End of the Line and Moving On

20 Aug 2015


In a previous post prompted by re-watching “End of the Line” in the March, 2014 edition of TrainMasters TV, I wrote about Creeping Normality and how failing to keep on top of maintenance can lead to the decision to tear down a layout.

This time I’d like to explore some of the positive reasons for starting over.

Layouts of any size and complexity take a lot of time to build. That may seem obvious, but I think until one actually builds a layout, one never really appreciates just how much time is required. It’s a fine way to spend one’s hobby time, though – there’s nothing wrong with setting long-term goals, like building a large layout, and then working towards them.

Empty layout room with dismantled benchwork on the floor

But if we’re talking about a project that’s going to span a decade or more, it shouldn’t surprise us in the least if, several years into the project, we discover that our interests in the hobby have changed:

  • Perhaps we’ve discovered a new scale and/or gauge that speaks to us more strongly than our current choice.
  • Perhaps a manufacturer has introduced new models that weren’t even on the radar when we started building – and as a result, it’s now possible to model a desirable theme, era or prototype that we had dismissed when starting the layout.
  • Perhaps, in the course of doing research for our layout, we’ve uncovered information that substantially changes what we knew about our chosen prototype.
  • Perhaps we started building a freelanced railroad, but have been bitten by the prototype modeling bug. Or perhaps we started out to model a prototype, but have discovered that we don’t really enjoy the constraints it applies to our hobby.
  • Perhaps our skills have improved well beyond where they were when we started the layout. Maybe our standards have improved and our earlier work no longer measures up. or maybe the new skills allow us to do something we could not when we started the layout: For example, learning how to hand-lay track might mean we’re no longer satisfied with the flex track we used to start the layout.
Dismantled benchwork lumber scraps on the floor

Whereas negative factors like a poorly conceived layout design or deferred maintenance can prompt us to tear down the layout, I’d argue the examples listed above are positive factors. Most of them reflect the fact that model railroading is more than a way to fill the hours: It’s also a great opportunity for personal development. It’s a laboratory in which we can experiment with tools and techniques. It’s a self-directed, life-long learning program – the ultimate goal of which is enjoyment, satisfaction, and a sense of pride in our accomplishments.

This is a hobby and there’s rarely a reason to take part in a hobby if one is not enjoying it. So if a layout no longer meets our needs – regardless of its size, complexity or state of completion – there’s absolutely nothing “wrong” or “regrettable” about tearing out and moving on.

Dismantled track in a scrap bin

The lessons learned on every layout we build stay with us long after the layout has been dismantled.

Trevor Marshall

Have you torn down a layout for any of the reasons noted above? What was your original plan – and what changed? Or what skills did you develop that made you decide your layout was no longer the right one for you? Share your stories in the comments section!


I have torn down many model railroads since I got into the hobby.  Most of the time it was because what I was doing was not meeting my current needs or interests.  My current model railroad was built using portions of my last model railroad.  I have found that once I found the right combination of operations and modeling I became satisfied with what I had and I was able to move forward with finishing what I started (not that there are not a thousand smaller projects to work on).  I look as several of my friends model railroads that are just getting to operations phases and say to myself, "wow, I am glad I am past this stage". I still reserve the right make changes to what I have but I don't think that I will tearing this one down unless we decide to move.