We tend to think of model railroading as this thing with a life of its own. We focus on the rules and best practices, the techniques and all the tangible nuts and bolts stuff. Most of all we copy. We look to the gurus for guidance rather than explore on our own. After all, why reinvent the wheel as the saying goes and in so doing, we become part of the monoculture of “The Hobby.”

Of course, everybody is designing and building this type of layout.

Not interested in operation? Dude, strange choice of hobby you made.

And naturally: everyone agrees that space is terrible to waste, nor should we ever forget that Model Railroading is…

Is what exactly?


A pain in the ass?

A way to waste time and spend money?

A way to grow and learn?

A way to build a time machine?

A way to recreate history, model jobs and create work?

Fill a basement with stuff or just sit and think about filling a basement with stuff?

Is it all of the above or none of the above? Yes and yes.

For all the mantras and rhetoric, we forget that this activity wouldn’t exist without the people who practice it.

People who enjoy operation and people who don’t.

People who build museum quality models and those who will never build anything.

People who build layouts and people who don’t.

People who can’t decide what they want and those who know exactly what they want.

Different people with different views and interests with regards to full-size and miniature trains.

The truth about any type of creative work is that you can follow somebody else’s rules and conventions or you can write your own and make what you want of the work. The choice is yours and yours alone.

Happy Independence Day to my American readers.



  1. Galen Gallimore

    What makes a plot of ground farmland? The farmer.

    So I agree with your premise but disagree with one point – “…and those who will never build anything”. I guess if you’re implying that they buy RTR equipment and/or have their railroad built for them, then do something with the trains, okay…but isn’t your blog about promoting the ‘craft’ of model railroading?

    Yes, you can be a model railroader if you buy model trains and operate them as a railroad would. But personally I lean toward the modeling side of the hobby more than the railroading side. I want to build models AND operate them in a setting I’ve built for them as context.

    Hope you had a safe and happy Independence Day enjoying this great hobby.

  2. mike

    Hi Galen,

    Yes, the blog does focus on improving your craft and modeling. I’m not implying anything, just simply acknowledging that there are many different approaches, including what many of us call “armchair” modeling. The point of the post was to poke at the tendency to rigidly define the work according to our preferred way of doing it.