Lately, it seems all of the blogs I routinely read are shutting down their comments feature. In truth, seeing this trend develop is what prompted me to turn them off here, along with the fact that hardly anyone bothered to comment on the majority of the posts lately.

Truthfully, I don’t know what to make of things on this blog anymore. Only one person complained about my turning the comments off, while one other explained that he quit offering comments because he couldn’t add anything useful to the discussion. Those were the only two responses I received to the whole thing.

So, what is one to do? I get the sense that I’m boring the daylights out of people, or worse, that I’m out of touch completely, which I believe I am with most American hobbyists. My views about the craft simply don’t resonate with the mainstream.

Maybe these things just run in cycles and it’s time for a change, or to admit that it’s time to move on. Perhaps it’s seasonal. After the winter we’ve had in the US, I don’t blame folks for wanting to be outside. I want to be outside myself.

Maybe it’s none of the above. I simply don’t know and, I admit that not knowing is frustrating and discouraging. I’ve been searching for an answer, but have come up dry. The self-appointed social media/blogging gurus are all over the map, and frankly, beyond the added confusion of their conflicting advice, most of it doesn’t apply to my tiny corner of the online universe.

I’d like to believe that I can still offer something of value here but, if this blog has outlived its usefulness, then I need to know that too. If I understand the settings in the dashboard, the comments for this post should be on. Many thanks for reading.



  1. Rich Steenwyk

    I follow this blog and read every post, usually agreeing with most of it. I like the detail and realism oriented angles of this hobby.

    That said, it is hard to expound upon ideas in this type of forum without sounding like an echo or offering up “empty” comments that I sometimes think “who wants to read that?”.

    Blogs are strange. There’s a sense of disappointment when a regularly followed blog goes “a while” without an update. Most likely its because the author is busy, but your point could be equally true — If you don’t know anyone’s listening, why keep writing? Trevor Marshall spoke of this more eloquently here as well:

    Personally, I use my blog ( as much for myself as I do for others. It’s been helpful for me to organize my thoughts about my intended modeling target and gives me an outlet since I’m not currently building. Plus, I use it to stay connected to this and other sites where I’ve learned valuable information.

    If I may offer some additional encouragement, one thing I’d like to see is more of your I&W…Pictures, track plan, operations, how you interact with it, videos of operations, etc. What is around that corner anyway?

    Rich Steenwyk
    Milwaukee, WI

  2. Jostein

    Dear Mike,

    You’re certainly not “boring the daylights” out of anyone, and your blog is far from having outlived its usefulness! In fact, I keep coming back to this blog for your insightful commentary and fresh ideas. I’ve subscribed to the RSS feed, so I can get automatic updates whenever you post something new, and I read every post with interest, even if I rarely leave a comment. I haven’t had time to listen to your audio post yet, but from sampling the first few seconds, I think I will enjoy it very much.

    The topic of blog comments is a big one, and not an easy nut to crack. Like you mentioned when you turned comments off, it’s easy for a blog author to get stuck in a cycle of constantly checking for new comments, wasting time and effort that could be put to better use. Furthermore, most readers simply don’t feel that they have something to add, and I for one prefer silence to the incessant “me too” prattle that goes on elsewhere. That being said, I think this blog has seen a lot of interesting and useful comments in the past; a reflection on the quality and thoughtful nature of your posts.

    In closing, I hope you keep the blog going, and leave comments enabled. Don’t confuse a lack of comments for lack of interest!

    With regards,

  3. Trevor

    I have to admit I am really bad about engaging in online discussions. I’m not proud of it – especially since so many people take time to comment on my blog – but I blame two things:
    1 – I have too many passwords and a terrible memory for what they are. It took several tries, and a couple of minutes, to figure out which combination of ID and password I use for this blog just to comment on this post.
    2 – More critically, I spend so much time at a computer for work, to maintain my own blog, to catch up on correspondence with friends, and so on. I find that after taking care of the “must do” things, I need to push back from the computer and do other things for the balance of the day.
    That said, I read EVERY post on your blog, Mike. I re-read most of them, too.
    It’s tough to keep publishing online (or, as I found out, podcasting) when one doesn’t know if one’s effort is making a difference. I assure you, it does for me.
    – Trevor @ The Model Railway Show

  4. mike

    Thanks for the encouraging words guys.

    Good thoughts. What’s around the corner? Not much actually. The curving track exits through the trees onto a removable sector plate that is used as off scene staging. The room is narrow and doesn’t have enough room opposite the layout to develop a scene. One train set curve is enough!

    Gratified to know you get such value from the blog. Thank you. I understand about not wanting to post gratuitous comments.

    Knowing your desire to unplug as often as possible, makes your comment here all the more meaningful. Thanks for the kind words.

    Regards to all,

  5. Simon

    Glad to see the facility return: I missed the conversation, but didn’t complain as it was your choice. In a couple of your recent posts, you made remarks almost in passing that I thought interesting and perhaps worth highlighting or commenting on. I may go back and do that.


  6. mike

    Unfortunately Simon, you’ll discover that the posts made during the comments blackout are closed. It’s just the way WordPress is setup and there’s nothing I can, or know how, to do about it.

    Feel free to make your comments on this post and we’ll all figure out which ones they belong to.

    Good to hear from you again.


  7. Simon

    Hi Mike,

    I figured that was the case when I went through the older posts, and found out the hard way that I couldn’t comment.

    What really struck was your most recent post prior to this one, where you talked about podcasts, etc,

    If it seems easy from the outside, it’s because really talented people have worked long and hard behind the scenes to make it look that way… …To do quality work still takes crafting a vision and the ability to tell a story coupled to the skill of bringing both together into a finished product. That is what separates wannabes (like me) from the pros.

