Large Scale Central

OPEN DISCUSSION on the MIK build Challenges

OK Gang…I promised that I would start an open discussion after the 2022 MIK was done.

RULE # 1 Aplies to this thread.

RULE # 1 This is a fun build amongst friends…!!!

The potential for this to go way off the rails is possible, so lets keep this like Bob wants, treat everyone like they were a guest in your own living room…

I have been shepherding the Mik Challenges for the past 10 years. I have seen a lot of changes along the way, and have some really good memories thru the years. On several occasions I have had to tighten the reins on some things, and have had to make some rules changes to accommodate different stuff. All these things were while trying to encourage as many modelers to participate and trying not to discourage anyone from joining in, by restricting their concept of the yearly theme. In some cases I played really loose with the years theme, and other times I let you all run wild and do your own thing and trying not to tie your hands…

During these years progress in the modeling world has changed a lot of the ways of doing things and achieving ones final vision for what and how they model. Progress moves along. Which brings us to this thread, and the MIKs for the years ahead…

Open question to the LSC Family… for open and thoughtful discussion. Pro and Con…

What lies ahead for the Mik Builds? What new or old restrictions would you like to see implemented, or none at all? It was brought into discussion about using new tech, and its place within the mik challenge. What changes would you like to see? And any other things that you feel is relevant to the Mik builds.

Your thoughts?

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Pros: 30 days, $30 limit is well within the spirit of MIK

Cons: Themes. The broader the better.

Not required but MIK was always sharing how he did stuff. So I’d say in the photo thread, teach a new method or expand/explain how something got built. Yes I know this takes time to photograph and write up.

I see the MIK build as “get off my butt and do something”. Ironic now I’m trying to motivate myself to start a new project.

I have no opinions about 3d printing. If the material is on hand, it’s on hand.

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Dave, first of all, I want to thank you for the time and effort you put into the MIK Challenge. Without your leadership and guidance, I’m afraid the Challenge would simply fade away, so THANK YOU!!

I didn’t know Mik and I’m not going to speculate on his intent when it comes to the challenge. The rules when I started participating in 2016 are the same as they are today: follow the theme Dave provides, $30, 30 days, what you have on hand or can beg, borrow or steal is free and have fun. It’s as simple and complicated as that! Not sure I see any reason to complicate it further.

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First off, I agree with what Craig and Dan have said. No need to complicate things with restrictive rules.

I definitely agree with this idea. In fact, I suggest we take it a step further and offer a win category that recognizes the best build thread. If one built a real turd, but spent days doing a great job documenting how it was done, they should be recognized.

Notice I didn’t say Prize. I think we all have grown to where physical prizes are not needed to motivate people to join. For me, the motivation has always been the enjoyment of participating in each others builds.

Methodology should remain open to whatever means you have available. Laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC routers and the like are just tools. If you are lucky and skilled enough to use these tools, then they should be allowed.

Perhaps we should go back to adding a recognition category for the best first timer. With the level of skill we have here at LSC, it’s pretty unlikely that someone just starting out would place in the Best Of voting, but that little but of recognition goes a long way in building confidence and encouraging future participation.

In the end, there is only one rule that is important: A fun build among friends.

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Funny no one has brought up 3d printing … Yet

I like the idea of recognizing the “best first timer” or somesuch award. I’d love to see more people trying their hand at scratchbuilding, whatever their skill level. Remember, Mik painted his models with q-tips!


Your reading comprehension needs work, or you posted at the same time as the three above you! :smiley:

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I have Mik’s website “The Ashpit” archived on my PC. I just went through a bunch of the photos to try and find a good example. His website was mostly prototype photos, but there are a few of his models. This was one he was especially proud of…


Thank you Dave for keeping this train running.
Separate question: How do I “Like” a particular post?

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Hoover over the heart icon in the bottom right of the post and chose one Lou

Make the amount spent on filament or resin part of the $30, not “on hand”. I have enough filament on hand to build a 20 car consist…

The price of the spool or resin is known. The approx amount used is known. The $$$ spent
can be calculated. Trust the builder to not cheat on this point. Gross cheating would be obvious.

My two cents…

First and foremost, thanks to Dave for wrangling a competition that draws in all skill levels across a wide spread of skillsets! Bob has created a wonderful, open, educational, and fun site. Dave’s efforts build on that foundation. Each year he laser focuses that collective knowledge it into a combined campaign that highlights the art of the possible within the broad category “large scale model railroading.” Huzzah!

