John's Jottings

131. An Invitation Declined - May 2017

Posted on May 1, 2017 at 10:35 AM

You really ought to go to the Specialist Narrow-gauge Trade Show,” Fred was told by a friend he’d met recently. “But do bring plenty of cash and make sure your credit card is well-funded. There’ll be so many lovely things to buy.” Fred showed little enthusiasm.

“But you used to be such a regular visitor, and you’ve bought lots of stuff in the past,” said the friend. “We’ll all miss you.”

“Thank you, but no, I’ll not be attending,” Fred replied. The friend offered to drive him there. ... And back. But Fred still declined.

“You can’t really be considered a serious railway narrow-gauge modeller unless you’re there,” his friend insisted. Fred was adamant. He appreciated the offer of a lift, and enjoyed the conversations with narrow-gauge modellers, but he still would not go.

“The club’s narrow-gauge layout has quite enough locos and stock,” Fred assured him. “Once we’ve built the few remaining kits we’ve got in store, we’ll be more than full.”

“But you can always find space for another loco or rake of coaches,” he was assured.

“What’s the point?” Fred asked. “None of us model in 7mm narrow-gauge at home, so it would be a waste of both building time and of money to overstock. And we’d just have more stuff to carry into and out of exhibition halls, and to maintain.” But his friend could not see that once a club project was completed, there was no logical reason to keep buying things for it, especially as training and maintenance sessions, and exhibition outings were the only time the stock was run.

“It’s always useful to have reserves and understudies in case anything goes wrong.”

“We’ve got them already.”

“You could always build your own 7mm narrow-gauge layout,” the friend suggested. “You could run the additional models on that.”

“But where would I put it? And it would divert me from my existing home layout and future club projects,” Fred responded. His friend saw neither of these as problems.

“I‘m always buying for my Great Project,” the friend announced with pride. “You can never have too much put by. After all, it might not be available by the time I actually get round to building it. I’ve cupboards, drawers and boxes full, all ready for the day.”

Fred knew his friend only too well. He’d had his Great Project on the go for over thirty years, and at the present rate of progress, it would take another thirty to get it to anything like completion. How many of those stored kits would he ever make up? In the mean time, how many would be superseded by better versions? Once operational, how many would he find he no longer needed to run the services he envisioned? Would he have enough sidings to accommodate them on his layout? Or would they spend most of their time on storage shelves and in boxes awaiting an occasional turn on the tracks?

“Finite space, finite cash, finite time,” our chairman observed. “Aren’t these the great obstacles to being able to model everything we might fancy?” We agreed with him that selection and prioritisation were desirable for any model railway project.

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