Emerging from a Funk

Along the way, I’ve lost my way, and have been trying to fight, claw, and adjust my way back to a mindset that will get me back at the workbench and get some projects finished or moved forward.

I think it’s only natural in the times we live in at the moment to have some stagnation in projects.  Due to the fact that some items we use in our hobby have become difficult to acquire, and the general uncertainty we all face, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had trouble getting to the workbench.  It’s also Summer, the general “low ebb” of model railroading, so that likely plays a part.

As I hit a wall with planning and looking at what to do in the future, I found myself struggling to build models or finish models.  The energy and wind went right out of my sails, and the desire to sit down and work omg a project I found hard to come by.  

Model railroading is not an immediate gratification hobby.  In reality, it’s long-term and slow paced.  That’s not bad.  Maybe that’s why when you read all the surveys in the hobby press it points to a demographic that is older than I currently am.  There’s more time to do things.  I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that the hobby is aging.  We all are.  However, I know quite a few young model railroaders who are in the hobby and enjoy it.

For me at the moment, it’s not a lack of interest, it’s that roadblock of a layout.  We all want to know where our trains are going to operate.  That’s part of the joy of planning a model railroad.  The pieces of rolling stock, the structures, the locomotives, are all smaller parts of a larger whole.

I’ve writing so many times about the starts and stops of my modeling.  How do I get myself to the point where I can just, even slowly, make progress without getting stuck?  

While traveling recently to care for an older family member who was ill, I had a chance to read the August, 2020 Model Railroader.  MR has become a read and recycle magazine for me the last few years, but there was an article in this issue that I found to be quite interesting.  The article, “All You Need to Know In Four Square Feet” by Lance Mindheim.  The article revolves around a learning layout in minimum space.  The line, right at the beginning of the article, that really gets my attention is: “A layout on a board can teach you vital skills before “the day” comes”.  Ok, that’s interesting to me because I have come to the realization that I am not at “the day” but I still want to build something.

As I read this article and got to thinking about layout planning, I stared to really separate items and tasks of modeling into groups for myself.  One group, we’ll just call “Group A” are the tasks I can do, have space for, have the skills for, have the materials for, and the other, “Group B”, are the sills where I need to spend some time learning, trying things, experimenting, and find out what works for me and what I like. Changing scale from HO to Proto48 isn’t a 1:1 change, and there are things I need to experiment with and relearn.  Group A tasks consist mostly of rolling stock construction items.  I can do that, I enjoy doing that, and I would like to do more of that.  Group B items include finding a way to manage benchwork, track laying, scratch building structures, and scenery.  

Suddenly, I found myself separating things into individual models, which the completion of a pice of rolling stock of a structure being the whole, instead of just a piece.  I can focus on the Group A tasks, and if I am careful with what I’m doing, I can experiment with a really simple and manageable ‘layout’ based on the idea shared in the MR article, sort out everything I need from the learning there, not feel bad about tearing stuff down or starting over if something doesn’t work because I’m not working on a final layout, I’m working on a learning project, moving skills and tasks from Group B to a Group C where thins are practiced and learned and ready for “that day” when I am in the spot for a layout.  Along the way, the Group A tasks, building the rolling stock mostly, will get done, and when it’s time, those things will just be ready to roll and I won’t have a layout without something to run on it.

This week I’ll get the workshop cleaned up and sorted, started projects organized into an order that makes sense, likely with the ones closest to being done up first, and I’ll settle a spot for a practice “board”, and get to practicing both the things I know I enjoy as complete projects unto themselves, and learning the skills I need and want to practice for when that “some day” comes.  

That idea gives me the calm from the storm of trying to layout plan in a vacuum that I’ve been battling, and I think now I will have some projects in P48 to really share as we close the Summer out and head into the Fall.

-Jeremy

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