Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Unfinished Business

Bear with me - this post is intended to be motivational, not morbid. But it's no surprise that the older we get the more we hear of contemporaries passing. In the model railroad community, these hopefully-not-too-frequent announcements take on a unique poignancy - we wonder whether he (or she) accomplished everything they wanted with their layout, whether they built all the kits they had, or read all their books.

Unfortunately, the answer is usually "no" - there never seems to be enough time to do all we want to do and model railroaders tend to have especially long "to do" lists. Whether it's our "dream pike" plans or our ever-growing stash of kits that "I'll get around to, someday," our reach all too often exceeds our grasp. We eventually run out of time just like everybody else and leave our share of unfinished projects behind.

The Missus - wise woman that she is - told me a story once of how sad it is to hear of folks saving stuff "for special occasions" and somehow not finding occasions "special" enough to use the "good" stuff. Or waiting until "someday" to do something they've looked forward to. She'd say "wear the special dress, use the good dishes, bring out the fancy linens, take the trip. Why not have those experiences and enjoy those things as long as you can while you can?"

Why indeed.

The model railroader's equivalent isn't far off. Don't save the kits for when you think you have enough skills. The irony is that you won't get the skills until you start building. Don't wait to do a layout until you have the dream space or your dream plan - start small, but at least get started.

I did a post on this blog a couple years ago titled "Too Much" which described some of the anxiety I was feeling at the time for having taken on the Valley Line project. I, too, have been guilty of too much planning and buying and not enough doing and building. But as I hear of yet another model railroad estate sale, and confront all the structure and freight car kits I have on my shelves - not to mention the many unfinished projects in varying states of progress - I've made my mind up about something:

"Someday" is NOW.

NOW is the time to finish that Micro Engineering bridge kit for East Berlin that I started a couple years ago. It only needs a little more work...

NOW is the time to finally get past the roadblock with my tender modification for J-1 #3022. Once that's done, the Air Line Local will finally have accurate steam power...

NOW is the time to get going again on the Old Saybrook Tower kit I opened last July and quit obsessing over the proper paint scheme (I'm color blind anyway)...

And, yes, NOW is the time to (at least start to) get over my scenery phobia, despite said color-blindness...

Why not just finish these projects and develop these skills? What am I waiting for?

Now that NERPM 2016 and my layout open house is in the rear-view, it's time to get back to the modeling that has taken a back seat during the past 18 months of construction. I got a nice kick-start last Saturday when I attended my first-ever hands-on clinic - modifying an Accurail boxcar kit to a 1 1/2 door boxcar. Admittedly, I didn't finish it, yet, but I did start. And I got beyond my usual analysis paralysis and accomplished much more in a shorter period of time than I ever had before.

So I'm going to keep up that motivation momentum as long as possible, rejecting "someday" and embracing "today." There's not much left to do to finish that boxcar, so I'll finish it. If I hit a snag in the process, I'll either address it and move on (I ordered the necessary decals last night) or I'll set it aside for the moment and dive headlong into something else (maybe that ME bridge). The point is - continue moving forward.

Don't wait for "someday" to accomplish what your imagination inspires you to do. Progress breeds even more progress and skills only develop as you do as much (or at least as often) as you dream.


  1. I had the same thoughts years ago when I became middle aged, you must now be Middle aged Chris!
    Still motivated by these thoughts as I soon enter my 8th decade.

    Joe Smith

    1. Yeah, I'm afraid you may be right Joe. "Old enough to know what all you want to accomplish and still young enough to do something about it" - about as good a definition of "middle-aged" as I can imagine.