I have always thought of our hobby as being a constructive pastime. Even at its most basic level, it is still possible to apply basic skills to some constituent parts and create a better overall impression, be that with fettling some stock or in building a whole layout. As well as being constructive, it also allows a great variety of different approaches to co-exist, normally harmoniously, without an element of competition creeping in. I personally don't have the urge to put my work forward in a competitive environment. I don't necessarily 'disapprove' of such competitions at exhibitions and can understand marking perhaps an overall 'best in show,' but I'm not at all convinced. I rather prefer the option of marking what the judges might consider being work to a high standard, but I cannot see how competitions as such add any value to the hobby.
I like the diverse nature of our group of souls. I like how amongst us we have those who will operate, for example, with little or no scenery but will have fully functioning signalling, or operate to an intricate timetable. They can derive as much satisfaction from their efforts as someone who has produced a photo-realistic scene the size of a sheet of paper. This personal satisfaction meter is vital in setting our own goals and aspirations and it may be that for some of us, no one project will provide all of the required elements. I am currently getting a great deal of satisfaction from building a few items of stock. However, I can still apply power to rail when I feel like operating and shunt (or should I say switch) a few freight cars about on my HO layout. So problem solved.
This split between building and operating is artificial. We have created it. It must be something to do with our propensity to consider everything as binary. Either right or wrong. I have, as I have gotten older, found that in almost every circumstance (in life, not just toy trains) considering the options as being either right or wrong limits the possible solutions and inevitably leads to a sub-optimal outcome. We should though consider where we derive our personal satisfaction from and perhaps lean to that when we consider all of the possible options. This might help inform our choices as to the scale (I mean the overall size not the track gauge type scale) of any project and prevent us heading down too many dark alleys. This should probably one of the key elements in any planning process, along with such things as available space, time and budget.
I don't know if I could build something, an item of stock for example if it were never to run. I find the operational elements of railway work of interest and would like to try and replicate that in model form. The model, therefore, is not just the physical but also the functional. I like to know not only what something is meant to be, but also why it does what it does, be that shunting a certain way, or running in a certain order. The study, research and understanding of historical methods of working are all - to me - fascinating parts of our wider hobby. It is possible in model form, to have more 'function' by having more 'physical,' but would that then tip the balance away from the satisfaction of building? It would certainly tip the scale over when it came to budget. It seems to me that the available space, the available time and the available budget are intrinsically linked to the personal satisfaction meter.
I give you a recent example. I am currently building a Caley Coaches 57' Semi-Corridor Brake Composite. The kit retails at £40. I spent a recent S4 Group workshop day working on the kit and have followed that up with a few hours here and there. Progress is such that I now have a rather nice coach body in an attractive brass livery. I will over the coming days (more likely weeks) progress the build to the point where I have a finished vehicle. I absolutely need it to run however, it will be earning its keep. It will be a key part of a passenger set, that will operate to a timetable. But I also have the satisfaction of knowing that I made it. If of course, I had selected a different subject to model, I could easily have speeded the process up. Instead of spending hours cutting out, filing, soldering, painting and detailing, I could simply have ordered some coaches from Hattons and had them in service probably within 48hrs. I actually looked at their website (for research only) and was stunned by the cost of coaches. My £40 kit was surpassed by many of the R-T-R offerings, with forthcoming SE&CR coaches available to pre-order for £50.96.
|Caley Coaches D115a making progress.|
So this balancing act between operating and building is something that will ultimately be determined by each person as an individual, but in considering where their fulcrum lies, they are well advised to take into account the triumvirate of space, time and budget.