Time and Decisions

Well, the issue of being honest about one’s choices – neatly summed up by Paul (Bawdsey) as consciously saying “I won’t” rather than assuming “I can’t” – has developed into a great discussion: I just wish these issues were more widely discussed!

But Trevor, that thoughtful Canadian whose blog is as good an example of blogging as you can find on the net, has stimulated another post, this time about how one chooses to spend one’s hobby time: what some might call the “psychic cost” (nothing to do with mind-readers and other charlatans) of a pastime. As he says, if one chooses to handlay track, then the extra time involved may lead to a decision to have less of it to lay. I would add to that: if one has a desire to fill a large room with an operationally intensive layout with less focus on fine detail, then the time is better spent on making a decent job of laying high quality flex track, with possibly some hand laid turnouts here and there to get around the restrictions of ready to lay turnouts.

But what struck me was the whole issue of “payback” from spending time. 200 hours spent laying track can be just as enjoyable as playing with the end result, whether that time is spent carefully attending to the “top and line” of laying flex track or inserting 4 individual spikes per tie. In fact, the amount of handlaid track which can be built during 200 hours is considerably less than the amount of flex track which can be laid in that time. So, if the “cost per yard” is pretty much the same, and the enjoyment per hour is pretty much the same, the enjoyment per dollar is much higher for the handlaid layout. (Or put another way, the hobby becomes cheaper!) Chances are, the hand layer of track will also “need” less equipment, so can afford to buy higher quality items and enjoy the better performance that comes from being able to afford precision engineered gearboxes, etc.

Here’s another example. Many years ago, a member of my then local club who was proficient at turning out engines from cast white metal (woods metal) kits, decided to have a go at an etched engine kit, as he had been told that they were “better”. Whilst it is true that they were possessed of finer details, there were more details, and some of the components required forming. He gave up on the experience, as it was going to take him ten times longer to build something which cost twice as much. His enjoyed building engines, sure, but his aim was to build up a large stud. As such, the psychic cost of the better product was too great – indeed, there was nothing “better” about the etched kit as far as he was concerned. I sympathised with his position, but I also put it to him that the etched kit had been designed to take longer, and if he viewed it in terms of hours enjoyed per pound spent, then the etched kit delivered five times the value. Well, he wasn’t known for being tolerant of opinions different to his own, and his answer was unrepeatable (but funny) but he sort of got the point: his problem was that he couldn’t get a cast kit for that particular class, and neither was it available ready to run. He simply was not prepared to pay the psychic cost to get what he wanted, and was disinterested in the payback via enjoyment that others might experience, as that wasn’t what he was looking for. I thought that was a shame, but then again, my outlook is different: I can only run one train at once, and whilst it is nice to be able to run something different, I have no interest in a large stud. It doesn’t matter if the journey takes longer, as the journey itself is enjoyable.

In fact, it matters if the journey doesn’t take longer!

Decide wisely, before you spend your hobby time, on how you wish to spend it. It may inform your subsequent decisions in ways you may not yet have considered.


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