of model railroading requires some very pragmatic planning and a lot of self-discipline in allocating resources, especially of *time*, if success is going to be achieved. There are a lot of “basement empires” that never make it because their builders prove unable to get an adequate handle on the entire project, bog down on a few aspects of it, and eventually lose interest.

    In my own case, I’ve been building a 1960’s double-track heavy mainline layout now for a few years. I get most of my heavy work done in my summer vacation.

    But three years ago, I got “side-tracked” working on a freight car detailing project – 4 NYCS flexi-flo cement cars, to be specific. These cars ate up many, many hours of my time.

    I’m not (totally) sorry I put that effort in, because the end result was 4 signature cars for my layout that are unavailable in any other way. However, as my vacation that year was winding down, I looked at the layout overall and realized that I had not allocated a very precious resource – my time – in an optimal manner, given the needs of the *project as a whole*. If I didn’t get some benchwork etc. done in the following summer, the overall project was never going to happen. Those nice flexi-flos would languish going pointlessly back and forth down a short stretch of operational track, and never enjoy the nice long run delivering cement to wherever, that the project, *if completed* will provide…

    So each of the last two summers has seen a major construction project to advance the cause of getting at least my mainlines operational.

    I don’t think in terms of how many hours it will take to complete one project to the best of my abilities. I think of how many hours I can allocate to any given project, given my knowledge that there are “x” number of other projects that are necessary to get my layout operational. How important I feel that one project is to the overall goal determines the time and effort it will get.

    Some projects are crucial and require a maximum effort. Like the helix I am currently working on. Every single mainline train I hope to run will go up or down that helix, so the trackwork on it has to be as good as I can possibly make it.

    Other projects are less crucial.

    I’ve got some stand-in structures in place, for example. If time eventually permits, all of them will be upgraded. I have stations representing Comber and Essex on the layout. Neither looks all that much like the real thing – the resemblances are superficial at best.

    Still, from an operational point of view, there is “a station” at Comber, and Essex – and *at this point in time* in the construction process of my rather large layout, that’s “good enough”…

    • Hi Jim:
      Welcome aboard.
      I’ll start by repeating what I’ve said before – I am only applying the standard to myself. This blog is about how I’m approaching the hobby and what I’m accomplishing in it.
      With that out of the way, my issue with “good enough” is not that guys like Al McClelland used it to build large layouts. It’s that the “good enough” philosophy (or the Three-Foot Rule) is often the default when modellers approach all projects on the bench or the layout.
      Since we’re throwing well-known names about, I’d argue that Jack Burgess embraced a No Compromise approach to modelling the Yosemite Valley RR. (In fact, he describes his approach here, and uses the term “few compromises”). Jack has found that prototype to be incredibly satisfying over more than four decades of work on a garage-sized layout. And I’m betting that his approach has taken him out of his comfort zone many times as he built the layout. For example, I know that he did research to develop custom models for key pieces of rolling stock. He also wrote an awesome book on the railroad.
      While I haven’t developed kits or written a book (yet), and would not put myself in the league of either Burgess or McClelland, I find that challenging oneself by adopting that same “no compromises” approach to the hobby makes me a better modeller in a way that “good enough” never would.

      • I think we are all basically on the same page here, and what we are seeing is perhaps a “terminology” problem – as in, the terminology we are using has to be more precisely defined.

        As Trevor and Simon have pointed out, there are “good enough” model railroaders who do not aspire to create masterpieces. That’s fine, it’s their choice in the way they enjoy the hobby. It gets irritating, as Simon has pointed out, if one of these persons disparages a “masterpiece” as being the creation of a “rivet counter” – as if being a “rivet counter” means one is some sort of crazy fixated nerd. On the other side of this coin, it is equally disparaging for a “rivet counter” to accuse these “good enough” modellers as somehow being inferior beings, though.

        Then, there is the “Good Enough” school of serious layout builders, as exemplified by McClelland and Koester. I view myself in this group. The difference from “No Compromise” modellers is really a matter of how one sets up one’s work program, not the “end goal”.

        For me, my first priority is to get all my trackwork in and operational, so that realistic operations become possible. Realistic operations on my railroad don’t *require* any scenery at all. Structures can be little signs identifying what they are, so if there is a coal distributor, operators know where it is and know to drop and pick up the appropriate rolling stock at that location.

        My concept of “operational” also includes all requisite signalling, and (hopefully) transponding and JMRI operations. The goal being to have the program run “background” through trains while human operator(s) operate their single train.