That brings us to my thoughts on how to tinker with the edges of a successful program.

  • 3D Printing. Let’s face it. This is the future of ALL miniatures hobbies, from gaming to model railroads. I suspect it will not be long until we can go to body shops and print custom fenders for our 1:1 cars. Adopt it or fade away. Case in point, I understand that the copyright holders of the popular “Warhammer” gaming system have made a decision to not challenge folks making and printing miniatures for their games. I assume the reasoning is that the more folks have access to miniatures, the more likely they are to buy into the game. Our hobby (and I would suggest manufacturers) should take this same open approach. If we must limit its use in the MIK, I leave it to those with printers to determine how. Maybe “Must use files on hand? Must use parts printed pre-Mik?” Or, as @JRad suggested, limit the amount of resin you may use?

  • Theme. I like a semi-constrained theme. The Mik is the one place I watch ALL builds regardless of techniques employed. The Mik is a “real” engineering problem, in that it defines a need, time, and budget to accomplish a specified task. In a science experiment, you might call the theme teh “control,” with the multiple approaches to solve the problem being the “experiments.” I cannot tell you how invaluable this is in allowing me to compare and contrast techniques, to collect ideas, and to inform future tool purchases and modeling endeavors. Case in point, I was leaning towards a 3D printer. The Mik disabused me of that notion for the moment by showcasing other solutions to the problem. Absent the Mik, I would have biased my research to individual printing builds, resulting in an expensive and ultimately under-enjoyed purchase. Before leaving the issue of theme, I enjoy the “must use material X” contests. I think they better highlight techniques and procedures, and, if memory serves, they tend to get higher participation rates.

  • Awards. The rewards of fun had and learning achieved are the real prizes. That being said, it is a contest, so awarding first thru third with a “Spirit of the Mik” is important. The last, of course, is a bit nebular in definition, but it is important to attract and maintain those with shallow parts bins, novice to intermediate skill levels, time constraints, etc. I really like the idea of “Best First Time Participant.” Selfishly, I’d like to see “Best 12 and Under” and a best “13-18 Year Old” categories. I think there are other parents and grandparents out there who might be able to use the Mik to prod a minor into “doing” if not necessarily into “model railroading.” There may be other options, like “Best New Technique” or “Most Innovative” that highlight and reward effort or approach, too, but I would reserve these for contests where we have a larger pool of participants.

Have a Great Weekend!


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I’ll add my thanks to you Dave for doing a great job all these years, and for raising the topic for discussion.

I agree with pretty much everything you, Craig, Dan, Jon and Eric said. I like the reemphasizing of photos and narrative in the build log.

I really like the thought of special categories, simply because we have such a broad demographic (age, experience, methodology, etc.), and that could help. Especially new-comers, and maybe that could apply to anyone less than X years in the hobby (or not). That could solve something I’ve been concerned about, new or young folks feeling potentially intimidated by more experienced builders.

Though most of my points have already been stated (and quite well), I’d like to add a couple thoughts, or restatement of thoughts.

Technical modeling:

Regarding tools, it’s not only if you draw the line, but where. Mills, lathes, table saws, large power tools in general, might be considered “technical” by folks wanting to keep the build entirely manual (or not having access to those tools).

I think we’re going to see more and more folks whose building ability is almost entirely via “technical” means. Fewer and fewer kids grow up using manual build skills, but are learning 3D modeling in school. Why would we want to keep them out?

BTW, technical modeling is a double-edged sword, regarding time. Sure, you save time in printing the parts. But a lot of the time one would spend doing it manually goes into designing the part on the computer, often taking many, many hours. Then comes sanding, drilling, priming, painting, like a plastic kit part. Except that unlike plastic models, the design mistakes (interferences, gaps, no fit with a commercial part) are all on you, and you often have to go through the whole cycle again. That’s all a hidden time eater that has to fit in the 30 days.


I agree with Craig and others: 30 days / 30 bucks / on hand is legit.

It’s been suggested that resin and filament should be not considered “on hand,” and /or that the value of what was used be factored into the $30. OK; but where does one draw the line? If Jon had a almost-full $100 sheet of new plex on hand, but cut it by hand and used $50 worth, should he be disqualified? Of course not. If Dave had bought a pallet of pre-cut scale cedar timber for $75 last year, and decided to use it all on his trestle here, should he be disqualified? Or course not. The moment we start regulating material value, it defeats the “on hand” rule.

