There are a lot of definitions imposed on model railroading. Look here and you’ll get one view. Look over there and you’ll find another. This pundit has his notions and so does Joe Average.

At the risk of merely adding to the noise, here’s a thought: model railroading is what you make of it.

If you approach it as a craft, then for you, it’s a craft. If you see it as art, then for you, it’s an art form. If all you see is a way to fill your space with cheap stuff, then all you’ll have is a basement full of cheap stuff.

I like to call it a craft instead of a hobby because that’s how I see and enjoy it. I also call it a craft because I respect and value what it brings to my life. For me it’s a way to learn and practice ideas like patience and self-discipline. I’m no longer modeling trains just to have model trains; I use my interest in the work as a way to work on myself. It’s therapy of a sort. It’s a way to relax and understand who I am. It’s a form of expression where I decide what values are important. This approach works for me and that’s all I can ask of it. If it didn’t add to my life in a positive way, then why bother?

I understand how different this is from the mainstream fun and good times playing train mind-set and I’m okay with that. The fun and good time crowd gets to do their thing and I get to practice my craft. As long as each one understands the choice they’ve made, then no harm, no foul.

It goes off the rails quickly when people insist that their ideas are the only ideas worth pursuing. That’s where tempers flare, egos get ruffled and that’s a shame because none of this is worth it. The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius had a useful thought that applies here: “If the cucumber is bitter, then throw it out.” In other words, the solution is often quite simple: you don’t have to agree with or embrace every idea.

I’ve grown disillusioned with the generic hobby and the things it emphasizes. I no longer have any taste for big layouts, cheap hacks for everything and the relentless consumer hype. That’s just one man’s opinion though, as others find all of those things useful to their enjoyment of model trains.

Model railroading is not a homogenized pastime. It means different things to people and keeping that in mind will save a lot of wasted time worrying about the other guy. I can’t control what others like or dislike. I can only control my own actions and response. I can also choose the path that’s meaningful for me. We each decide whether the cucumber is bitter to the taste or not.