Can You Go Home Again?


The yard job shuttles past COD Seafood as it switches East Rail’s Sentry Chlorine on January 6, 2010.

“You can almost always return to Home, The Place. But — eventually — you can never return to Home, The Actuality. It’s as gone as gone can be.” John Simpson


There’s an old expression, you can never go home again.  In the quote above, taken from an online essay, John Simpson explains it succinctly.  Although the physical place may still be there, the environment that made it “home” is long gone.

I’ve been thinking about that this week in terms of how it might apply to going back and taking another run at a previously built, long since dismantled or otherwise disposed of, model railroad.  It’s tempting on a couple of fronts, especially if that previous railroad was a success.  I’ll define success as the enjoyment it provided, the friends that experienced it with you, and the enduring pleasant memories.  The other issue that factors in is that, if you spend a lot of time on any endeavor, you’ll get better at it.  The layout we can build now would be of far higher quality than what we did five years ago, both in terms of planning and execution.

I’ve reached the stage in life where I’ve done enough modeling to have a fairly firm grasp on the type of model railroading that is most interesting to me, modern era, moderately sized, switching layouts.  Other than a slight side track to build some backdated equipment, the LAJ layout is done.  When I get to this point my mind starts wandering to “what’s next” and in that vein Miami’s East Rail is a recurring thought.  It’s as compelling of a theme as ever, visually, romantically, operationally.  The size and layout are perfect for working into a variety of small to mid-sized layout designs.  I’ve enjoyed all my layouts but there was something about the East Rail project, hard to define, that put it above all of the others.  Should I take another crack at it?  My modeling skills have improved. I could do a better job on a second attempt.   It’s the ideal size.

But….can you ever go home again?  Can the things that made it so fun ever be re-captured?  The thrill of discovery, the excitement and interest other modelers felt as I gave it a coming out and documented it’s construction on my blog, the new friendships that evolved out of it.  You can’t recapture that.  You never want what others think to be the reason you pick a theme but I really enjoyed making my discovery and journey the discovery and journey of others. You know you have something when it inspires a number of similar themed layouts.  However, an East Rail 2 would likely be received with polite, been there, done that, seen it before yawns from other modelers.  Does that matter?  Somehow there’s a loneliness in that, very likely, reality.

The modeling bug really took hold in my teens.  Since then, Miami and LA have consistently drawn me in, an appeal spanning almost four decades now.  Is it likely another region would capture my interest as much as those two?  Possible but it’s really hard to imagine as I write this today.

So, what is next?  That’s the sixty-four dollar question.