2019 Highlights & 2020 Goals

The holiday season, especially coming at the end of our calendar year, is an ideal time to reflect not only on family and times past, but to look forward with anticipation to the months ahead. And here at The Valley Local it's a perfect time to take stock of what's been accomplished in the past 12 months and set some goals for the upcoming year.

This would be a bit different than last year's post. Coming at the end of a tough year for our family, I got a bit philosophical about goals for 2019 - which is to say, I didn't make any.

Nope - no New Year's Resolutions. And, ironically, in reviewing the past year, it turns out 2019 was one of my most productive years so far!

Who woulda thunk it?

But since I rely on these New Year's posts to provide a "temperature check" on the layout, I feel compelled to do at least a little review - as well as (with some trepidation) set some goals for further progress for the next 12 months.

So here's where we left off at the end of 2018:
  • Gra-Rock building in Wethersfield got started
  • Route 15 overpass was completed, but no scenery around it
  • Cape Cod house (across the street from John Wallace's house) started
As well as a few lingering goals (as in, goals that had been set at the start of 2018 - two years ago - and hadn't even been started):
  • Building John Wallace's house
  • Hartford skyline backdrop
  • Finish East Berlin, including Stan-Chem plant, station, backdrop, and scenery
  • Finish Saybrook
  • Finish Wethersfield
  • Finish Class J 2-8-2 #3022
Turns out, not setting goals cuts both ways: on the one hand, no matter what you do (even if nothing at all), you "win." On the other hand, you have no way to really evaluate whether you made any progress. Nevertheless, despite not making any New Year's Resolutions for 2019, look at what I accomplished:
With the benefit of hindsight, I realize there are a few notable reasons I was able to make so much progress in 2019 - and 2/3 of them have to do with having the help of friends.

Firstly, despite the Missus losing her grandmother in June (and the associated cleaning up and closing of the house), 2019 wasn't nearly as busy with family stuff as 2018 was. Heh - that's not saying a lot, but it made a lot of difference.

Secondly, the layout got a HUGE infusion of progress & motivation with the acquisition of a number of amazing structures "re-homed" to the Valley Line from Bill Maguire's layout. Not only did I get a perfect model of the Dickinson warehouse in Essex, but also 2/3 of the buildings in East Berlin, almost all of the structures in Middletown, as well as the Lace Factory building in Deep River and Pratt & Reed (which is presently doing duty as Middletown Meat Packing). Getting those buildings - and the associated effort required to absorb them into the layout - gave my progress a huge boost.

Finally, Dave Messer seems to have taken on Valley Line structures as a personal mission. He first got involved as a way to help model his childhood town of Wethersfield, but his efforts have gone way beyond that to include not only the East Berlin station, but all of Hartford Rayon as well. And he's currently working on the structures for East Haddam. Suffice it to say, without him and BillM (as well as BillS, who did all the structures in Rocky Hill & Saybrook way back when...), there'd hardly be any structures on my layout at all.

Of course, this isn't even to mention the help I've had from others during the past year. So a big thank you to BillS (again), Jim, Pete, Pieter, and Randy. The Valley Line wouldn't be anywhere near as far along without the generosity of their time and effort.

So, what's ahead for 2020?

Given how much progress made in 2019 without any New Year's Resolutions, I'm a little leery of making any for the upcoming year. But, as I mentioned earlier, since this annual post is my annual "temperature taking" I'll go ahead and list a few things I'd like to see done by this time next year:
  • Wethersfield done - final structures, some details, photo backdrop, scenery. Yes, this goal has been on my list for a while now (as in, years) but the start of a new decade is as good a time as any to finally get it done (and by "done" I mean a look of "completed-ness." One can always add more detail....)
  • East Berlin done - This should be relatively easy to accomplish since all that's left to do is pour the river, weather the road, weather the station, and add a few details.
  • Dividend done - Working south on the RR, and since Rocky Hill is done, adding the chemical tank unloading facility, backdrop, scenery and details shouldn't be too heavy a lift.
  • Saybrook done - Saybrook is the first scene folks see when they come down the stairs, and it's lingered in its current state for far too long. Mainly, the Rt. 1 overpass (which anchors the left end of the scene) needs to be done, as well as the signal bridge (which anchors the right end). Other than that, it's "just" ballast (still need to decide what to use) and backdrop.
So much for the "main" goals. In addition, I'd still like to try and accomplish the following in 2020:
  • East Haddam - Dave's working on the structures, so the main hurdle here is creating a convincing backdrop. The orientation of the scene is looking east, with the river behind the buildings and on the backdrop. Complicating this is the fact that an iconic opera house and swing bridge need to be on the backdrop too. Once I get the backdrop figured out, the rest is "just" scenery.
  • #3022 - The Air Line local needs its iconic motive power. For far too long it's relied on borrowed equipment which, while plausible, isn't ideal. It's been easy to put this on the back burner since none of the Air Line section of the layout is prototypical, but it'd be nice if at least the engine was. Plus, it's a cool engine.
  • 2 DEY-5s: Speaking of motive power, for Autumn 1948, I need two Alco S-2 engines to hold down the Shoreline locals. MikeR produced the distinctive NHRR cabs for these locos, all I need is to assemble, detail, and paint them. Oh, and "somebody" needs to produce suitable delivery-scheme decals . . .
  • More ops sessions - When reviewing 2019, I was actually surprised that I had 6 sessions during the year, so I averaged one every other month. But the reality is that many of those were "two-fers" where I did multiple sessions within a few weeks of each other. So there were LONG dry spells in between. I'd like my sessions to get on a more regular schedule.
WHEW! If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. And I fully acknowledge - based on last year’s experience - that setting all these goals risks actually accomplishing nothing. But as I've mentioned, these posts are frankly more for me than anything else, though I do hope that there's something here that will encourage and/or inspire you to get to the basement (or the train room) more in the upcoming year. Sure, it's "only a hobby" but I can attest to its value in helping me clear my mind, relax, and focus on creating something unique. I think we're most human - our truest selves - when we’re engaged in a creative pursuit that we're passionate about.

Unpacking that last sentence could be the topic of a whole other post (or blog). But for now, just remember the main takeaway of this post:

Don't let the making of New Year's Resolutions keep you from pursuing your goals.
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