Friday, September 19, 2014

The Do Over (An Antidote to Analysis & Progress Paralysis)

One of the biggest reasons folks never get started on a project is that they're afraid of not doing it "right." Consequently, they seldom even try. This "analysis paralysis" can afflict model railroads at all sorts of stages of development - from before birth (when a layout never gets started) to any point during its life.  But when layout progress stops because you think you've gone too far down the wrong path, you may be suffering from a related affliction: "progress paralysis."

In either case, the remedy is the same: raising your comfort level with Doing It Over.  Yes, the "Do Over" is something with which experienced model railroaders are all too familiar. They've come to realize that the only thing worse than doing something over is never doing it at all - and the regular progress of their layouts is testimony to their approach. Even one step back is progress if you eventually wind up with two steps forward. And you'll often get three or more steps forward if you've learned something new as a result.

Now, I don't consider myself an "experienced model railroader," having for far too long been content with armchair daydreaming (and my recent RR library weeding/reorganizing hasn't helped), but this layout project is teaching me - sometimes harshly - that I've got to get really comfortable with doing things over (or at least considering that possibility more often) if I'm going to be happy with the outcome.

Case in point: the backdrop in Wethersfield.

If you were reading this blog back in early June, you'll recall that I've been very dissatisfied with the backdrop. Long story short, it's too high - there's anywhere from 2-4" difference between the bottom of the backdrop and the top of the subroadbed. Making up that difference with terrain requires a slope from the track to the bottom of the backdrop and while there is slight slope east to west on the prototype (as the topography moves west from the Connecticut River), it's not nearly as steep as I'd need. Consequently, I extended the backdrop at the north end of Wethersfield where the prototype is the flattest.

But the more I research Wethersfield, the flatter I realize that it is and the more problematic the backdrop becomes. This problem became a major affliction once I started adding mockup structures - things just didn't look right, so I didn't want to continue to add mockups, and I didn't know what else to do, so layout progress stopped dead.

So, not having the backdrop extend down far enough (or failing to install it low enough in the first place) has been a big mistake and an enduring frustration. BUT! At least I have a backdrop, and a layout to have a backdrop on. I've started down this layout-building path and to continue forward I have to get over this affliction.  So, I reach into the model railroad medicine cabinet and reach for a healthy dose of "Do Over."

Here's what I've done so far . . .

The easiest thing to do would be to unscrew the backdrop supports and drop it - but, as you can see, it's all nicely joined in to the wall.  I don't want to have to redo all that.

Wethersfield, looking south. Here's how things looked when I started - you can see the flat area to the right (north) and the previously extended portion of the backdrop.

Wethersfield, looking south. This shows the difference in elevation. Prototype photos show the area as pretty flat. What really drove this home to me was that Valley Coal needs to go in this spot - and that whole area's supposed to be flat. And to be anywhere near prototype size, Valley Coal will have to right to the backdrop.

Since I'd be removing the plastercloth, I figured there'd be a mess - so first order of business was to put down dropcloths.

I used hot glue to attach the cardboard strips to the backdrop and plywood, so a putty knife was all I needed. Attaching the strips to the back side of the backdrop made the strips more difficult to remove, but was necessary in my attempt to keep the slope as low as possible.

Here's the Church Street area where I used some foam board, which will stay. To get the slope here, I used a combination of cardboard strips and wadded up newspapers.

What have I done?!

Once everything was removed, I needed my backdrop extension and a backdrop, um, "backing."

The backdrop backing will give me something to glue the backdrop extension to, so the seam doesn't just "float." The backing needs to go behind the current backdrop in order to act as a "splice" between the original backdrop and the extension. One problem with this is the backdrop support - I can't tuck the backing in.

So I split the backing at this point and added some scrap wood for - heh - backing for the backing. I want to create a flush surface to attach the extension to.

And here's where things are as of now - first section of backing all glued and clamped. Next step will be to install the backing to the left of the support - then I'll be able to install a long one-piece extension across it all.
All of this took only a couple of hours, but I think I know it's going to be time very well spent in the long run. Pay attention when you have a problem nagging you. If that nagging persists, it could be a sign of a deep-seated affliction that won't leave. In extreme cases, it could evolve into full-blown progress paralysis. Be willing to do what it takes to address the problem, even if it means going back and doing it over again. Your layout will be much better off as a result.

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