Discovered these questions on the Rivet Press blog under the Workshop Wisdom category. They’re equally applicable to our work.

Do you have a guiding principle for doing your work?

Has that evolved over time?

Who is your greatest influence?



  1. Chris Mears

    Do you have a guiding principle for doing your work?
    I wish I did. At best I hope that what I’m creating offers justice to the inspiration that made me create in the first place.

    Has that evolved over time?
    I like to believe that my skills have evolved over time. With that growth in terms of skill, I’ve tried more new things. The sum of these activities makes me feel wiser and fuels my future interests. I don’t know why I feel this attraction to the hobby but I never doubt it either. The evolution here is not described so much in terms of skill or a mastery of craft by a better understanding of my relationship with it.

    Who is your greatest influence?
    “Who” is a great question. I started young and am proud that those first references were my parents. They taught me to make those first models and their influence showed in my choices of media and subject matter. In those moments they instilled in me a need to create something that expressed my appreciation for their teaching me in the first place. I don’t doubt that I still draw inspiration the same way today. It would be easy to rhyme off a list of model railroading’s greats but today it’s people like my amazing wife (Krista) who fuel my work. She, in particular, in her own relationship with craft has helped me to understand the joy that making things can provide and in doing so fuels my desire to push forward.



  2. Simon

    1. To build the best models I can, given my skill set/experience at that point in time.
    2. Hopefully, my skills improve each time, which means I set new challenges for each new project.
    3. Trevor Nunn, probably, whose approach to the hobby was neatly summarised in MRJ 10: “When it comes down to it, one doesn’t need many components to build a model railway.”


  3. mike

    Welcome back. Your absence has been noticed.


  4. Chris Mears


    “When it comes down to it, one doesn’t need many components to build a model railway.” might well be one of the most elegant things I’ve ever read as a philosophy aimed at the hobby.

    Talk about the value of finding the right words.


  5. Simon

    That’s very kind of you, Mike. Truth be told, I was here but didn’t have anything to say! As you recently observed, here in the UK we have almost a fetish aabout lightweight plywood – based baseboards, so it was interesting to see how you adapted ideas to suit your own needs, but I watched as an observer rather than as a commentator.

    Besides, you were getting such good comments from others that – to Wilde – l kept thinking, “I wish I had said that.”


  6. mike

    It’s great of you guys to respond to the questions. I simply put them up as a curiosity, something for folks to ponder if they wished. It seems only fair that I answer them for myself, so here goes.

    I do have a philosophy and although I didn’t originate this, these words sum it up nicely. “Challenge the status quo or become the status quo.”

    Yes, it has evolved. When I returned to the work with model trains in 1994, I picked up right where I left off twenty years or so earlier. What I soon discovered was that I wasn’t the same person. I had learned a different creative discipline that I wanted to bring to this work. Since that time I have learned to follow my own path and not be so bound by the conventions we seem to think are carved in stone. I love making things. I love the processes involved and the aesthetic judgement one needs to bring. I love taking raw material, shaping it, fitting the joinery and assembling the pieces and it looks like something in the end. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sheet of 40 mil styrene or three quarter-inch plywood or a blog post, it’s all creativity to me.

    These days my primary influences have nothing to do with model trains directly. The writer Steven Pressfield’s work is a strong influence as is the writing of Seth Godin.
    I’m largely influenced by a number of very creative people who bring a blue collar work ethic to their craft.

    Within the craft, names that many would recognize are Bill Clouser, Bob Hegge and Paul Larson because each pushed a boundary in their own time and way.


  7. mike

    Yes, I thought as much. Always good to have your thoughtful input.


  8. Simon

    Aye, Chris. I can only refer you to my quote of Oscar Wilde, as above…
    (Although Whistler’s reply – it was his remark to which Wilde was referring – was even better: “You will, Oscar, you will…”)

    It boils down to little more than rail, wheels, and castings and etchings for those components required in multiple. In a UK context, rail chairs, buffers, couplings and wagon underwear, in a North American setting, tie plates, couplers, trucks, brake sets and a few common items such as car doors. Everything else is a nice to have, rather than a must have – unless one is filling a basement with an Appalachian coal hauling empire, in which case I would argue that the hobby is modelling railway operations in a realistic setting, rather than being focused on the modelling as an end in itself.


  9. Simon

    I could add more names to the influences list. Trevor Marshall, for doing remarkable things with Port Rowan. The approach, which might be called “achievable authenticity”, and his regular blogging are inspiring, informative and instructional. I can also add your good self, Mike, for providing this forum for adult discussion and clearly illustrating that the journey is at least as important as the destination.

  10. Matt


    I am just catching up on your blog posts, been practicing my other hobby woodworking of late.

    (1) Guiding principles: Always strive to improve my work AND learn new skills to create believable models. Have recently worked with two superb timberframers, I can say this is a story heard from them. Beginners work to get the job done. Over time, if you have the desire to do quality work, improve your skills, become a master in your craft. Don’t ever settle on good enough. When building a structure that will hopefully stand for several hundred years, only settle for your best work.

    (2) Has that evolved? Yes, I think over time my entire view of our hobby has changed. For many years I rushed to throw together a layout and then abandon it because interest changed, couldn’t finish because the project was too big, track work wasn’t the best I could do etc.. Now days I work at a painstaking slow pace. I work on a project, some to completion, some to a point where I now I need to develop a particular skill to finish the project. The goal is to improve my skills and enjoy the results. My hobby time is limited so I want it to be the best quality time and results.

    (3) Who is your greatest influence: I dont think any one person has been the sole influence. My wife’s support to go spend a little time with your trains, my son’s interest in model trains. Your thoughtful posts and modeling articles, Peter Kaxer, Trevor Marshall’s and his Port Rowan blog, Gordon Gravett, Barry Norman’s design work, Chris McChesney’s 2 foot gauge modeling. Jack Work and Paul Larson from the scratchbuilding era.