Ideas matter

This is from another thought provoking post by Mike Cougill on the OST blog…

Our craft suffers from a scarcity of ideas. Ideas that change our image of what the hobby could be. When Frank Ellison suggested that a model railroad’s operations is comparable to a theatrical production, where the trains are actors and the layout is a stage, he expressed the idea that model trains could do more than go round and round without purpose. This idea altered the concept of what model railroading could be. Miniature trains could be more than toys, they could have a larger purpose. Today, we’re still exploring and benefitting from his fundamental thinking. A few decades later, Allen McClelland proposed that a layout could represent something bigger still: a portion of a national transportation system that funneled traffic from outside its boundaries. In an era when the majority saw their layouts as a closed, self-contained entity bound by the size of the room, that concept blew those artificial barriers away. The V&O was a testament to the power of an idea and one man’s vision. Allen spent decades exploring and refining that core idea. Was he inspired by Ellison? Perhaps. Did he carry Ellison’s idea forward? Definitely. Conceptual ideas like Ellison’s and McClelland’s have been few in number but, when you consider the impact both have had, I wonder if we’d all still be watching toy trains mindlessly chasing their tales without them. I speak so often of this theme because I believe our old definitions and concepts have grown shallow and lack the power to carry this craft into maturity. They’re quickly becoming a straitjacket, rather than a foundation to build on.

He concludes…

What does railroad modeling offer me in the twenty-first century? As a creative person, it offers me a medium to explore ideas and to grow in ways to numerous to count. It offers an outlet for work that engages my mind and hands as well as my heart. It gives me a connection to the past and present. It shows me who I am and who I can become. Would you ask more than that? All these themes are a way to examine what we bring to this work as modelers. If all we bring is an ability to reproduce objects in miniature form, we’ll go right on the same path and arrive at the same ends we have now. But if we can expand our vision of it, there is no limit to where we can go. I have said countless times this craft amply rewards what you bring of yourself to it. If it does die of irrelevance, it will be our failure to each other and to ourselves that killed it.

I have a lot of sympathy with this article.  Beautifully accurate models are great, but they are soulless.  What we are aiming for is, I suspect, more like art!  Read more here.

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About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in Hints and tips, Inspiration, Layout design and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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