Earlier this year I started a new publication called The Missing Conversation, aimed at modelers who are uncompromising in their efforts to replicate a prototype car, loco, structure or whatever. This is the type of modeling I personally aspire to and am inspired by. That said, the content, tone and design of TMC are not aimed toward a mass market audience. Other publications do a fine job of serving that market and I’m simply not going to play in their game if I can’t do it as well as they are, which I can’t.
If you’ve followed the blog in recent weeks, it seems that I’ve become obsessed with this question. I have, because it forms the heart and soul of the new publication. From my studies I’ve learned that “why” we do something drives every other decision in the whole process. Most of the time we’re simply unaware of our reasons for why. We think we know, but truth be told we generally don’t have a clue about the real reason unless we give it considerable thought. Last week in this blog I looked at how a more concentrated focus on the essential qualities of railroading that attract you will inform your choices in the design of a layout, the prototype you select and types of operation you want to feature. A reader named Will understood this in a big way, as evidenced by his heartfelt response to the post.
Over the years of writing numerous magazine articles, a column and two books, and now a year of blogging into the empty void, I’ve never felt more satisfied by a reader’s response to something I’ve written. (Thanks again, Will.) He now understands his motivations for pursuing this hobby more thoroughly than before and, as a result, has found an internal enthusiasm that was likely always there but only vaguely articulated in his mind before now. This is the reason behind the new publication: To empower readers to think for themselves and, by doing so, discover depths of the hobby they never knew existed and to present model railroading as an inspirational form of craft.
I have an opinion too
I have a definite point of view, which I keep to myself for the most part. When I do let it out, I often do so in a clumsy and offensive manner and tone that does more harm than good. Not always but often and, for that lack of grace on my part, I apologize to the modeling community. On the other hand, my viewpoints on the hobby remain unchanged however unpopular they make me in certain circles. Like I said, I’m not chasing the mass market with my writing.
I could double or triple the traffic on this blog if I just told everyone what to do and how to do it. How to lay track, how to do this, how to do that. I’ve done such posts before and will likely do more in the future, but you won’t find beginner’s material here. That stuff is all over the web and easy enough to find elsewhere. If you follow this blog, you should have those aspects under control anyway.
I could also give you the top ten lists and model railroading “secrets” and all the rest of that Internet, SEO (search engine optimized) crap. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen because it isn’t going to. I simply choose not to play that game either.
On the TMC product page, I spell out my beliefs and my practice for model railroading. These beliefs constitute my own “Why,” the essential reasons behind everything I do in relation to this hobby. You don’t have to agree. In fact, I realize that I’m so far out on the fringe that few are likely to join me. That’s okay. I understand.
The view is pretty good though. There is clarity to the hobby now that’s really refreshing, at least for me it is. I no longer feel compelled to follow somebody else’s ideals of how things are supposed to be. I feel a freedom to explore ideas and concepts without having to deal with the baggage about how it can’t be done that way. I’m practicing model railroading on my terms. As I said, it’s peaceful out here.
Is this you?
If you’re curious and share a similar sensibility, The Missing Conversation is for you. It’s for those who care deeply about the art and craft that this hobby can support and for those who give a damn about the quality of their work and how it’s presented to fellow modelers and the general public. It’s for you if you understand that first impressions do make a difference and realize that the only prize in the race to the bottom is that you get to be at the bottom. It’s for modelers who want a hobby built around skills they can aspire to and develop for a lifetime of enjoyment.
Volumes 1 and 2 discuss layout design. Vol. 1 presents an overview of where we’ve been and where we’re at now. I’m not a fan of monster sized layouts and techniques for stuffing track into every possible corner. I didn’t pull any punches in this volume. Not everyone will agree; but again, that wasn’t the point. Vol. 2 will continue the theme by presenting my decision process in the design of the I&W.
Vol. 3 will shift gears completely with a look at P48, P87, P160. What they are and aren’t, and the mindset involved for working within the finescale discipline. Hint: Manage your expectations and you’ll do fine. There’s also a photo tour of Warner Clark’s outstanding P48 NKP inspired layout.
You’ll have to be patient for the content of Volume 4. I’ll just say it has me more excited than anything I’ve ever published to date.
Vol. 1 is available to download now for $9.99.
