We’re looking south. Over the next mile or so, there are three street crossings before we encounter a curve to the left that takes us to the junction with Norfolk Southern’s Richmond Secondary.

Traffic on this short branch is just a few covered hoppers for a wire and cable plant. In addition to that, there’s a runaround and the derelict siding to a farm co-op that wanders off into the weeds.

It’s Personal
An image like this means different things to people.

Some can imagine a small steamer with a mixed train slowly making its way along or maybe a lone Geep with a grain hopper heading for an elevator.

Model builders will consider the wealth of large and small details scattered throughout the scene, while operations folk worry there’s not enough play value here.

What we see is based on what we value about railroading and how to recreate that in miniature.

For me, railroading is closeup, even intimate. I don’t need the active presence of a train to enjoy a scene like this. I can find many things of interest to appreciate like the composition formed by a cluster of rail cars awaiting pick-up. There is space and time for the imagination to wander and explore.

Like our approach to full size trains, this craft is also personal. Over the years, my appreciation of simplicity has deepened. As a creative person at heart, I want more than a shallow focus on stuff. Rather than sleepwalk through this craft by repeating what I’m already comfortable with, I want to explore new ideas and the challenge of doing what I don’t know how to do. We may bring as many layers of depth to this craft as we are willing to seek out.

In countless ways, 2020 has been a pain in the ass. It’s also shown me the grace of understanding the work I’ve done to this point isn’t as good as I believed and that it’s okay. It means I’m no longer fooling myself and can be deliberate in making the work what I believe it can be. I’ve learned to appreciate where the questions of what’s next can take me.

Regular posting will resume in January. Until then I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.



  1. Matthew Markham

    Ah, deep thoughts are what keep bring me back here Mike.

    The prototype here http://www.cannibalrabbit.com/2019/12/end-of-the-line-tongala/ is a good 6.5 inches and half a world away from my interests being Victorian broad gauge instead of the mid-last century of England standard gauge. But there is something that almost screams “model me” about it.

  2. Rene Gourley

    I love that you keep it personal, Mike. That’s what makes your story compelling.

    Well, that plus the deep introspection that seems to go into almost every post.

  3. mike

    Hi Matthew,

    It may be half a world away but it has that familiar look of two rails connected by ties. Thanks for sharing. -Mike

  4. mike

    Thanks Rene. -Mike

  5. Chris Mears

    I believe this hobby exists to allow us to interact with our imaginations as a means of expressing ideas that traditional language is wholly incapable to expressing with any kind of meaningful satisfaction. As such, the landscape is enriched by time invested in trying to relate it on a personal level – not how does having the finished thing enrich our lives but what has that journey been like? An experience beyond the usual gauge, era, and like binaries that are the usual small talk. It felt so wonderful to see this post here today. Our hobby needs your voice in it.

  6. Chris Mears

    I like that we seem to enjoy the same time trackside. I was walking along the Dartmouth Sub last week and thinking how there was always something to see and explore. That the frequency of the visits provided time to invest in my relationship with the few hundred feet of railroading I spend most of my time with beyond just what runs on this railroad to what is this railroad that the trains run on?

  7. Chris Mears

    Studying the photo you included with this post caused me to think we could use a series of articles on how to create universal themes. Generationally, we’ve written articles on how to create realistic albeit fictional railroads to the best way to accurately recreate in miniature the very real railroad. Both ends of that spectrum represent specific places and I wonder about how we relate to them. Your photo could have been a place here in Dartmouth or somewhere in Quebec. The train cars might change but really they’re so similar and “operations” are often variations on the same theme. It seems to unexciting to think about creating a mundane, median view of the world but I was thinking it would be neat to create a layout that was almost so generic that it was not immediately of time or place. In this way, when we spend time with the layout it’s not stepping back into a favourite chapter and resuming that single play but a table that can host any event depending on the company or the mood. I’m rambling far too long to describe such a basic idea and for that, and the number of multiple comments, I can only apologize.


  8. mike

    Thank you Chris and never apologize for your thoughtful comments or their number. -Mike