The giant echo chamber of popular magazines, blogs, online forums and  podcasts gives the perception that model railroading means the same thing to everyone and that we’re all chasing the same goals. While the repetition of ideas and concepts suggests a homogenized view, there are many stories we tell ourselves about model trains. With that thought in mind, author Seth Godin has a very useful concept to consider: people like us do things like this.

Applied to our craft for example, it might go like this:

People like us, who enjoy operations, build layouts like this.

People like us, who enjoy the craft of scratchbuilding, build models like this.

People like us, who appreciate finescale modeling, approach the hobby like this.

Three different stories about model trains, where the important thing to understand is that each person chose the story that’s the most attractive and satisfying for them.

The operations enthusiast isn’t that concerned about fine details, while the model builder may not want a layout at all. Both are focused on what they find the most interesting. The finescale modeler tells himself yet a different story about model trains, one that’s perfectly suited for him but maybe not the others.

Not everyone has a big empty basement waiting to be filled with model trains. Not everyone is building a time machine or modeling “work.” It’s equally true that many people don’t care about building models or pursuing fine craft of any kind. When we understand that the story around model trains isn’t the same for everyone and doesn’t have to be, we can simply focus on the one that’s right for us. Trying to convert people who aren’t interested in the same things as you are is not only frustrating; it’s largely a waste of everyone’s time.

OST Publications, and this blog, speaks to people who enjoy a more thoughtful discussion about modeling and appreciate the craft as a journey. My books take a nontraditional approach that encourages a deep understanding of what you want from the craft along with a focus on artistry and craftsmanship. This approach doesn’t speak to everybody but it does speak to people like us who do things like this.




  1. Simon

    Happy New Year to you Mike, and to all of your thoughtful followers, commentators and readers!

    Earlier today I posted elsewhere about the fatuousity (if that is a word!) of people invoking “Rule #1”. Of course it’s your railroad and you can do what you like: paint the engines pink and put faces on them for all I care. No one needs to invoke this rule.
    But contrary wise, your choices may not relate to my tastes. I don’t have to like what anyone else is doing; I don’t have to follow the crowd. Doesn’t make me in anyway superior to anyone else, it’s just a statement of how I enjoy my hobby.

    Let’s raise a glass to diversity!

  2. Lee gustafson

    An individuals choice of expression and practice of the hobby may change with experience and age. The basement layout and operation may be a goal in the early stage of the hobby but a change in focus and direction to model building and developing the related skills to that focus can and does occur. I find working at the bench building a model to be my focus now.

  3. mike

    Happy New Year to you as well Simon and thank you for helping to make the blog what it is.

    Not only do our interests change but the level of enthusiasm will ebb and flow over the years too.


  4. Jeff Peck

    I think it’s like this…take 5 people, put them in a kitchen and say “cook this dish”. In the end, you’ll get that dish cooked 5 different ways through 5 different techniques seasoned 5 different ways – it’s the sum of our tastes, our experience, our techniques that put us in different places in the hobby. I have a basement I could fill with a layout but I’m not going to. My experiences and my observations have taught me that’s just not right for me. For me. Perhaps others have that desire. The other day I saw a layout on a video that takes 30 people to run an operating session. The owner was as happy as a clam…and I was happy for him. Whatever road you follow in this journey of ours, getting there isn’t half the fun – it’s all the fun.

    Best wishes to all for a Happy and Healthy New Year.

  5. Pete Leach

    I am new to reading your blog. Been lurking for a couple of months.
    I agree with your overall premise. Like our society in general, I am finding that tolerance for other views and methods are diminishing. Many blogs and forums spend too much time telling us the “right” way.
    I have spent most of my hobby life as a lone wolf. While I am now part of the bigger pack, I still am modeling for myself. I don’t care if anybody else approves. I am happy to help those who ask, to to each their own.
    When things get too nasty, I can just go back into my lair.