Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thinning the collection

The title of this post is kind of tongue in cheek, but it refers to a problem most modelers have, namely, an awful lot of kits on the shelf, or projects contemplated and not finished, or maybe not even started. Lots of stuff which may not really be part of what you want to do, and one reason you’re not building those kits or working on those projects is that they are no longer central to your modeling interests. I’m no different.
     My numerous prior posts about how I have thought about the freight car fleet I need for my layout, both in terms of road names and car types, and the analysis of each car type for which cars and how many I would need--that wasn’t just an exercise. It also led me to recognize things on the shelf (or finished cars in storage) that really did not fit what I am trying to do. For some, this kind of analysis indicates what you might need to acquire, and in a very few cases, that applied to me also, but usually it was the opposite. I identified what needed to go.
     For one example from the series of posts about the fleet, this one about a single car type might serve to illustrate what I mean by analyzing my needs: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/04/choosing-model-car-fleet-8-gondolas.html .)
     At model railroad conventions, whether local or national, there are usually swap meet rooms or sales tables or auctions, and these are a great way to move stuff to people who know what they’re looking at. At one convention, I sold 21 kits; at another one, 12 kits and five ready-to-run cars; at a third one, 14 kits. All those were plastic or wood cars. Among my resin kits, where I seem unusually prone to impulse purchases, I’ve gotten rid of 34 kits while getting 18 cars built that I did need.
     I don’t want to sound like I have the problem whipped, because if you added up all the disposed kits and cars in the previous paragraph, it wouldn’t come close to the total of all kits still remaining to be dealt with. But my point is that the collection is getting thinned out, and the collection that remains is much more directed to the locale and era that I’m trying to model.
     Have I ever weakened at one of those sales tables or auctions and bought some new stuff? Sure, but a very small amount compared to what was going away. After all, my analysis did identify a few needs in my fleet, and it’s fun to search out and fill those needs too. And of course my proceeds from the items that sold did provide me with some ready cash!
     And it isn’t only kits that have been let go. I also sold a full dozen completed cars that no longer meet my needs, and have given away more than a dozen more. These are mostly cars built early in my modeling, when my era choice was pretty broad and my modeling skills and prototype knowledge less. Others can use the cars, and I was happy to find them new homes.
     All this is partly a matter of space: when the shelves are full to overflowing, it’s time to assess the contents of those shelves. But it’s also a matter of focus. My modeling goals have evolved to a fairly specific time and place, meaning that the appropriate models are fewer. The other part of “focus” is that I am eliminating poorer quality or less accurate models. Sure, a few will stay with me for various nostalgia reasons (such as the car I parts-bashed when I was 13--it’s kind of crude, but it has a place of pride in my display case). But in a metaphor appropriate to the current season (at least in California), the tree is healthier when it’s pruned.
Tony Thompson


  1. A very welcomed article, Tony. It is reassuring that I'm not the only one who's found himself in this predicament - having a bunch of round cars that don't fit into my current square hole so to speak.

    So much to learn - so little time.

  2. To quote a famous cowboy, "Move 'em out!"

    I have a ways to go myself, and continue to weed out surplus kits and cars in preparation for whatever upcoming meeting looks like a good venue for sales.
    Tony Thompson