    This is a perfect parallel to our own hobby activities: nothing worthwhile can be gained except through hard work.

    It was good to hear your voice, well reorder. Made me think of Garrison Keillor – hope you like the comparison!.


  8. cthart

    Great to see the ability to comment again and good to read so many comments!

    Now something a bit less “meta”. And I think that “metaness” is maybe my biggest criticism of your blog. Too much analysis and “thinking”. Or maybe that’s how I perceive it because that’s a trap I find myself falling into too often. Over thinking and analysing something. Too much time spent trying to figure out how to do something or trying to find that last bit of prototype information that I think I need to do a good job. So much so that it gets in the way of just doing something. “Your next effort will always be better” is something I need to learn.

    But before I learn that, I can still come here and read more analysis about how and why we do something rather than just going ahead and doing it. And then while I’m online anyway, I can always go to all my other usual hangouts and spend more time discussing and learning how to do something rather than just going ahead and doing it.

    Maybe the naysayers of this blog who say “it’s just a hobby” are right after all. We should just be doing something. Or at least I should be.


  9. mike

    “-hope you like the comparison!”

    I do. I’m not even close to his league though, but that’s how it is in the Whitewater Valley, where the corn grows tall, the grass is green and all the P48 modeling is above average.


  10. mike

    Hi Colin,

    The purpose here is to simply present ideas. What folks do or don’t with them is their choice.

    You might be surprised to learn that the initial trackplan was very seat of the pants. I just figured it out as I went. After living with it and seeing how the scenery was getting so crowded, I thought things through quite a bit over many months. Then one day the frustration level reached critical mass and the tools came out and a lot of labor intensive, carefully laid track vanished in less than thirty minutes.

    To your point of more doing and less analysis, everyone has a different temperament and tolerance toward thinking versus action. I am taking the comments seriously though and will try for a better balance.

    Good to hear from you.

  11. Geoff

    Hi Mike,

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the lack of comments as I think most people who read blogs tend to treat them as being personal and as a result of that they think twice before posting anything. I’m guilty of that myself especially when the blogs in question are written by a well known name in the hobby.

    Your blog certainly isn’t boring as you continue to raise some very interesting issues and post some lovely examples of your modelling. I went through a spell myself when nobody ever commented on my blog and to be honest it never bothered me because I also see it as being a record of my thoughts, a reminder of what I have been doing and why I did it, not just for me but also my family. Given a choice I would rather have one or two interesting, quality replies than a load of froth and back patting like you get on certain forums.

    Happy Easter,

  12. rcandamoonpie


    I read every blog post you make and I agree with about 60% of what you say. I usually don’t comment because 1) it’s your blog and 2) I generally find that a) agreement in comments is hardly worth much and b) disagreement is misunderstood and often devolves into arguing.

    Having said that: You are definitely not in the mainstream. The beating of the “craft” drum gets a little old at times, but I agree that the hobby has moved to rampant consumerism. Beginners are rarely encouraged to learn skills and most practitioners are little more than collectors. Your posts on color and texture are priceless and I definitely enjoy the posts where you’ve built something more than the thought exercises.

    I never see any model trains in your photographs. Relating the blog to model trains is difficult when you never see rolling stock.

    All things considered, you have a well-written, thought-provoking blog that will likely never be popular because your ideas aren’t popular. Neither are mine, so I’ll keep reading! 😉

    Best Regards,
    Rhett Graves
    Madison, AL

  13. ba4990


    I have not commented before, though I’ve read everyone of your posts, many repeatedly. I’ve tended not to comment as “attaboys” or “hear, hears” really serve little purpose. I’ve just never really felt that I had a comment that would add to the discussion.

    However, perhaps this would be a good time for me to express my appreciation for your time and thoughts. Your blog, along with Trevor Marshall’s, has literally, and I mean that in the old fashion sense, changed my outlook on model railroading. No small feat considering I’ve been in the hobby since I was three, nearly 47 years now. You are largely responsible for me switching from On30 to On3, repeated rounds of editing as I’m planning my railroad, and the power of the “redo”. That powerful technique of doing something over if it no longer lives up to current standards. Most importantly, you have turned my model railroad from only a compromise due to lack of space and time, into a model railroad that perfectly fits my space and time. I thank you.

    I especially enjoy the philosophy. Understanding how we consider what we do and why we do what we do, can have tremendous effect on what we do. You provide another view point not commonly found in the mainstream press, but a very important one.

    Well, I’ll go back to my lurking. If I find I have a comment that will bring something to the conversation, then I’ll pipe up. But know that I’m reading your every post, as well as every issue of The Missing Conversation.

    Thank you,
    Bill Allen

  14. John Harder


    I will echo what others have said re: the struggle of when to comment. I have no wish to offer up innane comments when there is little or nothing that I can add to the conversation at hand.
    I am returning to the hobbey after the typical departure during college and the early years of marriage and children. Since coming across your work a number of weeks ago I have have gone back to the beginning and read, at least once, each post. They have opened my eyes literally to the railroad world around me.
    The thoughts and observations, and even some of the comments, presented have spurred me mentally to examine and reexamine my thoughts regarding my interest and desires. Indeed, they led me to register tonight so I could with others say personally, thank you. I am enjoying my love of railroading more because of your thoughtfulness and the work you have expended in sharing it.


  15. mike

    Bill and John, welcome to both of you and many thanks for the kind words. They are deeply appreciated.


  16. Simon

    the power of the “redo”

    What a brilliant phrase.
    You could start a philosophical movement with that!

    Apologies for the hi-jack, Mike.