During a discussion on the cost of track, I came across this commonly uttered phrase on a well-known UK-based model railway bulletin board:
I think hand track laying is one of those talents which is limited to those that can.
That’s one of the most depressing things I see and hear, not just about track, nor the hobby, but anything.
Yes, the are a few people who have that something extra, an insight, natural pitch, whatever, which set them apart, but for every singer with perfect pitch there are hundreds if not thousands who have worked hard and trained hard and then finely honed their abilities until it becomes a skill – as Gareth Malone demonstrated on BBC’s “The Choir”. Assuming that you don’t have a “special ability” without trying to find out, or assuming that without a natural “talent” it isn’t worth the effort of learning, is simply giving up without trying: “If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford.
I am not saying that anyone has to hand lay track, just that like anything else which is not dead easy (and laying flex track well is not dead easy, as it requires a little care and application) it requires time, patience and practice, and it can be improved upon cosmetically by the addition of jointbars, etc. We do not always have the time to put into this, which is where good flex track comes into its own: for most modellers, this is a trade-off against time they are more than willing to make, especially when the cost is not much different. Similarly for turnouts: the reliability of many brands is very good, and what is more some of them even look vaguely like the real thing. Unfortunately the agreed “universal” standards for the most popular scales have somewhat large flangeways, which stand out clearly to anyone who has studied real track: not just at the common crossing, but also the guard/check rails and the amount of clearance required at the point toes.
It all depends on where you place yourself on the building—operating continuum, and where you get your personal enjoyment of the hobby.
Happiness in The Hobby – just like everything in life – is all about the choices we make, the priorities we have, and the resources we have available. We each have our own combination of these, and being honest with ourselves about the decisions we make. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s no need to hide behind a self-deception of “I haven’t the ability”.