Last train on the Columbia and Western

I had the great privilege to be invited to Mark Dance’s Columbia and Western for one last run before he tears it out and crates it up for its new life in Edmonton. We ran some trains (including, at 47 cars, the longest ever on the railroad), had some snacks and Mark gave each of us a sumptuous photo book to commemorate the layout. It was a poignant evening.

Mark gave a little speech, reflecting on the layout’s origin in a list of life goals, and a pair of questions that had been asked of him.

The first question: would he do it again? His answer was no. He hadn’t anticipated the commitment it would take to fill his garage with four levels of track, trains and gorgeous scenery.

The second question: was he glad he did it? His answer was yes. Building a lifetime layout and hosting operating sessions – 75 in total – introduced him to many friends and offered many great experiences.

And that is what makes model railroading so powerful as a lifelong hobby. You’d be forgiven for believing it is a hobby of loners, beavering away in solitary confinement, and I am certain there are some out there. However, especially once you get into operating, you find that it is a gregarious hobby. It is those bonds of friendship that hold us over a lifetime of modelling disasters and triumphs. While I am sad that I will no longer enjoy operating sessions on Mark’s fabulous layout, I am thankful for our friendship these many years.

5 thoughts on “Last train on the Columbia and Western

  1. In 2020, I tore up a much smaller layout for a major move (Ontario to Saskatchewan) so I have a sense of what Mark is going through. Modellers at the leading edge of the hobby in terms of design and execution invest so much in their layouts – financially of course but more importantly in terms of research, model-building, and sharing. And tearing them out – even for positive reasons – feels like cutting off a limb. I look forward to learning about what Mark does next – and am off to check Google Maps to determine driving time between Saskatoon & Edmonton.

    1. Well Brian Stokes, did say it would be up and running in its new location on Earth Day, 2023. Saskatoon to Edmonton is only a few hours’ drive if you don’t get distracted by the bison and giant kolbassa on the way. See you there!

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