Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring Awakening

     So, fresh on the heels of last weeks post, I did receive some nice and well thought out responses not only from a friend, but better yet, two readers of this blog that until now, I have not had the pleasure of making their acquaintance. That's a big win, as a fresh, unbiased view of my layout and my "situation" is always helpful, AND, it's nice to know that my mile-long post wasn't completely ignored!

     So, instead of responding to them in the comments section and risking being "lost in the pile" with everything else, I thought I'd dedicate this post first and foremost to thanking them for taking the time to share their thoughts with me, but obviously also to take a moment to respond to their comments. Let's begin, shall we?
First up, we have Rhett, and he commented -
     "Personally, I'd be building toward the new theme. Simplification without having to give up the essentials is a huge WIN. Why bite off more if it's just more and not tangibly better?"
     Rhett, you are 100% right, and that there lies the problem. There's no reason NOT to make the change, but there is the nagging thought of "Have I really given the layout a chance to prove (or disprove) itself?" And not just for my own fulfillment mind you, but also to my crews (both regulars and guests), as well.
     As I mentioned, I have not had a problem attracting return operators (yet), and the biggest win was the honor of hosting a ProRail session in 2013 for many esteemed out-of-town model railroaders who traveled MANY miles and were to be guaranteed a good time, OR ELSE! I wasn't told that I failed to "entertain", so I guess that's a good thing, yes? Especially considering that some of my guests were those who themselves own terminal-themed layouts (and well known ones at that, but I won't drop names, thank you very much), that I personally hold in high esteem, and they gave all appearances that they enjoyed their time operating the layout. In other words, I had my layout on the line, and all signs point that it "passed the audition".
     So I guess that is the long way of saying I'm not sure I want to call it quits on the waterfront just yet. Let's give it one more go.....MAYBE!
     Oh, and please take a moment to visit Rhett's blog "R.C. and a MoonPie Railroad" at -, and see what he's been up to....I know I'll be spending some time visiting!
Next up, a friend of mine Joe Zyla responded, and had this thought to share with me -
     "I have to agree, simpler is better, especially when there are other forces pulling your time and resources. The satisfaction of building a layout towards completion is gratifying. The draw of complex operations and busier railroads? You have that through the operating sessions you participate in with the other layouts you visit."
     And once again, Joe is spot on. I am very lucky to live in a region of the US (and New Jersey specifically) where there are approximately eight layouts that I can operate on regularly if I so choose, all prototype-themed, and run the gamut from sleepy single track steam operations to large, heavy main line TT/TO ops (both steam and diesel), to terminal operations. So why have a layout at all, LOL!?!? For many years I didn't, and it begs the question, 'what will I be achieving that will be different from what everybody else is doing?"
     Well, for starters, the theme for the LV's West End Branch is semi-urban in theme - Not a large yard operation with a high car turnover rate like the NY Harbor Terminal currently in "operation", but still busy, and still with lots of switching. So other than a lot of track all over the place (and some actual scenery, and by that I mean grass and trees), it's not so far removed from a short line or branch operation-themed layout like my friend Ted DiIorio's Ma&Pa layout - Is it a bad thing that it would be a lot in concept like Ted's layout? Absolutely not, and I don't mean to make it sound like I have to change the layout be so radically different and unique so as to stand out from the herd. In fact, the only other layout in the immediate area (that I know of at least) that is a terminal switching operation with a NY Harbor theme is my pal Dave Ramos' NY Harbor RR - - so it's not like I am floating in a sea of these kinds of layouts. But neither do I want to "trade up" for no good reason other than to do it, and then regret doing so. And with that, see my reply to Rhett's comment....
     With all this talk, I really need to post my PowerPoint presentation I gave a year ago this month about the pros and cons of modeling one piece of the LV for the other, so you guys can see all the supporting data I keep referring to. Next blog post, I promise!
And finally, we have David Keith sharing his take on the situation with me -
     "When I'm not working on a significant project, my mind wonders. The wondering keeps me from working on a real project. It seems like you've let your fire go out. There is only one way to get the fire going again, stoke it! That is to work at it repeatedly. So if you want to be "Lehigh Valley Harbor Terminal Railway", then start repeatedly doing something towards it. If you’re "DONE", then pick what's next and start stoking. The in-between place is not good...I can tell you. The people I know with great layouts repeatedly work at keeping the fire."
     So, am I getting boring by saying I agree with David, too, at least to a certain point, that is? More specifically, I get what you are saying, David.
    I only have to look at two of my friends in particular, even though they are separated by WHY they are driven to work on their layouts. Again, without naming names, the outcome is the same - they stay "involved" for lack of a better term, with their layouts and it shows. It doesn't matter WHAT drives them, it's that they stay driven. The important part of that is two fold - First, your operators (and guests, especially if they visit semi-regularly) want to see what you've been up to! It's just human nature, and the thing that draws most of us to the hobby in the first place. That, and your operators will (or at least SHOULD) care that you've been "workin' on the railroad"! If things need fixing, you SHOULD be fixing them! And that leads to the other part, OPERATION. You can't operate reliably if the layout needs fixing, and that is the #1 fastest way to anger your crew, and then you WILL have the problem of attracting crews. In my book, you shouldn't just work on the layout because you want to be noticed - there should ALWAYS be a goal, no matter how big or small. I have always believed that if you WANT to make the time for something, you WILL make the time (within reason, of course). My problem is that I have always been a procrastinator (it'll still be there later!), and sometimes, what happens is it's ISN'T still there when you decide that enough is enough. I can't change my stripes, but you ARE right David, if I really want to stoke the fire, I damn well should do it!
     My problem is that I enjoy planning (and collecting) data on things, sometimes on multiple things (currently doing so for both layout projects), and while that can cause "paralysis by analysis", I don't think that applies here. In fact, it's the opposite, or at least I think so. I am gathering some much data for a REALLY GOOD version (or so I think so!) for the West End Branch (data that I have never been able to collect for the layout I currently have), so much so that it makes me constantly think about wanting to do the "big switch" more often than not. Is that bordom speaking, regret, or a shift in modeling priorities? And then we go back to my response to Joe.......Oh, the humanity!
     And as with Rhett, David shared his blog with us at  - - I'm looking forward to seeing some more S Scale modeling!
     So, I guess that's about it for now, and hopefully not only have I addressed everyone's comments, but also generated some good counter discussion in the process. Time will tell if I'll receive some more responses, and I'll follow up much like I did with these in a future blog post. In the meantime, there have been some similar responses on my new Facebook group page at - - Which I need to attend to as well, so if you're a Facebook'er, please join in the discussion!
Green signals ahead,



narrowtracks said...


Glad you appreciated my comment. It was motivated by a quote that I heard recently. This quote has been rattling around in my head, and it goes like this: "You are what your do repeatedly". At this point, I'm a guy collecting information and putting together TT&TO ops on a friends layout. I want to change who I am and I'll deal with that on my own blog. Good luck......

FYI: Your layout was on my short list of layouts for ProRail. But I had to get TT&TO experience and the experience is paying off on a current project (friends layout).

David Keith

Ralph Heiss said...

Hello again, David! I did, I did, it gave me something to use as "leverage" in my situation against myself!....Now, using the logic of that quote, I'm a musician, NOT a model railroader, LOL! And nice to know that you were considering visiting during ProRail, and I can only assume that the NKP or PS&N was on your list, due to the heavy TT&TO operations of both (both excellent choices, btw). If you are ever back in the ara, please let me know and we'll se if we can arrange a visit! All the best with your future endeavours, Ralph