A wise man once said, The Waiting is the Hardest Part….
I don’t know about others, but for me, the longer I have to think about a project or something, the more I find ways to psyche myself out. I’m better when I can just move ahead on things, even when I don’t have experience or know what I’m doing. I find I learn from doing and failing, and from forcing myself to pick myself up from my failures to complete a project. This post I think is a bit of a self-help post to just say what’s rattling around in my mind about the prospects of starting construction on a layout in the coming months. Lets call a spade a spade as it were, I’m going to spend a lot of money in the coming months on this, and while I’ve been saving and doing things to raise money, I can’t afford to make mistakes that cost hundreds or thousands or dollars in building the layout. Those kinds of mistakes will lead to me having a spare room that causes me nightmares instead of happy times building models and being able to eventually invite friends over to run trains!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a revised track plan for the Liberty Village area, taking advantage of the increase in space afforded by having a whole room to work with for my workbench and layout in our new house when we move in late June. I did briefly consider If I wanted to take the opportunity of the house purchase to look at a different prototype, but I’ve decided I still really like the concept and the location, and being able to design out some of the compromises of Version 1.0, has made me much happier with what I am looking at building. I’ve been chatting with the Model Railroad Enabler (Here, here, and here to explain), and as a very experienced track plan designer and builder of layouts, not to speak for him too much, but his feedback on the track plan has been positive so far.
Here’s where the waiting becomes a problem for me. I have the great fortune of having made friends in the past few years thanks to the Enabler inviting me to the supper club of modellers and railfan’s he was organizing in Toronto, and I have the good sense to know what I don’t know, and to try to ask for help, but I regularly feel like I need to ask for help and advice and someone to help me learn how to do so many things in building a layout, that I almost feel like I can’t do anything on my own. While I know this isn’t the case, at times I feel like I am desperate to rush the clock forward to July/August once we are in the house, and I can be certain that benchwork can be installed, and the dimensions of the room and spaces are right, I alternately feel really excited and really daunted at the same time (I’m not good at inertia or sitting around doing nothing, just ask my wife. I’m a putterer, I like being able to just putter around at something when I’m home. Doing nothing isn’t one of my great skills). I feel like I’m just super eager to get on with it, but with relying on the help/guidance of others to do so much, I sit around feeling like I’m taking more from my friends than I’m giving to ever build.
I know what parts of the hobby I’m good at, if I can get to the point of having benchwork built, track laid and wired and working, I can build the buildings and do most of the scenery in my sleep (other than maybe ballasting track, I have kinda historically been lousy in my efforts at that). Every time I look at it I feel fringes of depression and dread at the thought of building benchwork, or laying track, or doing wiring, all things I have friends I can ask for help and education with doing, but historically, I’m not good at accepting the help of others. I get guilty pangs from not being able to do it myself, I don’t know why, I just do. Turns out, it really is hard to say “I don’t know” when you really feel you should know how to do something.
Alanis Morissette (yes, the famous singer) gets slimed on “You Can’t do that On Television“, a kids variety show from the early 1980’s where you got slimed if you said “I Don’t Know”. My sister and I weren’t allowed to watch it, so of course we snuck about when my parents weren’t paying attention to watch it. Part of my feels like this is what’s going to happen to me if I admit to not knowing how to do something in building my layout.
I think much of this is the list of things that I haven’t done that I want to do in building the layout feels longer than the list of things I have done…
- Build Benchwork – My 2 previous layouts where a 4×8 sheet of plywood my dad built for me when I was about 10 years old, and a shelf layout where we built the benchwork out of flat pine shelves and shelf brackets. Box girder benchwork with a plywood top and then likely a foam layer isn’t rocket science, but on this especially, I can’t possibly ever build a layout without the kindness of my friends to offer me their garages/tools. I don’t have a driveway or a workshop at the new house, and I don’t own the tools to cut the lumber. I constantly feel guilty at how can I repay those who keep offering me their space and experience to build the benchwork at their place so I can bring it home and install it.
- Build a switch – I want to do this. Could I build the layout using all ready-made switches? Yes, I think I could, but I don’t want to. I think (know?) it will look better if I build switches, almost 99% using the Fast Tracks system, But I’ve never done it
- Install a switch machine – To go with building the switch, I want to use hand thrown switch machines, under the layout. My past layouts have all used ground throws. My layout will be high (around 62″) to facilitate bookcases beneath it, that rules out ground throws vs having the pull handles on the fascia. So many questions again, I’ve never assembled a machine (again likely Fast Tracks Bullfrogs which friends use and seem very reliable).
- Wire a layout, what, but you said you had two layouts? Yup, and the 4×8 had four wires, two from the controller for the inner loop to the track, and two from the controller to the outer loop for track. The Shelf was a bit more adventurous, but I think 90% of the layout got its power from on set of feeders wired to one track. I had no idea that you really needed to wire feeders at regular lengths or to every piece of track as some people do. Having reached the point where I am definitely buying a DCC system will ease some of this, no messing around with dead zones or isolation tracks as I did on the shelf, but I need to learn enough at least to wire the switches and where I need gaps to not short out the system and fry it.
I’m sure there are others, but a significant chunk of actually building a layout is covered in the list above.
I think a lot of this comes from the fact there are so many different ways to do the same thing in the hobby. Person A will say the only way to do things is X, Person B will say the only way to do the same thing is Y, and then Person C will say person A&B are insane and you should be doing Z. I’m reasonably experienced at lots of aspects of the hobby, but for the parts I’m not, I find these kinds of discussions dread inducing, so much so that sometimes when I look at my track plan, I can feel a nervous twitch coming on about whether I actually do want to build it, or if at heart I’m really an armchair modeller. I’m not, I want nothing more than to be able to build something and actually operate all the models I’ve bought or built or will build.
So, with all that, if you are still reading, the reward is a first look at Liberty Village Line version 2.0 Trackplan:
Liberty Village Layout Version 2.0 – Download a PDF version for easier viewing
Some notes to help make sense, the yellow box is my future new workbench area, the blue boxes are bookcases beneath the benchwork or elsewhere in the room. The room has a full width walk-in closet. I’ll be taking the door off once side of the closet to allow the layout to pass right into the closet. It’s not labelled, but the staging on the left of the plan is Canadian National, and on the right Canadian Pacific.
I’ll put a proper post up on the new layout plan sometime in the coming days when time permits. Thank you for reading today’s bit of a ramble on my state of mind about layout building. I feel better already having typed out my thoughts and fears above.