Chattanooga Modular Modelers

Teaching and Inspiring through the art of Model Railroading

Chartered in 2013, CMM, Inc. uses the hobby of model railroading to educate the public about the role the railroads have played in our nations history, techniques for construction of portable displays, electric and electronics principles used in modern devices and control circuits and more...

Background colorization images courtesy of Tom Alderman, Marietta, Ga. 

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Mentoring

Scenario: A family gets excited about trains enough to buy & build a model railroad. Soon the problems start: “The darn thing won’t stay coupled, it keeps derailing, the engine slows down when it’s at the other end of the layout, my mountains collapse, the paint job looks like a clowns’ makeup, the water looks like cake frosting, is everything in the “right” era? Do these cars “fit” the locale, structures & motive power? What else can go wrong? Then we see smoke come out of the engine as it slows down. What happens? The train gets packed away in the attic & our excited family takes up crocheting doilies, and model railroading loses another hobbyist. What a waste! Could this hobby leakage be reduced? Sure! Easily! How?
    There is a definite fact I have observed, no matter what a person’s talents are; model railroading can challenge our horizons of accomplishment to the max. There are some experienced model railroaders out there that have a vast amount of knowledge at their beck & call. They could easily straighten out the blundering neophyte in his quest for modeling perfection, but our super modelers somehow don’t share their incredibly diverse stores of Railroading knowledge with the ones needing it the most; the neophytes. Are they being stingy with their “secrets”?  Hardly! I haven’t seen anyone who doesn’t like to strut his stuff when the proper amount of appreciation is at hand, so what’s the problem? TIMIDITY, on both sides.
. No one will talk to anyone he doesn’t know. The old hands may need to grab the bull by the horns & start talking to the new guys. It’s amazing that most of the new guys are nice folks starving for exactly what we are carrying around in our heads.
    Another problem that has come to my attention is the old hands have devised solutions but they keep those solutions to themselves, their “secrets”. Then, they carry those secrets to the grave with them & every generation of railroaders has to reinvent the wheel. Come on guys; let’s keep this hobby going for the next hundred years & beyond! I had discovered a simpler way to install coupler box covers on athern cars easier by doing a simple bending process. They stay on a lot better also, so I wrote an article about it so everyone else can do it too. I was telling an old hand about my “trick” & he tells me he has been doing it that way for years. Well that's great! But how many profited from his discovery? No one but him. That one fact about how to fix a problem could have caused no telling how many neophytes to stay in the hobby instead of becoming discouraged & getting out.                                                                                          
     Many modelers have chosen to specialize, going their separate ways, but not THAT specialized. There is a common denominator: track with flanged wheels rolling on it. Some railroaders do not even own trains. They are interested in history, or working on, or riding in, or just watching, or photographing the real trains, or fellowshipping with fellow train lovers, or reading, or watching video tapes. There is one guy I know that is a fan of the IC RR, he is also a prolific builder of modules, the last count being over 120 feet of them. He is not an avid operator but whatever he does is high quality. There is another guy that builds bridges that would make anybody proud. 
    I have chosen to specialize also. My specialty is to have good performing trains by making everything work better, including “souping up” the locomotives. The real ones pulled over 100 cars, so do mine. 
     Other guys may branch out into their own specialty but that doesn’t matter either. What does matter is that sooner or later all of us reading this article are going to pass on. Will we be leaving capable replacements behind to carry things on to complete this millennium & beyond?                                                                                                                                          
     Think about it guys, [& gals], as I meet folks that are new to the hobby, I talk with them, I ascertain their interests, desires & weaknesses, then I will either help them directly or refer them to someone strong in the area of the new guys’ needs or interests. Just because a new person doesn’t share my particular interest means nothing to me, whether he prefers a different scale, or is more intent on building a home railroad or whatever, doesn’t matter. Let’s help these new guys while they can be helped. Sometimes when our club is at a public show & I am running my trains I will see a kid, regardless of age, really intently watching how the trains run so I will hand him [or her] the throttle. The excitement is palpable. Then we get acquainted.    
Written by Bob Swanner  revised 4/11/07