Overview of Indiana and Whitewater

Relax. This post has nothing to do with Freud. I recently read a question online that asked: “What’s stopping you from building your dream layout?”

The responses were predictable: Lack of money, time, space, commitment, lack of focus and the killer response of the bunch: my wife! Your wife? Seriously?

I don’t take issue with the reasons offered. Life happens in all its forms to everyone. Furthermore, from the way the question was phrased, these types of responses were entirely predictable.

I wonder though, where did we get this idea of a “dream layout” anyway? (Also substitute dream car, house, job, life, vacation, marriage partner…) The Dream is usually expressed as something like this: My dream layout will duplicate every car movement through Enola Yard near Harrisburg, Pa. in the fall of 1955. Yeah, good luck with that. Over the years the dream layout fantasy has become a sacred cow cultural icon of the hobby, a part of that far away future time when everything goes our way and we can finally start on the “Dream.”

I’m not against having dreams or dreaming big. I’ve chased my share of them; given up on some that weren’t a good fit and hope to chase a few more before it’s all over. The house I live in doesn’t resemble the house in my head too closely at present. However, the two are getting closer together because my wife and I are working to make it happen. Will we ever get there completely? Probably not, but that’s no longer the point for us. We’re doing something in the here and now to bring that dream house out of my head and into the real world.

Maybe that’s the lesson and reason behind the question that started the online conversation. When it comes to layouts and model railroading, maybe we need to dream differently. An individual may not have the resources to build the layout they ultimately want, but practically everyone can have a layout of some kind now, instead of waiting for some far off state of good fortune to arrive. We’ve bought the bill of goods that if we can’t have our first choice desire in a particular form, then nothing else will do. I don’t subscribe to that notion anymore.

I written about all of the failed layout attempts I’ve started and trashed over the years. Each one was supposed to the “one.” Flawed and imperfect as each attempt was, I learned something about myself and about what I really wanted from this hobby, so I gained some value from all of those exercises. I also don’t consider the I&W to be my “dream layout” because I now understand there is no such thing. It has shortcomings, and lacks certain desirable elements I wish I could have included. In spite of that, I’m happy with it. Changes have occurred and that can be a good thing if they’re motivated by a desire to improve the craftsmanship of my modeling. However, I have no plans to trash it and start over.

I’ve given up on the premise behind the dream layout idea. Dreams sometimes come true but more often they won’t without hard work and sacrifice and, even when they do, things aren’t always as we imagined they would be. I’d much rather have a real, but imperfect layout I can work on now. Wouldn’t you?



  1. Dunks

    “May all your dreams come true,” is a very old and well-established curse…

    Better not to have them, then!


  2. mike

    Dreams are what keeps life interesting.



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