Words from the "Master"

Recently I've acquired something of a protégé, a young modeler who offered to help me work on my home in exchange for acquiring some sort of modeling "wisdom" from me. But I think I may have eventually become a minor disappointment to him, since I haven't had much in the way of "wisdom" to offer. Oh, I'll toss out some random tips and tricks on occasion, but for the most part the well is a bit dry.

There's a reason I'm not the wise old man on the mountaintop he and a few others may perceive me as being. Actually, there are multiple reasons. For starters, I'm not really as good as some folks make me out to be. I'll be the first to insist there are other far more talented modelers out there; indeed, I can name a few I actually look up to, and wish I had just some of their maddeningly impressive skill. So, if I occupy some mountain peak in the eyes of my "adoring fans," there are others occupying far loftier summits above mine.

But the principal explanation for my seemingly paltry wealth of knowledge is quite simple: I've been modeling for over fifty years. Anyone who does something that long should start to get good at it. There are no tricks, no shortcuts, and it's not the sort of thing that can be passed on through an oral history of sorts; it's skill you can only acquire if you keep at it long enough. Not to mention mistakes—oh, I've made those literally by the thousands. And since mistakes are the very best way to learn a skill, I've honed mine to a fine art—so to speak.

Another error folks often make is assuming I have a great deal of patience. This would appear to be the case given how long it has taken me to complete some models. But my good friend Rick Spano helped correct this: he will tell you he's actually a very impatient man; what he is instead is persistent. This is true for me as well—I'll keep working at something until I've finally nailed it, not because I have all the patience in the world, but because I'm damned if I'm going to let a project defeat me... although I'll confess to having been defeated on occasion.

And then there's the whole "I'm not really a model railroader" argument—which, to be fair, is accurate. If I've mangled history, if I've got a locomotive that didn't belong to the railroad I'm modeling, if my passenger cars are too short, I'm not really bothered by it. Where I'll start seriously picking nits, however, is when models break the laws of physics. You won't find "impossible bridges" or other gravity-defying structures on my layout, because I have a keen eye for that sort of thing, and I blame Rick Spano for that. He was a physics teacher; he can calculate loads and thrusts and forces with the best of them. And having been a friend of his since I was 15 years old, a fair amount of it has rubbed off on me.

If I look at the relative skill sets of the modelers I admire objectively, I'll own up to one advantage I might have: animation. Again, Rick Spano is responsible; thanks to his penchant for animation, it's become a passion for me over the years. I enjoy it immensely, and I think I've gotten quite good at it, so perhaps this is a topic on which I might someday be in a position to confidently offer advice. We'll see... my regret is that age, injuries and illnesses have hampered my abilities—in all aspects of my modeling.

In the meantime, I appreciate the support I've received over the years, and hope it's been worth following my ups and downs—one's hobbies are, after all, at the effect of one's real life circumstances, and I've never been one to try and separate one from the other. It's all part of the package, as far as I'm concerned.

—DKS, 28 January 2020

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