I found this interesting article by Craig Bisgeier that promotes heresy against the model railroad orthodoxy. Interestingly, it aligns with exactly what I felt when I first became familiar with John Allen’s model railroading in general, and his “timesaver” puzzle layout.
Bisgeier’s essay questions how a model railroad puzzle became so revered. I’ll go a step further and say that John Allen’s layout was impressive, but I don’t afford it the same reverence it receives in the hobby press. My position and Bisgeier’s align because, I think, we both struggle to see a direct connection to real railways.
The hobby of model railroading is often divided into two camps: prototype and freelance. I think this kind binary is simplistic and fails to account for the multitude of approaches to the hobby. I think it’s much more
accurate productive to imagine a continuum where unattainable ideals exist on both ends: utterly imaginary, pan-era layouts at one end, and the most strictly realistic models at the other. I doubt that the ends of the continuum can be defined by specific examples, but it’s not too difficult for us to imagine where some of our favourite layouts fall on the range. I like the notion of a continuum because eliminates the possibility of imagining good guys and bad guys, and it might even open a dialogue for serious discussion about promotion of the hobby.
People visiting this site will recognize that I’m a (so-called) prototype modeller. I’ve written elsewhere that I approach every modelling project resigned to the fact that, unfortunately, I will have to make compromises along the way with every model I build. I’m driven by a desire to push my ability toward this ideal, but I accept and welcome other ways to enjoy the hobby. For evidence of that, have a look at the links that I posted on the right side of my Home page. There are some supremely skilled freelanced model railroaders out there, and I aspire to be seen as one of their peers.
So, without the intention of offending anyone’s reverence for John Allen, I want to share the link to Craig’s website where you will find a short essay about John Allen’s Timesaver. I like Craig’s theory of how the timesaver became so revered, but more to the point, his essay gives me comfort. While I was always wonderstruck by the magnitude of John Allen’s accomplishments, I just didn’t “get it” when I looked at pictures of his Gorre & Daphetid. It always seemed so fantastical to me. I love fiction, and I’m an avid reader. I even fancy myself an aspiring fiction writer. Those of you familiar with that world will understand me when I say that I have a similar deference to Tolkien, but his work simply doesn’t do it for me.
With no disrespect intended to either, I’ve never been compelled to be a fan or follower of Tolkien or John Allen. I find their art to be too far on the other side of the continuum.