What do most of us really want from this craft? The most basic answer is an achievable, satisfying layout. One that we can build, maintain and enjoy for many years. One that reflects our personal vision of what railroading and the craft means to us.

What really prevents you from having that? Beyond life circumstances out of your control, I’d wager it’s a lack of clarity and understanding of what you want.

When I hear a hobbyist recite the harbor goes in this corner, the narrow gauge branch to the coal mine goes here, next to the grain elevator, and so on, I have the strong sense he doesn’t really know what he wants and I can predict the outcome. One month, two or six, he’s back with Dream Layout v.4.6, because reality got in the way of the first 4.5 versions. He’s afraid to make a clear choice because it might not be the right one. He might miss out on something good and that would be horrible.

When a modeler says that scratchbuilding or handlaying track is too hard or too time consuming, that’s often the outward expression of an internal voice that says: “I’m not sure I can do this and I don’t want to deal with failure or look silly.”

I believe fear is the root of such thinking. I know because I’ve been that guy. Our brains hate not knowing what to do or whether we have what it takes to do it but we’re empowered by clarity. When we know what to do and know that we can, there’s no conflict, we just do it.

There are a lot of strong opinions and conflicting voices about the best way to approach this work. Trying to listen to all of them will only leave you confused, maybe even frustrated and with all the noise, it’s hard to listen to your own voice.

Many voices might offer perspective but too many can also create chaos. By simply following the noise of the herd, you’ll be letting others do your thinking for you. You’ll be tempted to embrace the fad of the month and when that grows old, there’s always the next one. If that’s what you want, then yes you may be having “fun,” but isn’t this craft about more than a series of failed layouts that only add to the landfill?

Like others, I can offer an insight or series of questions to ask and on this blog and in my books, I encourage my readers to understand why certain choices of prototype, era or operations appeal to them more than others. I stress this process because I believe it’s the bedrock foundation upon which a satisfying layout is built.

We each have to decide what our level of involvement with this craft will be and what meaning it brings to our lives. Without a clear understanding of what you want or hope to achieve, might you be wasting your time and other resources?

There is another story about this craft that needs to be told. A story about discovering and listening to your own voice, because that’s where the clarity you’re looking for is found. You need to learn how to trust your instincts. I believe you truly know what you want but all the rhetoric and noise from people with their own agenda gets in the way of listening to your own voice. Do you want a satisfying layout that expresses your personal vision of railroading or do you want the safety of following the herd? If you want the first one, OST Publications can help. Check out my books to learn more.