With materials value regulation, tool / method regulation, and other forms of new regulation, who in the world is going to police it? Should we factor in for inflation? Should we ban commercial products, such as castings, or charge their current value against the $30? Should we ban methodologies if the modeler uses them professionally, in the workplace? And what future tools or materials should we put on the forbidden list?

I’m making these arguments ad absurdum, but I’m sure you get my drift. So instead of new rules, it would be nice to state what’s allowed in regard to tools / methods / materials. I’d suggest any, and not worry about policing.

Dan and others have said it before: “Let the voters decide.” No regulation, just votes. Because in the end, for participants and observers alike, having fun, and liking what one likes, is what matters.

And if special categories help voters express their likes, I’m all for it.

Just my opinion(s),

Sorry for being so long winded, but here’s an idea for voting.

The way things have been has been just fine. But it gets squirrely with each special category added. For example, the current 1-2-3-4, + Spirit of Mik, + Newbie Award, + All-Manual Build + Techie Build, would be tough.

One way to accommodate that, however, is that every voter has (say) 10 points to “spend” on whatever category, in any amount. Then Dave just adds al those up, and that’s that.

Maybe a dumb idea, but wanted to throw it up for target practice.


The Mik is Mik and that means a Fun build amongst Friends. It gives us all a chance to flex our imaginations and our building skills while sharing techniques. It is very obvious that there are some incredible builders here which might intimidate the guys that are just starting out and they might not even own certain tools. The 3d printers come to mind. Many of us fall somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Another thought is the “good enough” factor and what works. For me I usually build rugged structures that will live outdoors and do their best to survive the 4 seasons of New England for as long as possible. That means fewer fine details and more reliance on my imagination filling in the blanks. This also means my Mik builds will never win but that is okay because some of the best things I have built have been for the Mik.

Bringing new technology like 3d printing to the challenge is allowing someone to create incredible pieces that someone that lacks that tool simply cannot do. For example in a follow up build to my Mik sand house I built a water column and I cut the flange off a LGB spoked wheel to make the valve handle. It conveys the idea but a 3d printed wheel would have been so much better.

I have always liked the challenge of working within the confines of the 30/30 and better yet is when the competition is narrowed to the same starting point as it was when we all began with the same door. The creativity juices really get bubbling then. I really enjoy seeing how others interpret the theme, design, build through the challenges and end up with a really unique “something” for their particular RR.

I think the voting method is good enough. The 1,2,3 and Spirit of Mik works well. As others have mentioned, by just rising to the occasion of the Mik and building something cool for your RR to share with others makes us all winners and that Spirit should be enough to keep us building into the future.

The guys that have 3d printers certainly have an edge towards the finer details that really make a winner but that shouldn’t stop anyone without one from pursuing the Spirit of the Mik which is primarily a fun build challenge amongst friends.

I’ve pretty well spoken my mind on this. I didn’t know MIk or participate during his years.

But my understanding of the intent was to build something with what you had during the time when a lot of us are prevented from being outside. Keep it cheap, and use whats on hand. And Rule #1 have fun.

We have seen “tech” used in the MIKZ prior to 3D printing. We have seen resin casting, use of beyond average tools (my lathe, others milling machines). Along come 3D printing. Bottom line. . . 30 day, 30 dollars, and whatever you have on hand. If you buy a bottle of paint and use only a few drops count only what you used. How is 3D tech any different. If you do resin casting are you obligated to include the cost of resin you had on hand prior? If you have a spray booth, air brush, and 150 bottles if paint should you somehow be treated differently? But for some reason those of us who have invested in 3D printing and acquired the skill to learn to use it and have the material on hand are brought into question.

Also should we not be including EVERYONE. Isn’t that the “real” spirit of the MIK. . . To get as many as we can involved?

Maybe we should ask Cliff and Dan to not participate because their modeling of choice revolves around 3D tech. Maybe I shouldn’t compete because I have not only old school skill but new school skill. Maybe the new up and coming modelers who live in a tech world should be allowed.

Here’s my opinion. Do away with ALL voting/awards. Leave the ground rules EXACTLY the way they are. And let people build things in the way they are comfortable building them.

I think Dave you have done an awesome job. You set a theme and I am amazed at what we come up with. Let’s stick to that. Post our logs and then have a final thread to collect them in one spot for the record. I honestly believe any sort of award/competition is where the problems have come in. Some think “they can’t compete” so let’s do away with any hint of competition.

