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.