What’s a modeling journal? It’s like any other journal, but about modeling ideas, plans, and projects. A journal is kind of like a diary, but for many purposes need not be kept daily, as is implied by a diary. In fact, there’s no reason entries can’t be quite irregular. The only time you need to make a journal entry is when something seems worth recording.
Like many modelers, I tend to jot down things on scraps of paper, and maybe or maybe not get them transferred to something more permanent. Of course, lots of those jottings only relate to something happening right now, but some of them are ideas you may later wish you could still consult. What kind of trucks was I going to put under that box car . . . ?
Even when I do something more extensive, such as develop a list of freight cars that need repair, or sketch a change in an electrical circuit, or doodle ways to arrange structures along a siding, probably on a proper pad of paper, the resulting pages can still end up almost anywhere. I finally had the recognition that a journal might be a way to keep this stuff together.
I would distinguish a journal from a systematic record or notebook. I have always carefully sketched and written down benchwork connection details (if you ever need to get it apart again) and wiring arrangements, especially which colors of wire do what and go where, and which terminals on a terminal strip do what. I’ve kept these notes in a three-ring binder or two in the layout room, and am sometimes surprised how often I need to look stuff up. But that’s a systematic record, an archive, which I call the “layout notebook,” and to me is not the same as a journal.
Just for clarity, my notebook pages are standard commercial 8.5 x 11 notepaper pages, three-hole punched. Here is an example of a page from the wiring section of the layout notebook, identifying where feeders and gaps were located in this block, how turnouts and feeders were named, and identifying wire colors for each.
These pages are usually kept in pencil and are easily revised or added to, thus constituting a relatively permanent record of how and where things are done.
But a journal is different. My entry pages tend to be “no two alike,” but here are two pages from last year, with a typical range of content, obviously a spiral-bound book (pages here are 5.5 x 7 inches each)
For my journals, I have tried different kinds of books. I used to like spiral-bound books, and these are fine if you keep them on a shelf. But when I travel I like to take these along, since one often has a chance to think things through on airplanes or in hotel rooms. The spiral-bound book tends to take a beating in backpacks or luggage, so I’ve changed to the glued-signature style of book, the best-known brand being Moleskine. These are available at good bookstores, and they are well made, durable, and come in a range of sizes to suit your preference. If you don’t already know about these, they have a web site ( http://www.moleskine.com/ ) and even rate a Wikipedia entry.
Here is a photo of both types. The blue spiral-bound is 5.5 x 7 inches (the same one whose interior is shown above), the Moleskine 5 x 8 inches, but size is a matter of individual preference. You can just see the elastic closure band on the Moleskine book.
The journal idea has served me well on many occasions, and if you haven’t ever done something like this, I recommend giving it a try.