For a significant portion of the last year, I’ve preached about how the craft can become a means for self-motivated learning. It’s time to put meat on those words.

The past few weeks I’ve been working on my locomotive. The bare chassis has happily skittered around the layout for years, while the body remained in the box. It begs the question, why?

Question 12 of 20 questions: “Are assumptions hurting the (or my) hobby?”
In truth, utter laziness is a huge part of it. After switching to quarter-inch scale, I spent those early years building the layout and doing tasks that I enjoyed far more than building rolling stock.

Lesson A:
I’ve learned that how I do one thing strongly reflects my approach to everything. My hobby time is no different in that I will avoid things which make me uncomfortable, even if the end results are beneficial. (Like a well detailed loco.)

The statement will be made that it’s only a hobby and you do as you please. Agreed, yet people have busted my chops more than once over the lack of trains in my blog photos and I’ve always made some excuse for their absence. It is a hobby and I’ll say that if I wanted to detail the layout to the nines and use it as a giant photo stage, I’d do exactly that regardless of other’s opinions. Despite the allegations, that isn’t my objective for it and I’m tired of both the snarky comments and of watching a bare motor, frame and trucks scamper around pretending to be motive power.

Question one of 20: Is model railroading frustrating?
Yes. At times damnably so. The locomotive still isn’t finished, having suffered a host of setbacks and missteps, all of my own doing and all fueled by my impatience. (Are we having fun yet model railroaders?)

Lesson B:
I’m impatient to the max and didn’t need a hobby to figure that out. When I enjoy doing something like laying track or scenery work, I can bring all the patience in the world to the task. Using those skills feels good to the core, which only reinforces the desire to use them.

But, working out of my cozy little comfy zone doesn’t feel so great, especially when it’s clear I haven’t a clue about what I’m doing. It feels crappy to face your own ineptitude.

Question three of 20: Why is fun a prerequisite for a hobby?
Question four of 20: What constitutes fun?

This is where my impulse to hurry up and get it over with comes into full flower. After all, who wants to do stuff that isn’t fun?

Lesson C:
I learned to handlay turnouts when I was a teenager but I didn’t build a decent one until well into my 20s (or was it my 40s?) Those first ones were ugly, never worked and weren’t fun. But there were dozens more after those, and still more after that. Over time, I learned the requirements for building reliable turnouts from scratch. This eventually freed me to build track as I wanted rather than be a slave to the specifications of manufactured track. That’s when the real fun began.

Question 14 of 20: Are people afraid to challenge their assumptions about model railroading?
In a word, yes. This is where I’m at with the GP9. Despite decades of experience in the craft, some of my modeling skills are profoundly rusty but I believe I should be better than I am simply because I’m competent in other areas. Reality tells another story.

All my blabbering on about craftsmanship and excellence is really aimed at myself because when it comes to modeling rolling stock, I’m not competent at all. I have a learning curve to navigate and more mistakes to endure before the outcomes on the bench reflect what I see in my mind, if indeed they ever do.

The standard advice is chill out, lower my standards and just have f_n. (Hey, have you heard, it’s a hobby!) It would’ve been easy to give up after a few crappy turnouts but I pressed on even when it looked hopeless, which was often. I’ll keep after the GP9 too, even though I’ve botched two different paint jobs and it’s reaching the point where the shell won’t tolerate the abuse from stripping them off without suffering damage to the details. It isn’t fun now but it will lead to a good place eventually. As the old saw goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it.