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Date: 02/10/19 20:00
I think I'm in over my head.
Author: rapidotrains

Hi all,

I've been doing my best to get down to the layout room almost every day, and I need it to keep me sane. If I haven't been down there for a few days I start to get really anxious and irritable. I haven't been down there enough in the last month and my wife basically kicked me to the layout room.

I am a detail freak. I'm really enjoying what I'm doing now, which is installing joint bars on some track in the Ontario town of Brockville. It's slow but peaceful work. I like to paint my track, and you need to install the joint bars before you paint. So I find myself in the position of installing joint bars before there's much in the way of scenery. (I'm using Cal-Scale, by the way. I cleared Walthers out of their entire inventory.)

Layout page here:  https://www.facebook.com/KingstonSub/

It occurred to me today that there is no way I can finish this layout in my lifetime. Even if some angel comes and buys Rapido and allows me to retire in my 50s, I am not sure I will be able to get the layout remotely complete. It's a triple-deck layout, and Brockville is a breeze compared to the bottom deck, which is downtown Toronto.

So I'm feeling a bit bummed out about this. I've been planning this layout since I was four. I would like to be able to reach a level of completion that allows me to accurately recreate this slice of my childhood before I croak.

Anybody have any insights?



Date: 02/10/19 20:54
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: TCnR

The guys doing the MRH Videos cut the top part of the rail before glueing the joint bar in place. Apparently gives a jointed track sound while keeping electrical continuity.

But they say the racket drives them nuts so they only use it as a warning when approaching stations and junctions etc.

Date: 02/10/19 20:57
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: SP4360

I did that years ago on a layout and went so far as to put a little dip in the rail at the "joints". Well, it worked fine, the cars rocked and rolled but the noise was too much. I'll put on the bars, dip the rail but will not score the top ever again.

TCnR Wrote:
> The guys doing the MRH Videos cut the top part of
> the rail before glueing the joint bar in place.
> Apparently gives a jointed track sound while
> keeping electrical continuity.
> But they say the racket drives them nuts so they
> only use it as a warning when approaching stations
> and junctions etc.

Date: 02/10/19 21:02
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: bigkidpgh

I found myself in the same position a few years ago. As painful as it was, there was no choice but to downsize and “reimagine” my original plan. I was able to save the basic framework, disassemble several sections and salvage buildings, turnouts, scenery, etc. from the original layout. I also sold at least half of my locomotives and freight cars. What was a plan with a double track main, several branch lines and a major yard has been reworked to include one branch line, a small interchange yard, and a single track main with a passing siding. Sometimes you just got to bite the bullet - it was certainly the right decision for me. The finish line is in sight!

Date: 02/10/19 21:55
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: icancmp193

I've thought about 39' rail lengths, and then thought again. I'm also coming to the realization that there is not enough time left for all of the things that are undone.


Date: 02/10/19 21:58
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: arwye

I'm also a "detail nut" however I long ago realized that things like joint bars get lost in the big picture. When your standing there operating trains, those little time consuming details just disappear and become invisible. The layout is a "stage" for the equipment who are the actors. Drill your detailing down to a few scenes that will be recognizable features and leave the rest of the stage looking plausible, instead of trying to build one gigantic diorama.  It took me 15 years to complete a one level layout, 15 feet by 33 feet. I tried to commit at least one hour a day setting small goals to keep me motivated by seeing the progress achieved instead of being frustrated at what was left to accomplish. Were all here for ya man! Don't give up. Richard Yaremko   

Date: 02/10/19 22:37
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: railstiesballast

Layouts have a lot in common with theatre sets.
For instance joint bars would only be on the visible side of the rail and only where detailed photos are likely.
Or model CWR.
But if your fun is making a scene as realistic as possible, then follow your instincts.  Leave the rest of  the layout with only the basics: paint out the silver rail, ballast the track, cover the plywood with temporary scenery and buildings, it will look fine to your guests.  
Your most important visitors will be little kids, they don't care about joint bars (yet).

Date: 02/11/19 03:31
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: Lighter

Since I don't know you from Adam I'm making some assumptions.  Namely, from your vita and from all your public information, that you have an artist's temperament and an artist's rather unique control issues.  A work has to match your brain's image before your signature goes on that work.  And then there is all that railroad modeler stuff - skills that really need to be both studied and practiced before they become working tools. I'm guessing that in your art education that there were/are some materials, methods, canons that just made no sense to you as a means of release.

Here are some suggestions to add to those above this post and those post that will follow.  Most of us have been through this.

ONE - do nothing.  Continue as you are for the next forty years.  It gets finished or not.  Process becomes the intent.

