I’m gratified to learn that my two posts, 20 Questions and Putting My Money Where My Mouth Has Been, generated an extensive and thoughtful discussion. It’s what a writer lives for. Thank you all.

The 20 Questions post sparked the interest of Simon Dunkley who wrote his own response to them. Simon’s post was picked up by Chris Mears, who so thoughtfully added to the discussion (thank you so much Chris, I love your observations) and Trevor Marshall also commented on both of their posts and added his own commentary.

I’d like to say I left those questions open-ended and ambiguous so that readers wouldn’t be influenced by my own bias. In truth, they were more of an off-the-cuff brain dump that I figured most readers would just ignore.

The premise statement that model railroading is not fun was meant to serve as the catalyst. By stating the opposite of such a well entrenched concept, I hoped people might stop and think. Some did while others simply defended the status quo. Chris, Simon and Trevor did exactly as I hoped people would; use the questions as a way to examine their personal assumptions and approach.

I’ve been questioning many things about this hobby for years. As a result, I’ve formed a clearly defined point of view that goes against the grain of mainstream hobby thinking. I fully agree with thoughts offered by Trevor, Simon and Chris and many others regarding the ambiguous and generic nature of the word fun. I too feel it’s a poor choice.

Is this a hobby culture any of us really want?
We toss words around in this hobby without a second thought to the impact they have and, the nature of online writing only amplifies the potential for misunderstanding. Words carry meaning and they help define ideas in powerful ways. Used carelessly, they divide and even destroy.

One such example is the word elitist.

As used by some hobbyists, it’s a word designed to intimidate and shame others for doing things differently. I don’t know how or why the term even applies in the context of a recreational pastime. Simply put it’s the moronic tactic of a bully.

A recent thread on the Model Railroad Hobbyist Forum initiated by Joe Fugate, asked whether his readers felt MRH was elitist in tone. The responses number over two hundred now and as you might expect, most felt that MRH is not elitist. But it didn’t stop there and soon drifted far from the original topic into the typical bash fest on whatever and whomever a poster didn’t like.

I ask here as I did on the MRH forum, if I chose to hand lay my track, model a particular theme, or bring my best efforts to the work for my own personal satisfaction, how does that offend anyone? Truly?

In the past I’ve been branded as an elitist due to my viewpoints and the fact I work with finescale standards. My response now to such empty allegations is so what? Now if I act and speak like a pompous ass it would be understandable. I’ve done that too often and deserved what I got in return. Yet, the question is still valid: so what, who cares? Why do I care? There’s an answer. People won’t like it but I think it fits.


Mine, yours, everybody’s, and there’s no place for any of them in a hobby built on the freedom of personal choice. Why do any of us think we have the right to make unkind comments of any sort? (Yes, I’m looking in the metaphorical mirror right now.) Has the hobby simply devolved to this point, or are we reaping the harvest from seeds we’ve all sown?

If we are, is this a hobby culture any of us really want to be a part of? I don’t.

I don’t have to like 3-rail modeling, five-foot gauge, continuous running, big layouts or any other aspect of model railroading that doesn’t speak to me personally. I don’t have to agree with people who take a laid back, good enough (whatever that means) approach to their modeling standards, even as I push my own toward increasing levels of accomplishment. I no longer read Model Railroader, RMC, The NG&SL Gazette or MRH because I don’t find them relevant to my interests now, even though others depend on them as sources of valuable information and inspiration.

My views and this blog favor excellence in modeling and craftsmanship. I’m an advocate for a smaller simpler layout, of using finescale standards and of using this craft as a practice and means of self-motivated learning because they’re all immensely satisfying and fulfilling to me.

As a writer and publisher I’m not going to change the larger culture one iota. What I can do is present a different approach to the craft while taking full responsibility for my own words and attitude, and understand that those words impact the lives of others. I wish you all well.



  1. Darel Leedy

    Wow Mike! My thoughts exactly. And I concur with your last paragraph, as it pertains to the way I view my own blog. Thanks for the thought provoking posts!

  2. mike

    Hi Darel,

    Welcome to the blog and thanks for the kind words. I’ve always appreciated the craftsmanship demonstrated by the narrow gauge modeling community.

    I do ask that people sign their posts even if using your real name. It’s just a courtesy to all involved.


  3. Jed

    My reaction,also,is wow.Your writing is almost always right-on,in my opinion.May I elaborate in my own words,some of what I think?(much of this you’ve already said,but I like putting it in my own light)
    Here goes:
    Most the folks who scream ‘elitist’ are those who are inherently lazy,at least in some aspects of their hobby,life,etc.,but they don’t want to be ‘exposed’ as such.Therefore,anyone who threatens their status-quo is automatically in the wrong,based on the ‘best-defence-is-a-good-offence’ principle.
    They don’t actually want to be modelers,they just want to be seen as ‘modelers’.
    The true modelers are always interested in seeing just how well-done modeling can be,even if its way above their skill level.It gives them a signpost of sorts,that says ‘IF you’re bored with your present skill set,you can try for this’. For them,the trying is the ‘fun’,not the product nor other people’s perception of them.

    Sorry for the length,

  4. mike

    Hi Jed,

    Welcome to the blog and thanks. Your comment is fine and I agree. Some folks get very defensive.

    That said everyone, I appreciate the supportive comments but, let’s not turn this into an example of reverse snobbery towards people that prefer a less serious approach. Even though many of us find such casual attitudes unsatisfying, they’re enjoying things in their own way just as we are.

    Everyone’s views and opinions are welcome here but, let’s all simply agree that we respectfully disagree with certain approaches to the craft.

    We’ll be more likely to influence modelers who are tired of simple, fast and easy, if they feel we’re a welcoming and friendly bunch to hang with. Change has to start somewhere. And Jed, rest easy. I’m not picking on you in the least. I’m glad you found the blog and offered a comment.


  5. Jed

    I understand.Sorry if I gave your blogpost the wrong ‘flavor’. I wasn’t talking about the carefree,casual modeler,though;(by definition they’re happy where they are,and aren’t complaining) but the sort that aren’t happy about their modeling,and don’t want to do something about it.I myself am a casual modeler;though I aspire to be as accurate as possible,say for instance when I scratchbuild a freightcar,(as I’m putting in the effort anyway,why not make it correct?),I also don’t mind in the least running unmodified athearn bluebox cars next to said car.Not because I don’t know better,but because it doesn’t yet bother me.If it does,I’ll just scratchbuild a replacement.
    Better stop writing now,I have a bad habit of going on and on.

  6. mike

    Hi Jed,

    You didn’t give anything the wrong flavor and your comments are fine. I’ve just seen how quickly the comments thread on touchy subjects like different approaches to modeling, can go sour online. I’m simply suggesting that we all think twice before hitting that publish button.


  7. Jed

    Yes sir.Enough said.


  1. Elitist? Bring it on! | Pembroke:87 - […] Cougill has initiated another interesting conversation via his blog, this time responding to the allegation that he is elitist.…