General Question

CaptainHarley's avatar

Am I just being selfish?

Asked by CaptainHarley (22432points) July 7th, 2010

Ever since I was about eight years old, I have wanted to build a model train layout. Life had different plans. When I had the money, I didn’t have the time, and when I had the time, I didn’t have the money. Now that I’m 67 years old and retried, I have both the money and the time, but it just feels selfish to spend money on something as trivial as a model train layout. There are so many people who could use an extra buck, or who are homeless, or out of a job.

Help me work this out, please.

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49 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying what you have.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

You deserve to fulfil this long time goal. Once your layout is built, take it to community centres in various areas and share your passion with kids who don’t have access to such things.

If you go n-scale, you can get a lot more in a smaller space!

dpworkin's avatar

I can sure identify with your wish to build it. I think the pleasure you will get from a really good model train setup will far outweigh what small good the expenditure of the same amount of money on others could possibly do. We are not talking about a philanthropic fortune here. Enjoy. And post pictures.

gemiwing's avatar

There will always be someone suffering- that doesn’t mean you can never have something that will make you smile. What would you tell your best friend to do? Would you tell them that they can’t have a puppy because someone out there wants a puppy but can’t have one?

YARNLADY's avatar

Join a model railroad club and participate in the community service projects that are centered around the wonderful displays they put on.

jrpowell's avatar

I’m a Socialist Liberal Hippie and I think you should build it.

gemiwing's avatar

@YARNLADY What a great idea!

CaptainHarley's avatar


Good idea! Thanks! : ))

CaptainHarley's avatar


Thank you for helping me with this. I don’t find myself being indecisive very often, but this is kinna worrying me. Many years ago, I made the decision to live simply, and as inexpensively as possible. Now that I have the wherewithall to fulfill a life-long dream, the conflict between the two is giving me pause for concern. I don’t want to build this thing and then feel guilty about it for the rest of my life!

jrpowell's avatar

Build it. Volunteer at a soup kitchen once a month while you construct it and we will call it even. Your life long dream is a lot more noble than mine. Doing two chicks at once.

CaptainHarley's avatar

ROFLMAO!!! Son, you gotta take my word for it, that’s vastly overrated! : D

LuckyGuy's avatar

Here’s further justification for you.
When you buy the train you helped:
The shop owner, who collected 50% of what you spent. Of that 50% half went to labor. 15% went to social security taxes. (helping pay for disability) 10% went to state taxes.
The other 50% went to the manufacturer. Half of that went for labor, the other hafl was for materials.
The labor part helped pay for workers who built it. About 24% of what they received went to pay taxes (income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes – and even social security. They kept their jobs a little longer and were able to keep their houses a little nicer increasing the value of your property.
The materials portion helped the plastics and metal industries by increasing their volumes and helping them run more efficiently. You paid a little of the salaries for everyone from the maintenance workers to the miners.
Do it. If not for yourself, at least do it for all the other people you are helping.

Unless they are made in China. In that case, you’d only be helping someone in a country that does not like us.

ubersiren's avatar

You worked hard to be able to retire comfortably, so enjoy it. You can still choose to support a charity if you’d like… $20 a year or quarterly to your cause? It’s been a life-long dream to make this hobby a reality, so I say definitely do it.

Cruiser's avatar

Hire someone without a job to help you build it. If you have the money budgeted for the track, slice off a little piece of that pie for a small salary to put a few dollars in someones pocket. Enjoy your project sir!

SuperMouse's avatar

Do it. Build the layout. Maybe volunteer for a cause that is important to you for an amount of time equal to that you spend working on the layout. Try to think of it this way, you are helping the economy by being willing to spend money on the supplies!

I did not read a single response before posting, just went with my first thoughts, I hope I wasn’t repetitive!

Andreas's avatar

@SuperMouse “Repetition for emphasis” is something to remember for all of life. You gave a GA.

cazzie's avatar

Off set your guilt perhaps with donating some time somewhere. Perhaps a school or a library. If you are in a position to do so…. open the train layout to kids and inspire some imagination and creativity. Encourage the kids to write a story about the train.

From what I know of chaps in your position is,,, you have BIG hearts. Scout groups need help. Library and Youth Group programs need volunteers. Indulge yourself. You have no doubt earned it. Make yourself feel good. Volunteer.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Let’s see…you’ve worked for your money and now have a problem spending it how you wish,doing something you love? Just do it!! I’m yelling at you!:)Have fun! :))

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Go for it! I had to refrain from many hobbies until retirement also. Your hobby will indirectly help others. My dream was to put the family farm back into business on a paying basis; I’m almost there and providing employment in my community where jobs are hard to find.

