Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018 Post Mortem

As the year 2018 is coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on what was learned over the last few months and how it can apply to the next year.

An important thing I’ve learned was that I had little patience for half-baked operation schemes. By that, I mean when the story you are enacting with you train movements is full of plot holes and requires fancy explanations to make sense. In the case of Hedley Junction, setting the era forward in the mid-2000s helped to bring more cohesion to the project. Several operation sessions and JMRI simulations helped to figure out what didn’t work and where we could improve the layout. The answer was simple, scenes added for the sake of visual interest and improved operation were, as is often the case, superfluous and ruining the way we could realistically run trains. Completely rebuilding the peninsula as a yard proved to be a wise decision and enhanced drastically our operating sessions. It wasn’t an easy decision to take, but after a few months, I’m pretty sure my fellow club members also agree we made the right decision.

Setting the layout in a much more modern era (from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s) was a strange idea that was put in motion when Rapido announced the SW1200RS. From that point, we discovered we could “easily” model LLPX GP15-1s with Athearn Genesis models and customize them to replicate locomotives than ran on the Murray Bay. Not that much thought was put into that and it was impulsive at first. However, the idea existed for a long time in the back of our minds. As is often the case, we were initially against a modern era layout because it would lack diversity, would be boring and not classic CN. We are told by the hobby press to cram as much as possible interesting stuff on our layout. Deprogramming yourself isn’t an easy thing to do. What we found was that modelling a more modern Murray Bay Subdivision made our life easier: information is readily available about CFC, we witnessed it in action as railfans, have lot of pictures, excellent quality models for this era exists, operations are easier to implement on a heavily compressed layout and it makes our layout unique in Canada. As for diversity, we quickly found out rolling stock was diverse and locomotives, even if they looked boring, had a lot of personality. I’ve had the time of my life weathering them as close as I could from the prototype.

Another thing I learned was that my physical health, even if I’m relatively young, shouldn’t be taken as granted. Chronic diseases are always insidious and leave you with obviously limited capacities. While not threatening, I know I’m far to have completely recovered since last summer and I thus prefer to work on manageable projects. It means simpler track plan, simpler scenery and well-focused projects. In fact, it isn’t a bad thing and forces me to strike for what matters. I don’t see it as a reason to take shortcut, but rather to make less but better models.

The final thing relearned once again is how it matters to have a vision for a layout, whatever its size or focus. This is the most complex aspect to translate into words due to its highly subjective nature, however, it is primordial if you want a layout to rise above the bar of model railroading and achieve a somewhat artistic value that expresses your vision of your subject. I’m not fool enough to believe Hedley Junction will ever be considered as a piece of art, but I certainly hope what will be done in the future will have personality and translate our mind vision of that railway.

Now, for 2019, I have not clear goal. A hobby isn't a job or an obligation... we walk down the path at our own pace, stopping here and there at whatever we fancy. However, with technical stuff like track work, wiring and operation paper work almost completely done, I wish this new year will be an occasion to bring forward our vision and give this layout its specific personality so it can be much more than a model railroad...

Happy New Year and Modelling!


  1. Happy new year! I look forward to seeing how you and the club layout progress through the year.