If the description of Mill Road were distilled down to one sentence it might be:

“There used to be more here.”

If it had a theme song, it would be something contemplative with strings or perhaps a Celtic vibe that puts you in a mood to consider the past and what it looked like in this place.

Getting to the emotional core of a layout involves more than mere description. Track planning chases an outcome that’s focused on fitting an amount of track into a given space. Oh yeah, it has to look like the scene in this seventy year old photo. Art, involves a response. We encounter an object, an image, a sound that generates an emotion inside us that we notice and respond to. It’s an awareness or understanding of what moves us in that photo.

Considering this work from another perspective opens the door to a different conversation. The idea that there used to be more here conjures up memories of the railroad that I cherish. Mill Road is a both a physical object and emotional place I can explore leisurely, just as my railroad encounters of the past offered. As a framework, it has far more depth than:

Name: Mill Road
Style: Cameo.
Scale: P48
Size: 15” X 96”
Track: Hand laid code 125.
Minimum Turnout: No. 10.
Height: 56 inches from floor
Era: ?
Length of Mainline: 8 ft.
Control: Straight DC
Staging: Cassette.
Getting nauseous? Yes.



  1. Chris

    There used to be more here. There still is more here but you already know that. You always went to this place on the railroad. No magazine or other hero compelled you to here – they don’t even know you’re here. A regular eh? You saw that siding be removed. Come to think of it you never saw it get used any more than the accountants downtown ever did so lifting those rails was something that made sense to you both – in different but equal ways. The employee timetable marks any place on the railway so everyone knows their coordinates. “I’m here” you write not in the margins but right about where your mileage is; one little line ink to correct omitted data about midway up the page. That’s your stop. Come to think of it, there must be other places on that same page where others have written in their location. We connect to it. It connects to us. We connect.



  2. Jack Hill

    Hello Mike and Chris,

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy your writing and insight. “Mill Road” and “Coy Paper” are such great examples of marrying modeling and art. You both capture in words (very eloquently I must say) exactly how I feel about the hobby and what it means to me.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to share the blog entry below. Just want to let you know how you’ve influenced both my modeling and my thoughts on modeling.


    I’m very glad you’ve kept the blog going. It is great to know there are more of us out there! Keep up the great work! Simple yet elegant 🙂

    Jack Hill

  3. mike

    Thank you Jack, that’s kind of you to say. Given your professional experience and modeling skills, it means a lot.


  4. Chris Mears

    Good morning

    This morning’s been a busier one and I really needed just a few minutes away from it and for myself. Tea made and here I am. I enjoy knowing there’s a series of reliable touch points I can return to, to centre myself. Mike, your blog is always one – I find it always one that I can return to and reread any post and feel as satisfied as ever. Scrolling through your latest post, here, and seeing Jack Hill’s comment only further amplified the value of this time since I feel the same about Jack’s writing. Both of you: how you share your experience is timeless and of a value I’ll never know the words to describe. Thank you.

    I like the idea – love the idea – of a model railway as being “enough”. We often ask if a particular plan will be enough to satisfy, enough of the real thing, entertaining enough, is it complete enough? In those terms the model is a proxy connecting the person to a real railroad or a feeling. When I read your work you both express a direct connection to the work itself. I can feel that sense of complete in your words – complete as an emotion not the points on a punchlist of tasks owed.

    Thank you

  5. mike

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you as always for the kind words of both comments you’ve made on this post. In art as in modeling, beginners focus on the mechanics of things: how do I do…whatever? Over time these skills become second nature and this is where the arts shine over modeling in that there is a path forward. The arts encourage the development of a vision. How does the artist see the world, what are you responding to? Technique for an artist is a simply means to express this vision.

    In modeling I sense that technique is often seen as the end itself. We mastered the use of dry brush or know how to apply weathering powders to get an effect. Seldom do we push farther into defining and expressing the deeper qualities we’re responding to in railroading. Why and how does the patina of this surface speak to me, such that I go to great lengths to reproduce it? Why does Mill Road satisfy in a way all my previous layouts failed to? This conversation is seldom heard or read. That’s a shame because it opens doors we don’t even realize are there. -Mike