Trains display

Prototype vs Freelance

I recently started up once more on my basement railroad and it’s been quite a while since I’ve added anything to my trains content, so I figure it’s past time to do so. I was also inspired by a Twitter thread I came across recently that inspired this post. So let’s start with that:

Had a little moment just now where I remembered how much I loved the Hobby Show in Toronto.

Picture ComicCon. Now add model trains and remote controlled boats. AND comics. AND prop vendors — to this day I regret not buying an Aliens pulse rifle cast from the original prop.

— Aaron Reynolds (@aaronreynolds) January 27, 2019

Follow the link and read the whole thread. It’s worth it. It discusses an ongoing and frequently one of the most contentious arguments in the model railroad hobby: Prototyping vs Freelancing.

Let’s start with a couple of definitions:

Prototyping – Faithfully reproducing (as much as possible) the trains, buildings, industries and scenery from a specific location, railroad and time period. For example: The Union Pacific Cajon Pass during the 1980s or the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad around Wheeling, West Virginia on April 7, 1955. Prototype operations also involves running realistic train loads on a realistic “schedule” between destinations

Freelancing – Modeling whatever you want, however you want and running whatever trains you want

Proto-Freelance or Prototype-Freelance – Advocates prototyping more often than not, but with “reasonable liberties” taken

I am firmly in the freelancing camp. If I want an 1860’s West Virginia logging camp sitting in front of a Bavarian castle, located just down the track from a 1990’s New York plastics mill, while a Japanese Shinkansen bullet train rushes by them both heading towards a replica of King’s Cross station, then that’s what I’ll do.

To someone in the prototyping camp, that would be utter heresy. And in my experience, that too often means being excluded from local railroading clubs. While I know that there are clubs that are open to freelancers, far too many are heavily ingrained in the prototyping mentality and anyone who doesn’t want to follow that mindset is made to feel foolish or unwelcome.

That’s really quite unfortunate. Model railroading is an expensive hobby. A lot of people who might want to participate can only do so through club participation. It’s a mistake for any group to make anyone feel unwelcome. And while most everyone seems fine with people doing whatever they want and calling it whatever they want on their personal layouts, for some reason clubs tend to develop these group behaviors that make others feel bad for what they want to do.

I don’t understand why. But so long as many of these clubs continue to maintain this behavior, they will continue to drive people away from their groups, and from the hobby in general. And that’s just sad to me. I hope we can change the mentality. And by so doing, we can change the hobby for the better.

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