TMC 02 Cover

Designing a layout must feel like climbing a sheer rock face without any hand holds or other means of support. No wonder it often feels so frustrating. A lot of layout design articles tend to skim over the mistakes and false starts the builder made, preferring to highlight the successful aspects. This can lead one to think that there is something mysterious or hidden about the process they just don’t get. Of course, this is utter nonsense.

In the new volume of The Missing Conversation, I share the false starts I made with the various layouts in two scales, that led up to the current Indiana & Whitewater. Part one of this article in Vol. 01 of TMC presented a lot of theory and yes, personal opinion. Part two puts theory into practice by getting down to the nuts and bolts of making decisions about what can be realistically done using a large scale in a modest space. Having thought about this for a long time, I’ve come to the conclusion that we have things backward. We start the design process with the amount of space available and let that drive every decision. I now feel that a careful study of the prototype is a better starting place. Learn to understand what you see at trackside and why it appeals to you. Then you’ll be in a much better position to translate those desired images into miniature form. In looking back at the journey I took, some things seem so obvious to me now that were anything but at the time. It’s all a part of the process of growing as a modeler. My hope is that others can learn from my mistakes.

Volume 02 runs 59 pages and is now on sale for $9.99

You can purchase your copy here:



  1. willbacker45

    Alright! Going to go buy mine now!

  2. mike

    Thanks Will. Hope you enjoy it.

    Regards, Mike

  3. Matt


    Once again, a very thoughtful publication! Thank you for sharing your failures. Far to often, we the modeler are presented with the “eye candy” of finished layouts and are immediately pulled into the crowd of I need that type of layout. The accompanying article rarely tells you that it is the 5th attempt and took 8 years of 20 hours per week to get to this level.

    I think most if not all my failures have been trying to design a layout or finish one that was started but finding it just did not meet what attracted me to the hobby.

    Having limited hobby time at this time in life makes for some hard choices. Even though I freelance, creating just one plausible scene with a higher level of detail and effort is a much more desirable approach to modeling than having something fill the basement.

    Thanks again Mike!


  4. mike

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for your insightful comment.

    I read time and again, that we learn more from our failures than our successes. It’s just my opinion (no shortage of those) that modelers would all be better served if we shared more of our failed attempts and the lessons they taught us. The eye candy (love that term) layouts are nice and sell magazines for certain, but they don’t add that much to our base of genuine knowledge.

    As inspirational as they can be, what they often do as you suggest, is create a sense of envy and dissatisfaction with what we have. A situation that I believe adds to the frustration so many experience in the hobby.