Sunday, January 8, 2012

Changing Skills: A Good Time to be in the Hobby

Instead of telling new model railroaders how it's done, lets ask them how they want to do it.

 It is a great time to be a model railroader--but not for the reasons people usually suggest.  Usually when people make a statement like that they are referring to products.  I am interested in something else, however.  That is the number of people re-thinking the way that we make models and the new skills they bring to the table.

A brief look around will reveal  a wide range of people coming from different directions.  Troels Kirk and Frederic Testard are making beautiful structures with little more than paper, paint, and foam--the pinnacle of modesty.  That Troels brings his skill as a painter to the entire work of the model railway has a tendency to change, if only slightly, the way many things are done.

The same can be said for Lance Mindheim, who in the latest Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine demonstrates the elegance of making structures from photographs--Photoshop and similar programs are becoming as essential to the hobby as an Exacto knife.  Speaking of which, Jim Gore did a great deal for the cause of printed paper models during the Model Rail Radio program recorded on January 7th--both illuminating the techniques he used, and reassuring people of the permanence of his efforts.  How refreshing is it to not have to be told about mixing a stain of alcohol and India ink--nothing against the stuff.  (There is a permanent link to Model Rail Radio in the sidebar of this blog.  You can find Lance Mindheim's article here:

I could go on about other examples--whether referring to people with electronics and programming experience, or my own explorations of inexpensive laser cutters.  The short version of the story is that there are dozens of people bringing new skills to the table--many of them borrowing from their professional lives as artists, graphic artists, architects, and engineers of all kinds.  This infusion of skills, and the questioning of the usual order of operations is incredibly healthy for the hobby.  Instead of telling new model railroaders how it's done, lets ask them how they want to do it.

I suspect a couple decades from now people might look back on this time--with its explosion of model rail media and infusion of techniques as a new kind of golden age for the hobby.  Lets hope this continues and that becomes true.

[As a note, I am removing some of the more detailed labels, and am going to place all of the commentaries under the label "sketchbook"]

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