Thursday, September 22, 2011

1 of 43

It's always interesting to me to see where the track plans I've had published in Model Railroad Planning magazine will turn up next. When Kalmbach buys an article, they generally buy all rights, so the material can be used in another Kalmbach publication without involving the author again.

As an author, this doesn’t bother me at all with Kalmbach – the copyright terms of the author agreement are very clear. My designs have been re-published in special booklets offered to new subscribers or shrink-wrapped with regular magazines, in Kalmbach books, etc.

So I thought that perhaps one (or a few) of my model railroad track plans might be featured in the recently-published 43 Track Plans from the Experts. But the intrigue is in guessing which plans might be selected from roughly the last ten years of Model Railroad Planning.

While I was hoping for designs to be included that I believe are a bit more innovative (or at least different), such as the Oahu Railway multi-decker from MRP 2008 or the folding Alameda Belt Line switching layout from MRP 2003, my suspicion was that it would be one or more of the island-style track plans.

Which in the end, it was: the hollow-core-door-sized N scale Katy layout from MRP 2010. Certainly a layout that I and my custom client were happy with, but not breaking a lot of new ground.

The editor(s) added some meaningful comments and found a slightly more useful prototype photo (since I couldn't clear copyrights on the best photos). All in all, I'm happy to have even one plan in the book.

Publishing a book of past plans such as this is a balancing act. While there are some innovative designs, other plans may have been chosen because they come from well-known authors or had great artwork, even if these track plans aren't exactly pioneering in terms of design (or even buildable!).

I also found the tagline on the cover slightly amusing. It reads: "Plans from 4X8 feet to a giant 38X82 feet". But of course, my 30"X80" hollow core door plan is smaller than 4X8. I guess that it's always hard to resist promoting the "sacred sheet" 4X8.

But that's the nature of the publishing business – first, it has to sell! I'm happy to have had a track plan included and I think readers who haven't seen all of the original MRP issues will receive a good exposure to a variety of designs through this book.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Victim Mentality

I'd been emailing with a potential client about a custom track planning project for a while. His vision was for a freelanced layout with a bit of everything, to be built with Kato Unitrack. No specific theme except to have fun and explore the hobby. So far, so good.

But then he began to have second thoughts. Basically his worries came about because he had "heard" that nitpickers and prototype modelers "don't like freelanced layouts or click track" and he didn't want to be criticized. Where had he "heard" that? Internet forums, of course.

Yes, the "Nitpickers pushed me down and took my lunch money" meme is alive and thriving on the Internet.

And pretty much only there.

Many of those posting about the "mean old nitpickers" have themselves never completed any layout, prototype or freelance, generic or specific. But they rave on about the sinister layout police who savage layout owners for failing to live up to some unwritten set of rules.

I recognize that playing the victim has powerful appeal in today's society. In model railroading, it helps some excuse years of inaction. It helps others gain some Internet fame and notoriety (trivial and childish as it is) through hundreds (or thousands) of whining posts.

And it's pretty much totally false.

In fact, I've seen just the opposite first hand multiple times. On one specific occasion I remember from years ago, I happened to be on a layout tour with some very well-known and highly-skilled prototype modelers. One of the layouts on the tour was a freelanced design built with Atlas SnapTrack. To be honest, the layout didn't offer much in visual appeal or operating interest to most, though it suited the owner's interests. But the experienced modelers visiting still took a few minutes to offer a couple of thoughts and thank the owner for being open.

No, the experienced folks didn't spend an hour there and I'm sure it wasn't their favorite layout of the day. But they were courteous, respectful and pleasant. Just as 99% of modelers would be.

The "evil nitpickers" rants on the Internet have done much more harm to potential layout builders than have any actual nitpickers. So forum trolls, please. I recognize that it’s asking way too much for you to be accurate or knowledgeable. But maybe you could at least some up with something fresh.

[By the way, the fellow I was emailing with went forward with the design project, actually built it with Unitrack, and is having a great time. Meanwhile, the forum trolls are … not.]