All Done, Now What?

Following Up on a Successful Launch


By far the biggest obstacle facing the entry level modeler is overcoming inertia, getting that first layout off the launching pad, and operating reliably.   Doing so is an enormous achievement.  Things flow much easier after hitting that first milestone.  The primary reason I’m an advocate for smaller, simpler layouts going in is that it stacks the odds of success in your favor.

Lately I’ve gotten more and more emails and photos of well done first attempts that are up and running.  The sense of satisfaction obtained by these modelers is very evident.

So,  you’ve got that modest switching layout up and running smoothly.  Now what?  What’s the next step?  How do you maintain that positive momentum?  This is a hobby and the only measure of success is how much satisfaction you extract from it.  My experience is that satisfaction is generally tied to a relaxed but generally upward trending advancement of skills and knowledge.   By relaxed I mean really relaxed.  That said, if there is no upward movement at all, stagnation tends to set in.   Here are a few ideas for that next step:

  • Keep the existing layout but gradually replace small sections with higher quality modeling that reflects your newer and better skill set.  For example,  make a second attempt at some of the structures in an effort to increase the quality somewhat.  Remove a foot or two of track and try your hand at more detailed weathering and ballast.  Remove a half square foot of scenery and re-do it.  Focus on improved color treatment and cleaner, more subtle, execution.  Compare your model against prototype photos.
  • Keep the existing layout but switch your attention to improving your freight car painting and weathering skills.
  • Replace the existing layout entirely with something of similar size but with design tweaks that reflect your higher level of self-awareness and knowledge.
  • Replace the layout with something slightly larger.  If you’re a beginner I wouldn’t reach beyond doubling the square footage for the second attempt.

Some things you can only learn by doing and the only way to zero in on which aspects of the hobby interest you the most is to dive in and start building.  Make mental notes about what aspects of your layout you like and which aspects you’d like to change on the next attempt.