Model Railroading is Sophisticated, Vol. 4

Model railroading is sophisticated, and an increased appreciation for the breadth of the hobby helps us relate to those within it. These interests go beyond modeling in the literal sense, as evidenced by the fact that most people aren't "modeling" in the ways that are traditional to the term. This fact speaks to the numerous motivations that people actually have to participate. RPM meets have been a successful development in the hobby in the last decade, and in my last blog, I attribute their success to the fact that RPM meets are learning communities. I have attended RPM clinics that have the potential to speak to an array of our interests: photographic essays of railroads through a particular time, history of a particular town, overview of an organization (that is only loosely associated with the railroad), etc. RPM meets are clinic rich, and my point is that clinics cast a very broad net when getting at these other motivations. They help us integrate systems of interests. They are a departure from the kind of project-based thinking that characterizes much of the hobby.

For vol.1 to vol.3 of this blog series, this is the thought-stream that brings us to the present. Now, lets take it a step further:

The sophistication of the hobby may never be more evident then when an unaffiliated person is exposed to your interests for the first time. As one explains the how and the why of a layout, one realizes anew that a credible, coherent model railroad is a data rich and artistically complex medium... that operates. And if one asks why for every step in this process, the answers unfurl decades of accumulated knowledge.

"I bought an RC car in the morning, and I was driving it by that afternoon" never applies to model railroading.

Because the state of affairs for model railroading is more sophisticated than the average hobby, I posit that RPM meets and the clinics of traditional train shows should be viewed as the kinds of events that people should be born into--as opposed to the kinds of events that people graduate to. And in saying this, this is a call for consideration from the organizers of both types of meets, because 1) the clinics of traditional train meets are underneath the main space of commerce to such a degree that a person almost has to have a higher level of awareness to recognize and attend them. (See my previous blog.) And 2) RPM meets bear a reputation for being an association of "graduate level" hobbyists. This perception may intimidate other participants.  

I am writing this blog as I return from the Pacific Northwest RPM meet in Seattle. This year's clinics were on the Yellowstone Railway, Gunderson Wood Chip gondolas, Simpson logging operations, and Great Northern boxcars. Even though my personal layout is some distance from these specific topics, the way these clinics spoke to my other interests isn't. No doubt, I was enriched for having attended.

My compliments to the event organizers who assembled a very fine meet.


Blaine Hadfield

2 Responses

Kurt Boyd
Kurt Boyd

May 01, 2017

Having attended the same RPM meet in Seattle, your comments are on the mark. The ‘factual-base’ presentations and historical railroad discussions throughout this event, allowed for a mentoring environment for any railroad enthusiast, at any skill level. Attendance in these clinics is certain to grow your appreciation for railroading and the hobby. Ultimately, one of the byproducts of this is refining one’s prototypical modeling skills.

The Seattle organizing committee should be commended for their efforts. Thank you to ExactRail for attending. Well done. KB

Larry. L. Shute
Larry. L. Shute

May 01, 2017

I found you recent blog very interesting, regarding road-specific, time-specific modeling. I moved into HO from N about 15 years ago. My objective was to scale-model the very small town I grew up in, and still reside in today. I specifically chose the time 1970 + or- a few years, as there were buildings and activities gone by this time that I chose to include. ICRR, Indianapolis Division was the railroad. I was forced into learning scratch-building as there were absolutely no kits available to match my desire for realism, scale buildings. This has been a most challenging project and probably one of the most rewarding when I take an overall view of the layout. Due to space limitations, this project created many more challenging modeling issues for my non-scale part of my small layout, which encompasses an area 32’ X 16’. I would do it all over again! Best wishes and keep up the good work!

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