Without the story behind it, a photo like this is nothing more than a tour-de-force of Photoshop techniques.

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One could imagine a number of scenarios about this image. It might bring up memories of tiptoeing to work through the early morning fog watching for traffic, deer or whatever might be on the road ahead. Maybe this shot was a lucky break that you stumbled on to or maybe the trip was planned from the outset.

Perhaps this the final run, with the crew cleaning out the yard for the last time. Or is it the first day of revenue operations for a new shortline? Given that the turnout in the distance is set for the diverging route, maybe it’s just a normal day of switching, albeit a dreary one.

Whatever scenario we bring to the image, it’ll hopefully be a humane, human story, one with good outcomes for all concerned. If it’s the end of operations on this line, what will happen to the employees? Will they be transferred or have to look for another kind of work? What impact will the closure have on the community? If it’s the first day of operations for a new company, will they make a go of it? One never knows what the future will bring.

I’ve been reading some wonderful blog posts about how to involve visitors with the context of the scenes we model. A typical reaction I get from non-hobbyists is they weren’t prepared for how realistic the layout looks. Invariably people expect nothing more than a loop of track on a bare sheet of wood, maybe a few clunky buildings or corny looking trees. They expect a lot of animated features and other things more common to the toy train side of things than scale modeling. I wish my visitors could experience the layout as it’s depicted in the photo. I wish I could experience it that way! Of course, I can’t, except in my imagination and on the computer monitor.¬†However, a photo like this could start a conversation and provide non-hobbyists a point of reference about my approach to scale modeling and how I see my layout.

How could we provide the missing context that would help folks understand what we’re doing? How could we speak about the work in a way that people would relate to beyond the modeling and railroad jargon that no one outside the craft understands? David P. Morgan would have crafted a compelling tale about that Baldwin S12 going about her business on a cold, fog bound January day but he wouldn’t have forgotten the people and their context to the work and machines.

In a hobby that’s hyper focused on stuff, maybe what’s missing are the human stories. What’s your story about? What do you bring to the work you’ve chosen? What does the craft return to you? How could you convey that to your neighbor or Aunt Bessy?