The Val Ease Central Railroad

Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos Copyright Jeffrey MacHan)

Beatin' The Modeler's Blues

Ever notice how one's enthusiasm for model railroading seems to peak and wane over the course of a year. Sure we have the natural cycles of vacations with the family and holiday preparations. Then there are the unforeseen catastrophes like visits by the inlaws which chip away at our modeling time. Major time grabbers come along occasionally like changing jobs, moving, weddings, births and funerals. These are all important siphons of our modeling availability. But what to do when we have the that precious commodity, free modeling time, and the inspiration doesn't show up?

We've just got to get the creative juices going, find the inspiration, rekindle the flame of passion, oops, better forget that one or it will be years before we get back to our trains!

Anyway, here are a few suggestions that I have used successfully to get me through the doldrums of modeling apathy. You don't have to try them all and you may have your own recipe to get the engine kick started.

1. Go to a train show. You'll meet enthusiastic people and some of the enthusiasm is sure to rub off. Make a point of looking for at least 1 new modeling technique that you can steal, I mean, use for inspiration. Make sure that you TALK to the exhibitors and attendees alike. The ones who respond will likely be very informative and helpful.

2. A corollary to #1 is to register for a train meet. Check the NMRA web site for events in your area. ( If you have never taken part in a train meet, my suggestion is to at least go on the layout tours which are often the most enjoyable and least threatening activity of the event. Once again, you can find inspiration on someone's layout, at a clinic or demonstration at the meet, or in conversation with other attendees.

3. If you care to find a more permanent solution to the modeler's blues, you might consider participating in a local modular group. Ask the friendly staff at your local hobby shops and train stores if there is a modular group in your area. Most groups are always looking for new members who can add to the skill bank, help set up and tear down layouts at shows, even if you don't have a module. The likelihood of a Z scale modular group is pretty low, except in Texas, so you might put up a notice inviting others to join you in starting a group.

For the more introspective amongst us, I have a couple of other remedies:

4. Do some data mining in the piles of model railroading magazines that you have stacked up in the closet. If you are on the net, do some surfing to explore other people's layouts on the numerous railroad links that can be found on the NMRA site and many others.

5. Ply other modelers with email questions. Join the Z_Scale discussion forum at

6. Get out the camera and go "walk about" downtown and really look, I mean look, at the walls, windows, rooftops (if you can get high enough), and discover all the character that these objets reveal when observed closely. Take pictures and then look at what you can do to reflect the real world in your modeling. The same is true for the natural aspects of our miniature world. Look at the trees that you pass by every day. Take a drive in the country and observe the myriad shapes, textures and colors of the vegetation we take for granted in our lives. Look at the rocks, cliffs, river banks, brooks, clearings etc. to see how natural colors are blended, where the plants grow or don't grow as the case may be. Sit for a while and stare at the incredible details that we all miss in our busy lives.

7. Go railfanning!

I'm sure that there is inspiration in there somewhere.

Of course, if all else fails, I suggest that you invite your best friend over to help you run your trains and chew the fat. Be sure to put up the "No Nitpicking" sign and enjoy the new found energy that is sure to power your modeling efforts.