Whitefiredragon's avatar

If you want to build it build it. You have wanted to build it for almost all your life…... I say go for it!!

stardust's avatar

I think you should do it :) There’s nothing selfish about wanting to fulfill a long-term goal to build this. Then, as has been suggested by a few flutherites, share your passion with others in need of a smile. As wonderful as money can be, spending your time with people can be a lot more valuable. Enjoy!

CMaz's avatar


I’m with ya brother!

I always wanted to put my train tracks along the edge of the ceiling. So the trains can go throughout the home.

betterdays's avatar

If you’re worried about the cost of the trains, have you considered checking out online auction sites? I have an elderly relative that has collected the LGB series over the years and he is considering putting them up for sale on one of these sites. I justed checked and they have 2,450 items available for just that series alone.

You might also want to consider checking you local area for model railroad clubs. Our local one displays their layouts at Christmas, sponsors rides on antique locomotives, and hold swap meets too. You’ve worked hard, so enjoy life and have fun!

Seek's avatar

Do it.

You only have one life. As long as you’re not hurting anyone in your pursuit for happiness, you deserve to fulfill your dreams and enjoy your hobbies.

Model railroads are a beautiful method of artistic expression. I’m fascinated by miniatures. ^_^

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Pursuing your dreams is a great thing to do. Helping others in need is also a great thing to do. As many have mentioned, you can do both, and in many different ways.

mammal's avatar

no, not really. A harmless way to get lost in something.

CaptainHarley's avatar

You nice people have been very kind and helpful. I’ll probably wind up, as some of you have suggested, doing both… building the layout, AND continuing to help others in some way. As I have said before, service gets to be a habit.

It’s hard to give up on your dreams. I had another dream of finally getting my PhD, but I had to let that one go. It’s just too impractical at my age, plus I might not live long enough to complete it. I think I will have enough time to finish this layout though… at least I hope so. : ))

Until I read what several of you wrote, I didn’t realize that part of what was bothering me is that I already feel somewhat guilty about drawing military retirement and VA disability. I realize that, objectively, they are part of the package I bought into when I joined the Army, but it still feels like I somehow didn’t earn the money. Weird, huh? : (

perspicacious's avatar

Enjoy building your train layout. After it’s built and you get tired of looking at it, it can offered in a charity auction or something like that.

TexasDude's avatar

@CaptainHarley, at one point you wrote a check to the United States for the amount of “up to and possibly including your life.”

I think that is justification enough for you earning your VA money and retirement.

CaptainHarley's avatar


I know. But it still feels at times like I didn’t earn it. It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s because so many of my friends never came back. I dunno.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Can you say, “Sixty-seven years accumulated angst,” boys and girls? : )

Neizvestnaya's avatar

It’s not selfish- resist the American Puritanism deep within and go for it :)

CaptainHarley's avatar


[ puzzled look ] Which one? LOL!

CaptainHarley's avatar


ROFLMAO! All rightie then! : D

josie's avatar

In most cases if you give a homeless guy the money, he will still be homeless tomorrow. Either give him a job, or build the train.

anartist's avatar

I’m a little late throwing in my support for your model RR but I agree with the others. Go for it!

[And nothing stops you from giving a buck or two to a homeless street musician now and then, or doing some kind of charitable good work in your community—maybe using your trains somehow, or donating to a charity]

anartist's avatar

Show us pix when you’ve made some progress!

CaptainHarley's avatar


I will, I promise, but we still have work to do on the new place. As soon as I begin work on the layout, I’ll let all you guys know. Fair enough? : ))

TexasDude's avatar

@CaptainHarley, what scale are you doing? I built a couple small layouts in N and it was a blast.

CaptainHarley's avatar


I thought about N scale, but it was just a bit too small for my tastes. I’m going with HO, and perhaps HOn30 narrow guage for the lumber railroad. I have about 100 square feet in which to build, in an “L” shape. What I’m planning on just now is modelling a small lumber town about 1955, with a small transfer yard where Great Northern and Union Pacific trains come through. That way I can have the mountains, the lumber industry, two main lines, a small town, and a small interchange yard. : ))

CaptainHarley's avatar


Actually, I’m not sure if it’s HOn3 or something else, but I do know that a lot of logging roads use the narrow guage so the locomotives and rolling stock can make tighter curves. : )

TexasDude's avatar

@CaptainHarley, that’s exactly right, and that sounds like a great era and location to model.

I modeled North Carolina in the late ‘50s in N once and it was a ton of fun. Good luck!

CaptainHarley's avatar

Thank you, bro. I’ll post pics as I get going. It’s just going to be awhile.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If you build it, they will come. Build the dang thing. One of these days I don’t know when but it will I will have the money to buy my Lamborghini and I am usually a thrifty guy and I know it seem rediculous to spen as much money on a darn car as many do on a whole house or condo but DAMN IT, I WILL by it when I can. Call me selfish as I blow by you with 380 horses doing 0–60 in 3.8 seconds.

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