Mike Cougill published a neat article last week about why he is doing railway modelling. He further developed his ideas but the first few paragraphs dealt about using his hobby as a tool for personal development and that strikes a cord with me.
Over the last few years, I often told my friends and family that I achieved more significant things in my hobby than at work. As much as my profession is about building, there is little incencitive to develop someones talent, skills and actually build something, often meaningless or outright embrassing. It's not my goal to talk bad about one of the great arts here on Earth, but when I come back home after a day of work, I rarely feel I can brag or talk highly of what I achieved during the day. Our society - whatever it says in media - doesn't want to put effort in construction. Low cost, cheap materials and half-baked design are the everyday lot.
I've often asked myself if modernism in architecture wasn't just a excuse to make acceptable cheap things. "Looks! It's minimalistic, that's the new trend!". Some young colleague recently commented he was tired of designing boxes, cubes, planes and other featureless shapes devoid of any sense, artistic value or challenge. Another one, older, told us he work all his life trying to figure out how to fake solid shapes with flimsy materials that aren't made for this. I'm not implying that minimalistic arts are crap, but unfortunately they offer a very nice ground for many to find a lucrative shortcut.
So no wonder - during the weekend or while in vacation - I start building models. I'm simply doing my own profession again and again, but with the possibility to get better at it and actually satisfy my need to build good things. I could use the hobby for the sake of escapisim, but it's more than than. I wouldn't get it from other kind of modelism because model railroading imply a large array of disciplines that range from topography to mechanics to architecture to transportation. Not only we work at the rivet level but we also manage many acres of real estate. And this is my own global approach to this hobby and probably why I'm always puzzled to see people able to build the most incredible models possible only to run them on the cheapest plank of plywood you can find.
As pointed in the comments to Mike's post, model railroading is a weird and large community in which very different and often contradictory pursuits are bundled together for the better and for the worst.
For me, model railroading enables me to practice my profession with the possibility to aim for excellence: architecture in a nutshell.