Model Railroading as an Art Form

Lance Mindheim wrote an important book a couple of years back entitled, Model Railroading As Art. It is a very thoughtful book I encourage modelers to read.

We can enjoy our work as a standalone piece of art, the same as we would a painting, photo, or sculpture – something we enjoy looking at, whether it’s in motion or not.

Model Railroading As Art by Lance Mindheim

B. Smith’s Eureka Branch

Think about the above photo. B. Smith, and really all of us, have some artist in us to do what we do. From positioning the camera, to including various shrubs or vehicles in the photos to weathering our cars to the lighting, we create a type of art. Lance expands on these elements at significant length in the book.

There is a line in Lance’s book that really jumps out at me.

We do it because we want to evoke specific feelings and moods. In the case of art, we do it not only for the moods that wash over us, but for the feeling of being transported. We look at something and we like the way it makes us feel.

Model Railroading As Art by Lance Mindheim

Picasso once mused–

Yo no pinto lo que veo, pinto lo que siento

(I don’t paint what I see, I paint what I feel.) — Pablo Picasso

We model trains and scenes for a variety of reasons, but partly because how a scene makes us feel. And as Lance points out in the book, the more we do it for ourselves, the more satisfying the experience we have. In other words, we will be happier if we do it to make us happy versus getting “likes” or adulation.

As a writer and artist, I know that is true. My work is better when I strive to make myself happy versus a commission where I am trying to please another. It is great when our work bring others joy, but we should seek to please the “audience of one” that Lance writes about so eloquently.

I appreciate Lance inviting us to embrace our work as art and taking our work to a new level. Inspired by Lance’s book, I will also be sharing posts from time to time on this site that will discuss different sources of inspiration because we often find inspiration from sources we never expected. Some may in fact have little direct connection to railroading, but may in fact inspire something in you to produce more fulfilling work as a model railroader, for in the end, we are artists.

Rest assured there will also continue to be traditional RailsWest posts! We are working on robust posts sharing B. Smith’s Eureka Branch and Kerrville Branch in the near future. The goal is to encourage all of us to take our work to the next level (that makes US happy!)

Carrizozo, NM 1992 — C E Hunt All Rights Reserved

I posted this picture I took in 1992, because it evokes a special feeling. I remember the fading light, the smell of creosote, the wind, the cooling New Mexico evening, etc. Hopefully, you like it too!

Advertisement: Please check out my book (I actually slipped in a little railroad stuff in a book that has little to do with railroads!). Click on it to find out more. $3.99 on Kindle, $10.99 in paperback

5 thoughts on “Model Railroading as an Art Form

  1. Mr. Hunt, I’ve just written up some of my musings on railroads, my life, and modeling. I’m in the process of typing it up on a document, which I will send shortly. Feel free to write it up for your blog as you see fit (edit, make suggestions, or don’t use at all-I’m not much of a writer!). Below, I’ve included 3 pics that go with the text….I’ve really enjoyed the mood-the essence of how your blog approaches trains, modeling, and life. I also noticed your book based in Marfa. I actually coached and taught school in Alpine for a few years. Once you’ve been out there, there’s always something pulling you to come back…..maybe when my kids are out of college! Chris

    Sent from my iPad



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