TWO - eliminate one or two levels.  I say "one" for now, but you really are going to need to remove two in order to complete your work in your next forty years.  Might as well eliminate both now.

THREE - how many persons does it take to get a Rapido product to the point you are willing to put your signature on it?  This gets into control issues big time, but can you add builders onto your project without spinning into a bad place?

FOUR - sell your house and move into a larger basement.  Then, take all that forced time off to plan from the ground up.  Paying particular attention to your friends in the motherland who approach a railroad model in a very different manner.

I'm guessing (again) that doing lesser detail just isn't going to work. You are in your peak modeling years right now.  Your ability to continue modeling at your current level is going to become more difficult.  Most guys do their best modeling in their twenties.  (Same for many professions.)  (Sure, there are exceptions.) This is really a good time to think about where you really want to take your modeling. 

Or buy another bus.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/11/19 03:34 by Lighter.

Date: 02/11/19 03:43
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: SPDRGWfan

Heck, I feel that way about finishing 700 sq ft of unfinished basement.  It's turning out to be a big job doing by myself with some help from my wife.  The framing was in but since I started the drywalling in ernest last early Dec, well, all the drywall is basically in except the bathroom and some mudding and taping but lots left to do.

Jason, do as the Brits say, just soldier on!  At least you have layout way further along - I doubt I'll even start mine until summer.  After the mudding and sanding is done, hopefully in March, will start the suspended ceiling.

Cheers, Jim

Date: 02/11/19 05:14
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: birdman

My layout is entirely scratch built - track, interurbans, overhead wire, many structures, etc.in an unusual scale (1:24). I have been building for almost 50 years. In recent years, for a number of reasons, I have down-sized the layout twice.  Given my age, it became apparent that I had to get things to a manageable level in terms of maintenance and other considerations.  When people see my layout and/or photos of it they are usually extremely complimentary.  The truth is, I have subscribed to the good enough theory from the beginning.  I know that there are many flaws and the level of detail is less than perfect but I never would have achieved what I have had I not cut a few corners and most people do not notice the lack of fine detail.  If the perfectionist in you needs to be satisfied, I suggest that you choose a particular scene or section of the layout and detail that to the nth degree while turning your attention to getting the rest of the layout up and running with a “good enough” approach.  When that is achieved, choose another scene and go back and super detail that one and so on.  It’s a hobby and should be fun and a stress relieving activity.  Take it from an old-timer.  Whatever level of perfection you achieve will provide a great sense of satisfaction if you let it.  Don’t bite off too much at first and enjoy the process.  
Dick - Delaware Valley Traction Company in PA.

Date: 02/11/19 05:22
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: RGDave


A wise and thoughtful question.  I'd offer that you have some choices.   

The construction process can be the destination, if you would be satisfied with that. Many modelers are!  However, it sounds like that's not your vision.  If the goal is a 'complete' (but never finished) railroad that operates, my suggestion is to find spend some time reflecting on what you like least about layout construction - and let others help with some of it.  This is exactly how I have managed the Onondaga Cutoff:  thoughtful collaboration, and allowing experts to be experts.  

For example, production work like adding rail joints or wiring feeders is something that goes much faster with some help.  You might even find one or two contacts that like wiring more than weathering, for example, and while they wire, you can do something that doubles the productivity AND keeps you on things you enjoy.   

In this case, you're correct that you want to add the track details before painting.  Doing things twice (painting track in this case) is something I avoid as much as possible.  But generally, while I too am a details hound, the process of getting things running and getting scenery started was more important to me than all the detail up front.

So, clear goals for me have been critical.  I wanted to run trains and even have full operating sessions as soon as feasible, and so I swallowed hard and let that happen without joint bars, and without track weathering.  I asked local modelers for help with benchwork, and with wiring, then with signals, with scenery, backdrops, and even weathering.  I've learned a lot along the way and gotten better at all those things...while making 3-4 times as much progress as I was before, when it was just me.  Once things were running smoothly, I went back and started to add some joint bars.  You can also 'finish' one scene to completion before adding joint bar-level details everywhere else.  

In summary, I see you in a perfect spot: there are ways to do what you want, and time to do it, if approached in certain ways.  If your goal is a fully scenicked 'finished' railroad, consider opening your layout to the help of others. Many would really appreciate the chance to pitch in.  Cooperation builds community and allows for camaraderie that is harder to find these days in life as you've reflected in your writings in other places on the internet.  Perhaps the challenge at hand is to figure out what aspect of model railroading and the layout is the one that defines your vision.

You're not in over your head.  You're asking the right questions at the right time!

Date: 02/11/19 05:30
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: andrewcastle

I think RGDave summed up my thoughts pretty well.

If a finished railroad is the goal then you may need some help.

