Thinking small isn't about having a small mind. It is more about going to the essential. Understanding how things work together, what makes something good or bad, memorable or futile, dumb entertainment or a passionate quest to master some art.
In French, we got a nice saying: "Qui trop embrasse mal étreint" which translate roughly into "Do not bite off more than you can chew". Though I prefer the poetic feeling of the original quote. Staying focussed, in any human activity is a key to succeed. Having a broad sight over what can be done and other possibilities is great, but when it's time to DO something, better off taking thing one at once.
Over the last few months, I grew tired of most web-based communities. Particularly track planning. You see a newcomer submit a new layout plan and you get two scenarios: he wants to put too much stuff into available space (time, budget, motivation and other) or you have others who want to project all their railroad fantasies on the poor guy. If you suggest to eliminate some trackage you're evil, but if you fudge a few more turnouts, way to go! In other arts, it is pejoratively called Fan Service. And no, it doesn't had anything to a layout more than a TV series. Adding boobs, panty shot, sex scene, useless fighting scenes and stereotyped characters to appeal the spectators isn't better than adding a covered bridge, a tunnel a lasercut engine house and a string of colourful billboard beer reefers... it's just the same, and it s**** equally. It doesn't make someone a model railroading, but just a casual rail-fanboy (that habit of calling people as if their passion was their only characteristic trait is annoying, making them mindless fans of anything, unable to appreciate what they are doing, loving it as blindly as a character from Maupassant).
At this point, I'm slowly but surely getting rid of that fanboyish attitude of mine. So far, the club layout will use only 20 turnouts over a fictious distance of 91 miles. I never thought I would achieve this. And you know what, I didn't shrink any industries. In fact, instead of dwarfing each industries to make room "more operation", I just decided to model a few ones like the real thing and forget the other one.
Yes, I'd like to have Legrade Abattoir, or Sico Paint plant, Montmorency Distillerie and, even more, Léo Cauchon sawmill, but I don't have the place to make it "believeable" or "interesting" from an operation stand point. My logic was that I wanted EVERY single type of cars available for my time frame to be JUSTIFIED in some way or another. But get real. Murray Bay Sub was a heaven of boxcars, woodchip gondolas and cement hoppers. Everything else was like icing on a cake: cute, tasty, but superfluous.
Having a good idea of what one want to achieve is the best thing one can strike for. Being myself an architect, I find this virtue to be one of the prime quality of this profession. A virtue rarely exposed in magazine and websites. A humiliating virtue no one wants to profess because it would mean, in their eyes, their own artistic death. I was recently travelling with a few architecture student from a survey. Like people of their age, they were obssessed with fame, money and travels. Nothing wrong there, it's part of life, it's part of education, but I hope them to grew over that, go beyond the facade and reach more consistent and satisfying endeavours for their long time involvement in this admirable but ill-treated profession.
Well, that said, I'm amazed how much we can consume model railroading goods. Like squirrel making provisions, were are obnibulated by pre-order deadlines as if it was a potent warning about the end of the world as we know it. From time to time, I"m caught in this whirlwind. If a new model EVER ran once in Quebec City Area, I want it. Yep, it's like a justification for myself: it ran THERE, so I CAN buy it without remorses. Oh God preserves us from that ridiculous rhetoric.
To be honest, I'm also an avid collector of things not related to railroading, namely garage kits, fiction figures and vinyl records. Each time I hear about a new interesting pre-order, I give myself a warning. I keep the internet browser open for days on the webpage until I get tired. But sometimes, I fail. I buy compulsively, frightened it could be the last call. And you know what? Each time, I find the "rare" item on the second hand market, in perfect shape, sealed, wrapped, name it, for a fraction of the original price. Better, reviews and pictures of the actual product are available to judge if its worth my hard earned pennies. With the time, I just discovered it was better to stay away from hype and stick to proven things. There will always be a cohort of noobs and harcore fanboys and girls who will pay the high price, indebt themselves and do sell back for dirt their pearls. Over the last year, my figure collection grew substantially at low cost by following the trail of 'limited edition" crumbs left behind those poor souls. And you know what? That also applied to model railroading. So keep and eye open.
And if you ask me IF I will preorder THAT Steam Generator, a THAT CN Snow Plow and other unessential stuff like that to make me feel good, you're wrong. I bet my shirt there will be a lot of them gathering dust on glass shelves all over the continent... just like it always happen.
By the way, I also have a lot of crumbs with me from my fanboy time... I just forgot to drop them behind me!