        Having said that, my next priorities include getting structures and scenery on, the most accurate rolling stock possible, etc. etc. and in fact I am working on most aspects of the layout, including scenery, rolling stock, power, etc., simultaneously. I’m just *concentrating* on the basic track infrastructure – the skeleton of the layout, upon which all else is built upon, if you will – until it is operational.

        My ultimate goal is a railroad of the quality of Jack Burgess’s layout. Will I ever get there? Well, Burgess has taken over thirty years to get to where his layout is now, and reading his website homepage reveals that he is still actively upgrading various aspects of it. He says he started in 1981 and had his first formal operating session in late 1998 – 17 years to get up and operating.

        Realistically, I think I’ve got two more years of serious effort to get my entire layout operational. I started planning it in 2007 and really serious construction started in 2008. So if I make it, I will have an operational layout capable of a formal operating session, completed in 7 or 8 years. Although I have also added some scenery, some buildings, detailed some rolling stock, put DCC in to engines, etc. – in other words, I have not *ruthlessly* focused on track construction. The ability to work on various aspects of the overall effort as the mood strikes me is I think one of the best aspects of model railroading, and the farther my layout progresses, the more options open up in that regard.

        But I digress.

        So let’s say I am “operational” in two years. At that point, my efforts will definitely shift towards upgrading the scenery. Will I superdetail one section at a time, working from one end of the layout to the other? Will I upgrade whole sections to a uniform level, then go back over them and upgrade them again? Not sure just now. But I’ll then have about 10 years of time to “catch up” to Burgess’s current layout, in terms of scenery etc. And if I’m still alive 32 years in to the project, as Jack Burgess is on his, I hope it will look fairly awesome…

        So what I’m saying is, “Good Enough” serious modellers are usually aiming for the same thing as “No Compromise” serious modellers, it’s just the path taken to get to the final product – if it’s ever achieved – is a different one.

        By the way, Trevor – I for one would definitely put you in the same category as McClelland and Burgess. You have the dedication and skills and are obviously creating a masterpiece layout. The fact we are reading your blog etc shows that you are also communicating valuable information to the rest of us.

        I also agree with Simon’s last two posts, but this seemed like the best place to throw my 2 cents worth in…


        • Hi Jim:
          Good luck with the layout – it sounds like quite a project! And remember – any deadlines you’re setting to get a layout running, scenicked, etc., are self-imposed. It’s a hobby, etc., etc., etc. and as long as one is having fun and making some progress on a regular basis, missing deadlines is just fine. In my opinion, anyway.
          Thanks also for the kind words about my modelling skills. I’m flattered!

        • “Terminology”.
          Yes: as always, we come back to seeing the words, but perhaps not the meaning.

          Here is another way of looking at it:
          Decides where the “bar” needs to be set, such that you can achieve what you want to achieve with resources (including time) at your disposal.
          Everything you do must be compared to this standard, and if it is not up to the standard, then it is NOT good enough.
          Three points to take on board, though.
          1) you cannot compromise on good running, no matter what else you decide – else you will become disillusioned;
          2) you may revise your standards (hopefully upwards!) at some point in the future, but just now, things are as they are;
          3) we all become interested in asking ourselves if we are meeting the standard – are we “good enough” – and also to consider if we would find it more rewarding to raise the standard – is “good enough” (currently defined as whatever it is) still good enough?


    • I suspect Trevor is being provocative, and to me that is a good thing, as it has provoked debate.

      What I personally object to is the missapplication of a sensible idea, as postulated by messrs McClellnd and Koester for their large operational layouts, and the mindless promulgation of it by “influential” (well, they probably think so) figures in the hobby. It is one thing to suggest that one sets standards to suit and support one’s modelling objectives (personal pleasure, competition entry, “layout quality” vehicle), and another to encourage people to dismiss craftsmen as “rivet counters”, which is what usually happens.


    • Jim said:
      “If every single individual element of the V&O had to be built to “no compromise” standards, then there would never have been an operational V&O, albeit there might have been a few wonderful pieces of rolling stock and a few really good scenes created.”

      That’s the point, really. Personally, I would go for a few wonderful pieces of rolling stock running through a few really good scenes, providing it had massive amounts of my time and effort in the creation thereof.

      As Trevor has said, others may differ, but he is suggesting that one sets a standard, and then doesn’t compromise on it.


  10. Trevor,thanks for your thoughtful response, which is as usual well composed. I think we’re singing from the same page here. To me the idea is to set and understand my own standard and then hard drive toward that goal. But I often find my best work when I stretch or try a new approach. That’s one of the truly enjoyable part of this hobby; completing a project to a level that surprises me.

    Thanks again and keep up the great work.


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