“Too Much”

Over on his blog, Chris Adams has written a very thoughtful piece on eating the (model railway) elephant called “Too Much”. Like many of us – myself included – he hit the point where there was so much to do on his layout, it felt like too much. Click on his header image (below) to read more – including how he’s dealing with this challenge:

 photo ValleyLocal-Header_zps1633f898.jpg

I’ve been there – mostly on previous layouts. My adventure with Port Rowan is, in large part, my way of coping with that feeling. I purposefully curbed my ambitions to design a layout that I felt would best fit the demands on my time and the reality of living at least an hour’s drive from almost all of my group of hobby friends – which means I’m doing most of the work, and the operating, by myself. (The exception being David Woodhead, who lives about six blocks from me. Even so, we’re both busy so we see each other less often than one would expect.)

I call these “Achievable Layouts” – and occasionally add examples of such to a separate blog that goes by that moniker. Mike Cougill calls them “Freedom Layouts” – and it’s an excellent term, too.

Each time I start a new layout, I find it has less complexity. To provide but one example of this:

– Two layouts ago, my layout had 30 turnouts on it.

– My previous layout had about 15.

– This one – Port Rowan – has eight.

I sometimes joke that my next layout will have no turnouts at all, like the brilliant Eric Bronsky layout Noitcart Traction from the April, 1978 MR:

 photo NoitcartTraction_zps26a4290c.jpg

And sometimes, it’s not a joke…

I know Chris well enough to know that he’ll get beyond this feeling of “Too Much”. But I also know that when I feel like that, it helps to know that I’m not the only one. And while I’m too far away to offer help in person, I think he’s on the right track so he doesn’t need my help anyway. If you read his blog, you’ll understand what I mean.

I’m looking forward to more progress on The Valley Line – in due course.

11 thoughts on ““Too Much”

  1. Trevor
    More quality and less quantity is a better way to go from my perspective. I am nearly 70 and into my second year of building my P48 railway. The time spent with spiking and detailing switches becomes a limiting factor as to complexity. The other aspect is maintenance. At some point, each aspect require time to adjust and clean and repair……

    You have learned your lessons on layout building and operating. You have built a functioning railroad in a modest space with a simple design. More modelers should adopt your concept and build something that is an enjoyable experience.


  2. My life philosophy has always been, “anything worth doing is worth overdoing”. At 66 I’ve finally learned different :o)

  3. Very true! You often hear that phrase (eat the elephant…), but rarely do you find someone questioning whether they need to eat the elephant at all.

  4. So true, and I think its one reason so many stay in their armchair, thinking they have to build something super colossal to be meaningful. I’ve started modeling again after many years of inactivity. My latest layout is following the Lance Mindheim philosophy. One turnout, one industry with multiple car spots. It’s more than enough layout for me right now.

  5. I just turned 75, and thanks to a massive local flood last September, feeling every year of it. I hesitate to build any layout at all, lest it be a further burden passed on to my wife. I’ve started with building dioramas that don’t actually operate, but maybe a couple sidings and some powered trackage would be more fulfilling.

  6. I must admit to having grand ideas of a medium sized complicated layout. Having read and procured Lance Mindheim literature I have had a re-think and have concluded that quantity does not necessarily equate to quality. I sometimes wonder if we inadvertently raise unrealistic expectations, on the perception of what constitutes a great model railroad as opposed to the reality of the building, maintaining and operating …if in fact we get that far. Having said all of that, the dream of wanting to achieve something magical is a very satisfying experience.

  7. I too have struggled with “too much” and have come to “understand” the concept that you don’t need miles of track and 100 switches to have a good operating railroad. I’ve read Mindhein’s books, and consider “Port Rowan” my role model. However, in my planning, even though I’ve limited my modeling area to a small subdivision, comprising 3 towns, when I put down on paper a “final” track plan, I can’t resist putting in “one more siding” or “one more industry that needs two storage tracks,” which gets me back to “too much.” I struggle to eliminate features that I’d really like to have. It seems as though the “Givens and Druthers” approach doesn’t work for me, because I can’t seem to shorten the “Givens” without giving up too much and therefore losing interest in the whole project. Am I really stuck in “Paralysis by Analysis?” Does anybody else face this dilemma? How do I get unstuck, and get building?
    Phil Gliebe
    Waynesville, Ohio

    • I am often stuck in the same quagmire, Phil.

      “Just do it” is the cliche response, however I prefer the phrase “Act. If you find yourself in error, act again to correct it.”

      I finally have something on the workbench again after a long interval. I’m already running in to issues that arise from wanting more information than I have available, or different parts to build with, simply because I know what I’m doing isn’t “right”.

      It’s weighing the time and material available to do it right the first time vs doing it over again. There’s a sense of wasted effort. But here’s another cliche I’m not fond of but appropriate “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough”.

    • Hi Phil,
      The solution that worked for me was to find a specific prototype to model, and then build only the track work that was there. The challenge I find with this approach was to find the prototype that meets my “givens and druthers”.
      For me, one of the major givens was picking something that I would be able to get to a reasonable level of completion without needing to win the lottery. In my case, this is the CNR running south from Kitchener to Galt, Ontario. 4 turnouts in Galt, and three small sidings on the way from Kitchener.
      This approach has gotten me past the design hump and the risk of adding complexity that wasn’t there, allowing me to actually build. A year and a half later I’m still intrigued by this simple section of the railway, building models, and having fun with it.

  8. I just bought a condo with a dry 21′ x 42′ walk-out basement. The temptation was strong to plan a layout, but at 73 I think I’ll pass. Too many other interesting and more productive things to do.

  9. Thanks for the shout-out Trevor, and especially for the encouragement. Sometimes the thing that gets you off dead center is just talking it out with others that know what you’re going through. And one of the best developments in the hobby in the past dozen years or so, IMO, is the use of the ‘net and blogs like yours that create – and support – such a great community of fellow-travelers/modelers. You’re right – I’m getting back on track, literally & figuratively and actually had a work session last night, which I hope to report soon. Looking forward to catching up with your blog too – Thanks again!

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