In a thread on one of the more popular model railway forums, a post was made with the following sentiment:
I now see railway modelling as an art form to be enjoyed rather than an exercise in trying to achieve technical perfection
My response (to be self-indulgent, but what is a blog if not that?) was:
I agree entirely, but as all artists will agree, it takes a while to develop the techniques required. In fact, you may have tapped into a better metaphor than you realise!
In fact, many artists return to the same subject time and time again, scrapping earlier efforts (either completed, or part completed) because what appears on canvas or in clay/wood/metal/stone/whatever isn’t what they have in their mind’s eye.
In this respect, you should take comfort from the blind alleys and false starts: like any great artist, they are but learning points on the path to ultimate success.
And make no mistake, whether we build an individual item of rolling stock, a small diorama, or a large layout, we are all creating a work of art which says to the the world, “This is what railways mean to me.”
Artists spend their lives trying to express what something means to them using their favoured medium/media. They will tell you that they often feel that they have failed, and try, and try, and try again. I know I am repeating myself, but it is worth remembering that.
Techniques do need to be mastered, but only to allow us to create what we want to create. This is not easy, but if we focus entirely on technique, we can only be technically brilliant, but our creations will be emotionally austere. If we want to get beyond the simple achievement (and great pleasure!) of simply playing with trains, we need to remember what we want to create: what is it in our mind’s eye that says “railway”?
There are no golden rules here. I can no more dictate what you must do to achieve your Model Railway dream than can anyone else, but it is worth putting some questions to yourself to help define your goal.
So, what inspires you? How does that lead to a satisfying expression of your interest?
- It could simply be locomotives or rolling stock. They don’t have to move.
- It could simply be the end of a rural siding, disused, rusty and strewn with rubbish. Nothing but some track, some form of stopping things coming off the end of it, just a few square inches of baseboard.
- It could be the operations of unit trains – after all, shifting goods and minerals in bulk was how railways came about.
There are so many alternatives, each as different as each of us. The point is, to get beyond technicalities and toys, we can view model railways as art.
But only if we know what inspires us.