If the goal is to have fun building a layout then does it matter if it is never finished? As long as some parts get finished and progress continues then the goal is being met.

The other thing to consider is someday the kids will move out and you will have more time on your hands than you know what to do with. 

Andrew C

Date: 02/11/19 07:20
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: rapidotrains

Thank you everyone for your input and feedback. It is nice to get advice from people in the same boat as I am and who have faced similar issues.

The guys at work used to come work on the layout with me about once every two weeks - we'd take a "day off" and get a lot done. The trouble is Rapido has become so busy of late that we haven't had the time to do it. I trust them so much I can just leave them to whatever section they are working on.

When you're only working on the layout for an hour here or there, it's hard to get a team in. I think I will discuss it with the guys and see if we can get back to working on the layout every couple of weeks. I have no problem getting people in to help, but I am very picky about who gets to help. Once I had a few guys give a hand and then a friend and I spent three months fixing the mistakes made in one three-hour session.

What has been humbling about this part of the layout I'm working on is that it's about 20 square feet, and I think of the British layouts I enjoy seeing so much - a 20 square foot layout takes most British modellers two years to build! I can't spend two years working in the back end of Brockville. It's a very minor part of the layout. But it's also easy to putter away back there as it means I don't have to think about the hard stuff like the Brockville station area that is front and centre.


Date: 02/11/19 07:41
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: funnelfan

I'm also finding that being a detail freak really slows down your modeling. When it comes to rolling stock and you keep having to run back to the computer to look at photos to make sure you have the right part in the right location, you end up spending far more time researching than modeling. And it become easy to become "burned out" on a project and wanting to move on to another project. Sometimes it would be just better to "let it go" and just model and come back later and add some detail if you have some time.

Ted Curphey
Cheney, WA

Date: 02/11/19 07:49
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: aehouse

Jason et al,

When I was planning to build my retirement home layout,  I initially had grand plans for a basement-sized layout.  But I quickly realized that my prime interest in model railroading is operations, and that working largely alone, it would have taken longer than my life expectancy to build such a railroad, or perhaps even get it to the stage where realistic operations could be conducted. 

So I immediately downsized the concept to the essentials, and fashioning a quickie benchwork of my own design using hollow core doors, I had a railroad of manageable size (8X22, with a separate 2X18 staging area)  up and fully ready to operate within a few months.  The benchwork in total took just 24 work hours to complete.  Fleshing it out with structures and a very slight touch of scenery (I find full scenery unnecessarily expensive, time-consuming, and messy) I've been enjoying the layout for many years.  In the meantime, I also built another even smaller layout, essentially a switching pike, to dabble in DCC (the original layout has remained with DC cab control, not only because I've hit my tech wall, but I have far too many locomotives to be able to afford DCC conversion).

Art House

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/12/19 06:54 by aehouse.

Date: 02/11/19 08:21
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: hogheaded

Jason, you are merely starting to experience the existential angst of knowing life truly is finite. This is not peculiar to model railroaders, and if existence continues to treat you well, you'll likely experience the serenity that comes concordant to an accommodation with mortality.

In a few years you probably will go through what most of us oldsters have gone through, a not wholly displeasurable sorting out of your advanced status to find that, while model railroading still may predominate in your life simply because it is enjoyable, it has nevertheless disappeared from your list of long term goals - because there is no long term. In other words, as you grow nearer to the ragged, ill-defined precipice of existence, enjoying whatever you are doing at the moment becomes your daily goal, never mind tomorrow. This may produce results that are presently inconceivable to you. Hell, you might decide to take up gardening.

Or, you might try immersing yourself in marklinofsweden videos on U-Tube. You might experience an epiphany. I did.

Date: 02/11/19 08:29
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: tomstp

Tsunami II has that clickty click sound in it.  At first I was OK with it, now it drives me bananas .  I am turning that sound OFF.

Date: 02/11/19 08:55
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: pullmanboss

In this case the journey may be more important than reaching the destination. Enjoy it!

Tom Madden

Date: 02/11/19 09:56
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: NS8552

Build a free-mo module! You only need to finish track and scenery on a 3 or 4 foot section and then you can join in at any number of shows and run your trains on a REALLY BIG layout. Once you've done this, it's amazing how much inspiration and enthusiasm you tackle the home layout with when you get back. You might even capitulate and turn totally to the modular side!


Date: 02/11/19 11:35
Re: I think I'm in over my head.
Author: sixaxlecentury

As much as I like to detail and build track,  after building a large layout and doing such - It is just not worth the time or effort.  As mentioned above, it gets lost.  Especially things like joint bars and rail braces.   Instead,  pick a few "key" scenes, and do those.   Its impracticale to do it all, and is essentially a waste of money.  

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