Think back to the beginning of your interest in model trains. The odds are you started from zero, knowing nothing or very little about the craft. So you read a bunch of books and magazine articles, or scoured YouTube and learned how to do stuff.

Your knowledge was basic at first, then gradually increased as you tackled greater challenges. Over time, you developed more depth of understanding and maybe specialized in a particular subject matter like freight cars, or the history of a specific railroad. In the process, you changed from being a raw novice to an informed, skilled modeler. 

What I suggest with my writing is that rather than doing things haphazardly, you can, if you want to, shape this growth process very deliberately.

As an artist, I learned a process for building my ability to render a subject. At first the drawings were really amateurish, and today I cringe when I look back on that early work. Over time, they got better. I began to see the mistakes in them and discovered how and why those mistakes were happening. I did this on my own but good instruction would have sped my development immeasurably. I believe the same principles apply to model building. We can improve the work by purposefully developing a process that suits our objectives. We can find joy in overcoming the challenges of getting better at something that’s meaningful to us. This is no small thing in my view, regardless of whether you treat it as a casual hobby or something more serious.

We typically don’t think in those terms. You may think that you learned a bunch of stuff but you’re still the same person as before. Well, maybe.

Think back to the feeling you had upon completing a more advanced kit or that first hand built turnout. There was a challenge you conquered. You went from someone who wasn’t certain could do the work to a person who could. I’d wager that becoming aware of that growth and the new potential it opened felt pretty good.

Now, in light of this new knowledge, you see and think about the work differently. You’ll likely start to consider projects you wouldn’t have tried before. I often wonder if people who complain about being bored with the craft have simply plateaued at whatever level they’re at and stopped looking for new challenges that might reengage their interests.

I have no prescriptive, ten steps-guaranteed-to-make-you-happy-forever advice here. There is too much of that already. What do I know about anyone’s circumstances? The answer: Zero. With this blog I can only offer my own experiences in the hope there’s something others might find useful in them. Enjoy the craft however you choose to do so.



  1. Craig Townsend

    I’ve been stumped on multiple projects because I didn’t have the skills needed to complete the idea/requirement in my head. Through various other skills/projects, I’ve slowly gained the skills and confidence to tackle the stalled projects. It’s a journey for sure.

    And I’ve learned quality tools are well worth the price!

  2. mike


    If you’re serious about the work, good tools are worth every penny spent on them. I have a number of unfinished projects that I rotate between. I get stuck on one and if an answer doesn’t come, will move on to a different one for a while. Eventually the change of pace works and I return to the first one and can move it forward again.