|An important lesson all sailors learn in bootcamp - ways to stop water from getting into the people tank. |
Lessons Learned are a big thing in my work life. We’re perpetually looking at things that didn’t
go as planned (and even those that did) in an effort to identify and repeat the
things that worked and to avoid repeating those times, as one of my old bosses was
fond of saying “The water got into the people tank.”*
So, although I was pleased with the layout’s scenery and
performance (once the initial teething pains were worked through) I find myself
asking if the layout was “successful?”
The stated purpose of the railroad was to “model the
equipment, structures, operations and setting of the Central Vermont Railway in
the late steam-to-diesel transition era.”
Measured against that standard, I’m not sure the
railroad didn't fall short.
Here's just a few of the lessons learned:
Focus: I need more of it, and I need to stick with something once I drive the stake in the ground. "Modeling the Central Vermont of the 1950s..." is a large canvas. As I've relayed in this blog, I started modeling the Southern Division of the railroad on a double deck layout, then tried to shoehorn White River Junction and the Northern Division (with it's larger engines) into a single-deck railroad, only to later remove WRJ and install Essex in its place. The basic footprint of the layout never really changed all that much, but I think we built, and rebuilt, every section of the layout at least twice.
|My approach to layout design?|
In essence, I was chasing the ever illusive squirrel - the hope of a "perfect" layout design to overlay on my theme. In the end, "perfection" became the enemy of decisiveness. That's all on me, and I truly appreciate the grace and tolerance shown by my friends throughout all this!
Modeling the Operations: In general, the individual operating sessions
were a success (I always had a good time).
But let’s look at it from the viewpoint of return on investment.
I started construction of the layout in December, 2008. It took several years of building (and yes,
rebuilding) the layout. In total, I
ended up hosting 17 “official” operating sessions throughout the railroad’s 8.5
years of existence. That’s averages out
to a session about every 7 months. An aside, if you really want to depress yourself, consider the
Total Cost of the Layout (in $) / Total # of Sessions = Cost/per session
No matter how it's broken down, it doesn’t seem like
the time, effort, and money to build the layout was worth it when you consider
the total time spent performing its main function was a fraction of the time it
|We didn't operate as much as I'd hoped, but Christine made sure no one left hungry!|
Modeling the Equipment: It’s great fun to tell yourself you’re going
to model the railroad’s operations, six or seven towns, complete with
scratchbuilt replicas of all the buildings, and run through them trains
populated by accurate, detailed cars pulled by equally accurately detailed
If you asked me what my favorite part of the hobby is I’d tell you
it's building detailed freight cars.
If that's the case then why I have gotten exactly one – that’s one – resin car kit built in the last
Instead of doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, I’ve been stuck in a do-loop of sorts - “feeding
the monster” – that large layout looming in the basement that required track, wiring,
static grass, structures, trees (my God, the trees!), in massive
quantities. I kept telling myself I’d
get the thing to “looking finished” and then turn my attention to the projects
I wanted to work on. But there was
always another bunch of trees to install – or some piece of track to ballast.
|The one resin car I've gotten built in the last 24 months...and it's not even lettered yet!|
I'll conclude with this. I'm not "down" on large layouts. I'm also not "down" on small layouts, or anything really. I don't think the layout was an absolute failure. I had fun, shared some good times with friends, perfected some techniques and learned a lot about myself. My purpose in writing this is not
discourage anyone else from pursuing their approach to the hobby (Lord knows,
the above isn’t going to encourage anyone to do anything other than take up knitting!). Instead, I'm trying to quantify the good and bad and hopefully apply those lessons learned to the next railroad.
*To get the joke it
helps to understand he was a submariner. And the #1 rule of all submariners is to keep the water out of the people tank…(Hey, it’s not my line,
submariners are weird, everyone knows it.)