OPINION: Sunday Morning Wandering

Jim Fredrickson Photo from NPRHA Collection

I like to get up around 0700 hrs. on Sunday and enjoy a cup of Peets coffee with my Pixel XL (smartphone). Invariably, I will find railroad things that intrigue me. That kicks off a process of doing some searching to discover more about the topic of interest. I start rationalizing how I can change prototypes and/or scales to follow this idea. The bane of the modern smart phone and applications like Google Search is that you can gather a great deal of information and pictures to flesh out my latest scenario of the moment.

Somewhere close to church time, I snap to my senses and realize that I am 72 years old and don’t see how I can really do such a radical shift in direction. I have become obsessed with actually finishing projects of late. I would like to have something to show for a lifetime in this hobby. Not sure that anyone will care if I do or don’t but I care.

Casting about for many years following various themes, I have frittered away much of my modeling life. Much of the time was spent working in the Chooch and SC&F foundries making kits. Some of the cars were things I still enjoy owning today. Don’t get me wrong but I have amassed a decent collection of “keepers”. I still have a bucket list and interest in adding to the list.

While I did spend a lot of time with pattern work, it yielded benefits of extra parts to do some projects on the bucket list. The real frustration that I feel is with waiting and planning my journey around promised parts and models that have not shown up. I wrote something a while back about the Nike marketing phrase of “Just Do It”. Well, I still don’t seem to follow my own advice. I keep hoping for the little nuggets to show up.

One thing that I have come to realize is that the path less traveled is my calling in the hobby. Whether is it S scale, Proto48 or railroads like the Lackawanna, Soo or Northern Pacific beckon me to follow. I have modeled the SP in P48 for years but find that I have done the comfortable me-to route. It is a comfort zone for someone who has lived in Cali for most of their adult life. While I keep looking at another railroad but may never realize it within my modeling years.

The one thing that keeps disrupting my train of thought (pardon the pun) is S scale. Between the postings of Trevor Marshall on his blog or the latest email from Paul Washburn showing his newest project. While the allure of a fresh start is strong, I am reminded that I am an old guy and don’t have the amount of time needed to move to a new scale. Each time I go off on this journey I am reminded that all the neat stuff I enjoy in Proto48 is not to be found in this scale. I do have history in 3/16″ scale. I dabbled in it around the late 1960s with the help of a kind gentleman. In the early 1980s, I jumped in when a number of brass models were imported. I bought several locomotives and cars. About the same time, Intermountain tooled a 1937 AAR boxcar. I saw a test casting and decided that is the key to getting back into 1/4″AAR (P48).

Paul Washburn’s S scale C-9

So, the tug of war continues but model building continues at a decent pace.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings.


18 thoughts on “OPINION: Sunday Morning Wandering

  1. Gene:
    I must admit that I have not followed your blog for very long, perhaps about a year. Of course your unrest is not uncommon; I am 80 and been through this a number of times. I find it a diversion to build a module of something different in another scale to satisfy the itch. It is a hobby and one should be getting enjoyment and satisfaction otherwise it’s not worth doing. I am sure you will weather the “storm” and renew your enthusiasm; after all you know it is in your blood.
    God Bless.

  2. Gene:
    This posting is written about me, a 68 year old modeler, struggling-still- about scale…HOn3, On30 or the “perfect” Sn3.

    Thank you for letting us see your side os this predicament.

    Mark Lewis
    Stony Point, NC

  3. I love this post, Gene – and plan to share it via my blog. I have a few observations:

    1 – “Casting about for many years following various themes, I have frittered away much of my modeling life.” I would dispute this. It’s a hobby. If you enjoyed the journey, you’ve “done it right”, not matter whether you’ve remained focused on a single theme with a Jack Burgess-like intensity, or rambled all over the place (like most of us do – including me). So give yourself a break – if you’ve enjoyed the journey you haven’t frittered away anything.

    2 – “So, the tug of war continues…” This just means that you’re a thoughtful modeler. Some in the hobby can’t appreciate what others are doing unless it’s exactly what they’re doing. You know how it goes – “O Scale is the King of Scales and anything else is a lesser scale”, or “I’m building a multi-deck layout designed for TT&TO Operation by a crew of two-dozen people and if you’re not doing the same, you’re wasting the full potential of the hobby and my time”, and so on. I can find a reason to explore any avenue in this hobby – regardless of prototype, era, theme, scale, gauge, power source, etc. It’s all fascinating to me. Obviously, there’s a lot in the hobby that fascinates you too. That’s great!

