I am the bringer of death

Breaking up model railwaysHere’s a little secret. I’m terrible for starting new layouts before finishing the last one.

In fact, I’ve got several in various stages of “uncompletion” at the moment.

But enough is enough.

I’ve always done this I’ll start a layout, get some way into its construction and then have idea for an alternative “better” landscape or track plan and start that before finishing the original. I’ve now got 3 layouts under construction.

“I’m always on the lookout for a future unfinished layout”
Apologies to Jurassic Park fans.

Does this sound familiar?

Talking to other modellers, I’m certainly not alone.

I know a fellow builder in Guildford who has 10 layouts around his house all in various states of “development’.  Several are still at the basic track laying stage and he’s recently started planning another layout!

Why I don’t finish my model railways

Why does this happen to me and others?

Sometimes new layouts are started simply because a better idea has come along. This happens to me a lot. I’ll be out and about and see an engine shed or another building, do a quick Google on it and find a fascinating past that’s crying out to be modelled. I’m very prone to this.

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”

And sometimes it’s because I’ve screwed up. A problem emerges or I realise the layout isn’t going to work as is. In these cases, my optimism takes over and I try to find workarounds that will fix the failure. This of course takes a while and while I’m contemplating solutions my mind wanders to other ideas and I’ll start on a new layout to keep me occupied.

And then there’s the most common reason…

I, and many other modellers, like one particular aspect of making model railways and once this part of the construction is complete our attention slides. This is the case for my colleague. He loves planning. He’ll spend hours making designs in Any Rail, these get started and once the track is down he’ll start thinking about another design and so on and so on and so on.

My weak spot in this respect is engineering and industrial yards. I love building sidings and freight yards. Electrics, track laying and landscapes don’t ring my bell. But making industrial settings – from tin mines to engine sheds and shunting yards – is what gives me the biggest buzz and once I get past creating these my interest fades.

But no more

This is a chronic waste of time, money and materials. It’s going to stop.

As of today, I’m going no further. From from now on my focus will be on just one layout.

No more effort will be expended on previous half-finished projects.

Having made the decision it feels very energising. Not having to choose what layout to work on, stopping feeling guilty about those unfinished constructions and freeing time have given me a massive kick. And being able to dedicate my energies and focus on just one layout without distraction is wonderful.

But it’s not all good news. With the decision to focus on just one railway came another, this one more painful. To stop myself from getting diverted I’m going to tear up my other layouts.

Yep, I’m dismantling them. The track will be carefully pulled up, the ballast removed, the electrics ripped out and even the boards will be discarded. The picture above is the result of this for one N gauge layout – I’m the bringer of death to my layouts 🙁

This is painful but will help in the long term.

Why not join me and give up all but one of your railways? I’d love to hear your thoughts?

What Next

Not only will it keep me focused on Great South, I’ll be able to recycle and reuse a lot of materials, models,track and electrics in particular and so give me a head start on its construction.

To prevent me from falling into the same trap again, starting yet another layout, however, I’ll be keeping the debris left over in a pile next to my workbench. Whenever the temptation to build afresh comes over me I’ll look at this heap of scenic scrap and remember what happens.

How many unfinished layouts do you have?


Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.
  1. yes, thats me. never get any further than the track layout before i have another bright idea.
    i wake up in the night with idea,s then go into my shed and start to pull up track or points to make changes.i have only just told my wife that i am spending too much time and getting no where. i must stop. is it a craving i have? all my track is now in six inch lengths. but, i am glad that i am not alone in this. i will start afresh today. honest.

      • hi andy, a fresh start is in progress. the shed as been stripped of all my old layout. the base framework as been updated. next will be to fit some new board. at the moment all trains are parked across the dressing table in the bedroom. the boss is not happy?

          • hi andy, i have now moved back from the dressing tables to the shed. after replacing all the old base board with new plywood. new track around the curves as helped with better running of the trains.
            all the base was painted with some fence panel brown. looks good.
            soldering two lengths of flexi track together before bending in the curves helped to make a better joint.
            so now i have a double track circuit around my 10x8ft shed. i have kept the shunting area and engine shed simple without any curves.
            i have not fitted a lift out section across the door,but have left it as a permanent part of the base.
            i am still sneaking items in without my wife knowing, i am very good at doing it, plenty of practice.

            regards pete.

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