End of the Line and “Creeping Normality”
Recently, I re-watched “End of the Line” in the March, 2014 edition of TrainMasters TV. As the title implies, it’s about dismantling a layout – or, more specifically, three of them.
These layouts, all quite large and complex, came down for various reasons. But one learning point I took away from the segment is to stay on top of those little maintenance tasks required on all layouts – regardless of whether they’re built to fill a suitcase, a shed or a stadium.
It’s easy to say, “I’ll get to that sticky switch machine during my next work session” or “I’ll repair that broken billboard on the weekend” – and then forget to do so. And that’s perfectly understandable.
- Who wants to spend their time checking wheels and couplers on existing rolling stock, when there are new rolling stock kits to build?
- Who wants to vacuum cobwebs off the layout when there’s a train to run?
- Who wants to touch up the chipped paint on a locomotive’s handrails, when there’s a new locomotive to get ready for service?
What’s happening here is known as “Creeping Normality” (also called “the slippery slope”). Creeping Normality refers to how we are willing to accept major changes to our situation if they happen incrementally, even though we would resist that same change if it happened all at once. A good example is the gradually deteriorating vision most of us experience as we age. Our 20-year-old selves would be appalled if they woke up one day with 70-year-old eyes. But because the process happens over time, we adjust to the new reality – for example, by buying reading glasses.
It’s not the only reason why layouts are dismantled, but Creeping Normality on our layouts can – eventually – make us lose interest. At that point, the layout is no longer fun – it feels like a big job! We may even find ourselves looking for ways to avoid the hobby – such as flipping through TV channels to watch something that, let’s face it, really doesn’t interest us.
And that’s a shame, because even a modest layout represents tremendous investments in effort, time and money.
Tearing down a layout as the result of Creeping Normality is a negative outcome. There are positive reasons to tear out a layout, too, of course – and I’ll suggest some of those in a future posting. Meanwhile, having re-watched “End of the Line”, I’m doing an audit of my layout so I can write up a list of those little maintenance projects that need attention – before they become overwhelming!
What examples of Creeping Normality do you experience in the hobby? How do you combat Creeping Normality on your layout? Share your stories in the comments section!
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