    3 – “…but model building continues at a decent pace.” Further to my first point, this just reinforces in my mind that you’ve done it right. The tug of war may continue, but you aren’t letting that prevent you from making progress and producing something. Those who suffer from analysis paralysis, or who simply sit doing nothing while waiting for the ideal space and/or the required equipment (in their chosen scale, ready to run), and/or sufficient time are the ones who should be reexamining their hobby. Imagine spending all of your hobby time waiting for someone else to do it for you? Or waiting for the space to build that dream layout – when that space may never appear? Or waiting until retirement to start building something – when they may not make it to retirement? (Because that happens!) A friend who is a tailor said to me once “Don’t buy clothes for the body you want: buy them for the body you have.” The message is, you may never get the body you want – and my end up with a closet full of clothes that you can never wear. That applies equally to our hobby.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and for the shout-out to my blog). Cheers!

    – Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

    • Trevor
      Thank you for your comments. Your perspective is always enlightening. As a person who has read, heard and practiced to some extent; goals are an essential part of achievement. Jim Zwernemann has suggested that focus is important if you intend to accomplish anything. He has done a good job of doing just that. Yeah, guys like Jack Burgess are a marvel to stay so narrowly focused for so long.
      Oh well, it is just a hobby


      • Just a hobby? JUST a hobby?

        And no.


        Hobbies are what we do do, when we want to be ourselves, and reaching the end of the journey is only important if you decide it is. Otherwise, enjoy the journey!

        I do so enjoy your blog, by the way.


  4. G Man,

    If you didn’t have those thoughts there would be something wrong. Every now and then we have to look for the road sign to confirm that we’re still headed in the right direction. Even if we get off the beaten path for a few miles and come to a nice valley it just makes the trip more enjoyable. If you’re doing what you enjoy, what could be better? Keep up the good work, no matter where it takes you. Thanks for the share.


  5. Gene, I am approaching 70 next May. In addition I lost my wife to cancer last summer. I am finally starting to breathe again and my desire to model again has returned. I am planning to go to the national in DC next August.


  6. Hi Gene, It’s like we’re all clones when it comes to modeling! I’m 68 and have done the same wandering as others. I’m trying to get one railroad completed before I see something that looks more interesting. But the journey has been very enjoyable and that’s the most important.
    Cheers, Gord

  7. Trevor suggested your post as a good read and he was correct. I spent too much of my life honed in on tight objectives and being in over drive. I enjoy your reflections as sometimes I forget this is a hobby and there are no important prizes to be won, the best reward is personal satisfaction from what I do get done and sharing it with friends. Congratulations on all the fun you are having with your wandering.
    Ken Z. wandering in the world of S Scale

  8. My heart grows warm at journeys end, from all the friends I’m knowing
    But there’s not a train I wouldn’t take, no matter where it’s going..
    I ride a motorcycle for a lot of reasons. To avoid traffic, I follow secondary roads, What William Least Heat Moon called blue hiways.
    Somehow, I always get someplace I’ve never been by taking the long way around.
    You’ve arrived, Gene. The only place left to go is where you want to go.
    Enjoy the rest of your journey, you’ve made mine a lot more fun.

  9. Funny that I should find Trevor’s email in my box tonight, suggesting that read your post. I was in the basement just this afternoon, digging through cartons of train stuff I’ve accumulated over the decades, while never doing anything with most of it beyond displaying a few bits on bookshelves around the place. I’m 65 now, still not actually retired (and no idea when or if that will happen), and finally trying to get a very small basement layout going in O. (No P48 here, alas, there’s even a blackened third rail to be seen.) But my archaeological “dig” today found lots of almost forgotten HO (Walthers kits, Varney steamers) collected at train shows over the years, some HOn3 kits that came as a complete surprise, and even half a dozen HP Products and Gandy Dancer kits in TT. What, did I think I was going to live to be a hundred and fifty?

    Time to focus, time to stop dreaming of what I’ll get done when/if I’m able to stop working, start putting at least a few bits of the other scales up on eBay, and make time to work on the little signal tender’s shanty I’m scratchbuilding right now, and the decrepit shorty Walthers Pullman I’m restoring.

    But I’m never parting with my fleet of old metal Athearn RDCs! 🙂

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Gene, and thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments.

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