We’ve been shuttling back and forth or going in endless circles since the dawn of model trains. Whether it’s a crude circle of track on the floor or a traditional layout, little has changed with this craft in spite of all the techno wizardry we now have.

“There is no new idea. What is new is your perspective.“ -Usher.

What do model trains mean to you? What are you trying to express or capture?

For me, the craft represents an opportunity to pursue ideas and develop skills. From making tangible objects that capture my imagination, I get to work with my hands and engage my mind in the pursuit of excellence.

Looking around, I see a lot of mimicry. A theme is popularized and people can’t jump on the bandwagon fast enough. West Virginia coal roads have been done to death. Ophir Loop has been done to death. Timetable and Train Order, branchlines, funky On30 caricatures; it’s all been done to death. We excel at imitation but fall short of expressing a truly personal viewpoint. We simply don’t know how. That knowledge is outside the conventions that encrust this craft. The world doesn’t need another 1950s steam-to-diesel stereotype. As the quote above suggests, we need your unique perspective on these themes instead of more poor imitations.

There was a phenomenon I experienced with my paintings. I would spend hours and days on a work, bringing it to a point that truly satisfied me; only to have others ignore that work in favor of paintings I considered second-rate efforts. This frustrated me to no end because I wanted others to feel and experience the more formal painting the same way I did.

I finally realized they couldn’t. Each person brought their own experience and viewpoint to the paintings that made them see the work differently than I did. They connected (or didn’t) with each work in their own ways. My ongoing experiences suggest this is true of any creative work: art, music, writing and yes, model building. Realizing that not everyone will connect with my work greatly helped my understanding. It removed the pressure to please others and allowed me to explore subjects and techniques that I found fascinating.

This also applies to our modeling. Many enjoy the social aspects the craft affords yet don’t wish to blindly follow the crowd. If you find yourself here, it can feel awkward. You want others to share in the work but also feel the urge to stand apart. The thing to know is that those who want to understand your choices will make the effort to do so. My former Indiana & Whitewater was largely dismissed by the traditional O scale community because it didn’t fit their image of what a layout should be. However, it satisfied my vision and spoke to others who appreciated an alternative view.

The fear of doing something wrong holds many of us back. People relentlessly seek the approval of others. We want to belong, to be a part of the Tribe, rather than risk being called out by “those in the know.” “WHAT, you’re going to do that! No, no, trust me, you’ll never be satisfied. Look, here’s what you need to do with this space.”

It takes courage to share something that has deep meaning. Doing so leaves us vulnerable to the misunderstanding and insensitivity of others, which can hurt. Yet, we need your courage and example. We need to know the craft has more dimensions to explore than the ones the old guard clings to for dear life.

Regards,
Mike