Volume 2 will be ready on November 1, 2012.
Volume 3 will begin the regular quarterly publishing schedule on Jan 1. 2013.
“Earlier this year I started a new publication called The Missing Conversation, aimed at modelers who are uncompromising in their efforts to replicate a prototype car, loco, structure or whatever.”
While I understand your preferences, I don’t find Proto to be the important theme. Far more central is the emphasis on knowing what I personally enjoy about the hobby. It may be the exact opposite of what you enjoy.
“Why we do something drives every other decision in the whole process.”
This is only true if we “understand” the why. Not understanding “why” is the reason so many people make foolish decisions. It’s just as possible that some folks will embark on the Proto road without realizing that it’s not what they would enjoy. This is another reason your series is so valuable.
“This is the reason behind the new publication: To empower readers to think for themselves and, by doing so, discover depths of the hobby they never knew existed and to present model railroading as an inspirational form of craft.”
The simplicity card you’ve played in track planning can easily apply to modeling as well. My point is that the thinking individual can reach more than one conclusion from your writing. Your philosophy reaches across the spectrum of modeling goals.
“I no longer feel compelled to follow somebody else’s ideals of how things are supposed to be.”
Couldn’t agree more.
“It’s for those who care deeply about the art and craft that this hobby can support and for those who give a damn about the quality of their work and how it’s presented to fellow modelers and the general public.”
This is only one narrow conclusion. The “why” in my world may have nothing to do with any of these. I find your writing stimulating and thought provoking, and applicable to more than Model trains.
You make excellent points as usual. The reason I outline my modeling philosophy and worldview on the hobby is so people will know what to expect from me and my writing. Then they can decide whether it has any value for their own purposes.
Encouraging people to understand their version of “why” is exactly the point. And you’re quite correct, your understanding may, indeed likely will, turn down a different road than mine. My hope and purpose is to offer encouragement for the journey wherever it leads. Great comment. Thanks for writing in.
Let’s here from the rest of you out there.
In every endeavor of man there are thinkers who go beyond the obvious and attempt to thoroughly explore their subject. I’d like to add you to that list with Iain Rice and others.
Wow, high praise indeed! Not certain it’s deserved or been earned but that isn’t for me to determine.
Just a word or two from one of those guys “who give a damn about the quality of their work”. I am in the process of re-doing just about every modeling project I have undertaken over the past 15 years. Why? Because I have seen what the P48 crowd is doing and know what I could have done if I had taken the time to do it right. It’s going to take a while to clean up this mess, but it will be much more rewarding when that boxcar looks like railroad equipment and not like a toy train. Even though my equipment is not P48, there is no reason why 2-rail O scale cannot be upgraded to more prototypical standards.
And while we are on the subject of those who care about the quality of their work, I have always been impressed with the realism of most dioramas. Isn’t a model railroad just a large operating diorama? It is my opinion that if model railroaders would put that much thought and effort into their layouts, no one would dare accuse us of playing with trains.
Wow Mike thank you so much for the kind words! I really appreciate it!
I must say if this is the view from the fringe, I like it! I cannot wait for more of TMC! This is much needed in this hobby. I hope that many others come to see this and open their eyes to see what modeling really is!
I think you’ll find the satisfaction is worth the hassle of converting to P48. When I decided to switch scales from HO to quarter-inch, it was a no-brainer choice in picking P48 over five foot gauge. I’ve never regretted the decision.
Your comment about the realism of dioramas being applied to a layout is spot on.
Actually, thank you for the kind words. I think you’ll enjoy the coming volumes. I want to keep the quality level high, which is why I choose a quarterly schedule over a more frequent one. It gives me the time to develop and present material with the depth I feel it deserves.
Great comments guys, thanks for writing in.
Excellent post again! Why? is certainly a good question. Has been an interesting “thought exercise” driving to and from work about WHY?
WHY is about a trip back to a time before my life started to small rural towns served by narrow gauge railroads. Does not require the huge double deck plans I once thought of , but just one town, a stop on an otherwise slow paced operation that runs through the mountains or hills, valleys and across streams to do the job of moving a mineral or livestock, people and the items they need on a daily basis to do the job that they do in their town. A replica of a bygone era.
Thanks for posing the WHY question Mike!
You’re very welcome. Sounds like a plan to me.