I want a thoughtful experience with the craft, one that adds value to my life rather than empties my wallet and I often wonder what happened to model railroading?

It seems like all we are presented with now is an endless stream of gadgets, gizmos and technology for its own sake. Lot’s of people call this the new golden age of the hobby where, thanks to Silicon Valley wizardry, everything seems possible.

I’m not a Luddite and a hobby should be an enjoyable experience however that’s defined and, we agree that the abundance of commercial products makes projects feasible for time-starved people. However, I wonder what the long-term impact of this growing abundance will be for all of us.

Is it making us lazy?

Do we have unrealistic expectations about what’s achievable in the craft?

When we can essentially model anything we want, does too much choice actually hinder our ability to choose?

There are no simple answers to these questions and it’s noisy with everyone shouting for attention. There’s no end to tips, best practices and tricks for stuffing more into a given space but is that all there is to the craft? With all the emphasis on the trappings of the hobby, what happens to the human aspects or to the spirit of learning something new?

I may be alone in this but it feels like something good about the craft has been lost or obscured by all the noise and commercialism. It’s strictly my opinion but I wonder if we still remember why we’re doing this? Is it to amass a collection of stuff or to do something meaningful? Have all the expectations that surround the hobby now obscured what connects us to trains?

Since I removed the layout, I’ve spent a lot of time by the tracks just watching trains. Yes, I still shoot photos for reference, future posts and books but I’m aware of the difference between my time as a spectator and as a researcher. I’ve noticed the same thing happening with my modeling.

Early morning sun added to my enjoyment of watching the local hard at work.

Modeling to a deadline almost killed my enjoyment of the craft, as I did everything with publication in mind. The added constraints to document every project isn’t something I’m that eager to sustain. The reason is that I simply enjoy spending time at the workbench. The time spent learning something new or working with different materials is my reward while having something to show for it is a bonus. I am documenting the cameo project, and yes, I will publish that material at a future date however, stepping back over the last year gave me a clearer picture of what works and when I lose the joy of the work.

What this boils down to is the freedom to ignore the expectations imposed by the media and others. I don’t need to build a 1:48 scale amusement park to entertain people and writing is my work, not the craft. We are all free to approach this craft however we wish and in the manner that brings us the most satisfaction. The internet and magazines offer up a hobby with a mind numbing sameness, thanks to the same how-to techniques and products that are used over and over. Work that reflects genuine thought and imagination seems rare these days. Maybe that’s what we’re actually in danger of losing today with an overly commercialized and homogenized image of model trains.