It has been some time since I've last posted on this blog, as life has a way of intervening in the execution of our best-laid plans. Since my last post I've experienced my first-ever layoff from a job (in twenty-eight years of my career), and eight-month bout of unemployment (including a number of still-born opportunities and dead-ends) and finally a new job, where I now find myself pressing hard again to build my personal and professional brand. Again, the common theme throughout many of these posts is the hobby giving way yet again to the demands of job and career, let alone family and home.
The silver lining in all this - especially the trials and tribulations of job loss, the hunt and finally reentering the race - is the sharpening of the mind to what is truly important in life. Despite all the stress and worry over what comes next some small blessings have come from these experiences. For one, I have become more humble and grateful for what I have today, and am living more in the moment rather than looking too far "down the road" for eventual gratification. I now have a greater appreciation for the simple things in life. Yes, even that cramped coach seat in the back of the plane beats waiting in a plastic chair at the state unemployment office or for that phone to ring following an interview two-days prior.
The other benefit of finding myself "grounded" over those eight months of forced-vacation was more time at home with family and friends. Having been a road-warrior for almost two decades takes its toll on relationships as well as one's relationship with community. The irony is while growing up in Michigan as a child and into young adulthood I often dreamed of escaping the Detroit suburbs and moving west, closer to my parental roots. Now, however, I have a new appreciation for my home state and those places closer to home that I had time to revisit between all the periods of non-stop business travel.
So, if now you're asking yourself when does all this philosophizing circle back to model railroading I must assure you it does, even in a round-about way. When times were flush I spent a lot of extended weekends traveling to the upper Midwestern heartland chasing the likes of the Milwaukee Road #261 or riding the Friends of the #261's passenger car fleet behind Amtrak's Empire Builder, all expensive bucket-list jaunts in line with my personal connection to the Road. The question is as it was then: Is this sustainable? How do you model a prototype when field research requires a multi-day trip, and all the logistics and expense that comes with that sort of commitment?
The answer in my case it it really wasn't, neither from a time nor expense viewpoint. While fun and enjoyable to head westward on these railfanning jaunts it wasn't getting me any closer to getting the layout going. Once I looked at my wallet after returning from one of these "field research" trips it certainly wasn't helping from a budget perspective either. However, while unemployed I had the time to make a number of short trips to local CN spots like Lapeer and Durand, or chase the Huron and Eastern Railroad in Michigan's Thumb region. Not much more expended than some gas and a few bucks at the drive-thru window.
It was at this time a parallel opportunity arose to take advantage of a pro-bono offer by a skilled, professional track plan designer that really lit a match in getting the home layout fire burning. In my next post I will introduce how the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette RR's Saginaw Division came into being, and how this proto-freelance approach allows me to scratch the itch for modeling a prototype - contemporary Canadian Pacific Railway in this case - as well as use my "modeler's license" to freelance a "fact-ional" scenario bringing the CP into mid-Michigan.