The following is a little unusual for this blog, since I tend not to engage in "opinion" pieces. It's also fairly long for a blog post, but I thought with the colder months arriving all too soon (for some of you they're already here!) and the associated "Train Show" season this might be a good topic for this time of year. I promise, I'll be back with a layout/modeling update shortly!
4. Model trains are (mostly) plastic and/or metal – and they have an almost infinite shelf life, meaning they don’t go bad. They just sit there.
5. For the decade or so I worked in the model train industry a trip to shows or visits to manufacturers would produce all kinds of “samples” – and like a kid in a candy store I found it hard to say “no.” So, I ended up with lots of stuff, most of which I’ve never opened.
You'd think modeling a somewhat obscure prototype like the Central Vermont would make finding something to buy almost impossible. You'd be wrong. Most model railroaders I know, myself included, have enough items stashed aside under the layout and in closets that we rival a well-stocked hobby shop. Is this hoarding? Or is it simply being a knowledgeable collector who knows what he/she needs for the layout, and is buying it now for future use?
What brought this to mind was an ongoing discussion on the Model Rail Radio podcast, hosted by Tom Barbalet. As an aside, if you’ve never listened to the show I encourage you to give it a try.
The question of what to do with no longer wanted/needed model railroad “stuff” comes up from time to time on the show.
Hoarding has been publicized in recent times thanks to reality television programs featured on A&E, TLC and Animal Planet. Perhaps more in common with model railroading is a show on SyFy called “Collection Intervention” (http://www.syfy.com/collectionintervention/about) that features collectors (usually comic book or toy collectors) whose collections have come to completely dominate their homes and their lives.
Without sounding like Dr. Phil I will offer the following. From everything I’ve read Hoarding and Collecting are two different things. Hoarding IS A DISEASE, and not a very fun one at that. It is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder where the person assigns a value to everything that passes through their hands. There are very excessive forms of hoarding – where everything, including what any sane person would consider refuse – is saved.
To me, a hoarder is someone who doesn't know what they have, never intends on selling anything, and is actually damaging what they do have with neglect, improper storage, etc.
So I would say no, model railroaders are not “Hoarders,” at least not in the clinical sense.
True collectors tend to buy and sell things to get to their definition of the best collection of their chosen field. They tend to be focused The buying and selling keeps things moving around, and they eventually end up in the 'right ' hands.
But wait – while there is certainly a valid part of the model railroading hobby that is “Collecting” – be it Hornby, LGB, Lionel, or even vintage HO rolling stock - that’s not what most scale model railroaders envision themselves doing. We’re not trying to build a “collection,” we’re trying to recreate a vision of the world. Which means we’re all about using the stuff we acquire – albeit at some point in the future! And while using it does provide us with enjoyment and satisfaction it also, by definition, “ruins” the collector’s value.
Second, I ditched the paper – almost completely. I did keep most of the books - for now. As far as the magazines go, Prototype Modeler, Model Railroading, and Rail Model Journal are all available for free on line. So they were the first to go. Kalmbach released a complete set of Model Railroader on DVD – so all the MRs went to the recycling center next (I kept the bound volumes for the years I was on the staff). The Narrow Gauge Gazette is a wonderful magazine with inspirational photography – but I’m not a narrow gauger, and frankly while the pictures are inspiring I can’t recall the last time I used a modeling tip or technique from the Gazette that required me to save boxes of these things. So, off they went. N Scale Railroading and N Scale are very nice magazines, that aren’t applicable to my current modeling. They went to a friend who is into N scale – along with a couple of large boxes of N scale stuff. I also reduced the number of Mainline Modeler magazines from virtually all of them to a small selection of issues that had drawings of structures, cars, and locomotives I might want to build someday.
Third – a real commitment to focus on one scale and gauge meant that all the extraneous stuff – including HO stuff for other eras and prototypes, and all that oddball stuff of different scales and gauges – went up for sale. The $ generated from the sales actually financed the purchase of a few specific CV pieces. eBay, several model train “Yard Sale” Yahoo Groups, and the like became the best ways to move the items. I found the key is to realize that the vast majority of this stuff doesn’t “hold its value” – and you better be prepared to take pennies on the dollars in most cases. The goal is to get the layout room cleared out, not beat the S&P Index…..but take solace in the fact that it will be out from under foot.
At train meets when I was selling this stuff if a young person seemed interested in a particular item I “significantly” discounted it. You might think this was “cutting into my profits.” There are no profits, remember?
And finally, what of all that stuff that I had been given over the years? Most of it has found its way to new homes – I try to give it to friends based on their specific interest. When my friends got tired of seeing me coming with more stuff (remember, most of them had their own boxes of stuff!) I’ve been known to give it away at swap meets. My goal with going to a swap meet is not to bring anything home.
I’m finally at the point where I have so little “extra” left that I don’t need to go sell at swap meets anymore. I still have plenty of stuff left – more than enough for a few modeling lifetimes, but my checkbook modeling days are at an end.