To limit methods or materials is counter productive and hamstrings modeling. This is a evolving hobby and we should be embracing the new stuff as well as cherishing the old. If not then I think the competition should be limited to Lionel and Marklin 3 rail. After all the tin trains are the original.

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To All…

I am reading and listening…

Dave T.


FYI, I polled the clan. CINCHOUSE thought it might be a good idea to limit who could win an award each year as long as this did not limit participation. The junior crew just want the contest to continue, whatever its form!


OK guys… My thoughts…

The Mik has evolved thru the years… A few years ago “Sir Bob” and I decided to do away with the physical prizes and just keep it simple and award “Recognition Awards” and let the masses decide what builds they liked best, hence the “Your Favorite, for what ever reason”. Voting patterns seem to be all over the place, as I suspected they would be…

On to addressing the 800lb gorilla hiding in the corner… ( the same one that was tap-dancing on my chest awhile back ). On the point of using 3D printing as part of the build, and does it give an advantage to those that use it? I don’t see where an “Advantage” would come from? Does it automatically get some extra votes because the use of it? That didn’t show up at all in this years vote tally, Actually the builders that used it the most accrued only 3rd, and 4th vote counts. Now is that rejection or a reward? I Don’t Know, I just make the rules and count the votes. My solely personal feelings are it’s a tool that some people use in they’re builds. I haven’t yet… And just for full disclosure I own a SLA 3D printer, but its still in the unopened box after three years, haven’t taken the time to learn the steep curve to actually using it. Sooooooo in that regards I’m going to just keep carrying on with the way its been, and we will keep an eye on what happens in the future on 3D printing. Yet I don’t think that the idea of a complete 3D printed project was anywhere near what, Mik just Mik, ever had in mind, as he was a true scratch and scrabble builder. Should that imply that it shouldn’t be done? NOT AT All!!
Sooooo… I am going to apply the rule(s) that:
[A]: Don’t start drawing up the new 3D file until after the build time start ( you can rough sketch on paper, but not in the CAD program).
[B]: You can print an existing file that you have ( your own or downloaded one ) but not until after the start time if it is to be used in your build.
[C]: If you buy a file for printing in your project, that cost ( of the file) applies to your build cost.

On to the yearly topics for the MIK, Each year it gets harder and harder to come up with a theme that gets the most participation from you all knuckleheads… On the years I have buildings those guys that want rolling stock complain, and don’t join in the fun, and like wise when it’s rolling stock the mob of structure builders whine… Yet this year I tried to open the theme really wide, and yet we had a very low year in the numbers of builds. Yes, we have lost some of our builders, but are we not replenishing the stock with new idiots… hummmm. it is the way of the hobby, or my themes? Speaking of which ( see how easily I rolled into that) is it time after 13 years, to start recycling a theme or two, so some of the newer guys can get a chance to tackle that theme? Your thoughts on having maybe two themes at a time in a single year, rolling stock or structures type? But that is also covered under the" Build what ever you want" categories? My feedback has been that most of you like the solo themes ( Door, Tin Roof, Chimney ) builds…And "The Rooster " is still holding his breath and waiting for an Amtrak only build… Your thoughts Please…

As to the 30 days and $30 thingie… Most of us have regular family duties, and jobs, and I structure the dates to give as many weekends into the build times as possible. I don’t know how to or why we should make any changes to that… Yes it does pose some limitations on the ambitious builds, and yet we have seen some really large projects built ( ie. Todd’s factory last year ) and other simpler things DNF. The $$$$'s… wellllll… Mik was, what we should call as “Thrifty”. Originally the builds had a $10 limit. That really promoted the KISS process. I upped it to $30, to help in the participation aspect so we could do a few additional things that couldn’t be done for under $10… I even started the percentage of usage thingie to help. At this time, until or unless it gets really abused, I’ll leave it alone, it seems to work for now.

Now my soap box time… I actually read all the posts in and on the MIK, every build, and reply, all of them, and the final comments too. I listen to what is said and pay attention too, ( kinda hard to believe at times), but I do, and I have a sore tongue from biting it to keep my yap closed at times of discretion, so at times I choose to shut up and just let things pass, I don’t envy Bobs job of trying to keep heard on this mob… Guys? Do you all set around and discuss how to give ol’ Dave a tough time… what am I to do when you cast three choices for third place vote, and two for second? Come on now… in the future Man Up and make a call, don’t try to be a politician … 1 vote for each place (PLEASE). WE ARE NOT!!! NOT going to go down the rabbit hole and make multiple categories for voting, OMG what a can of worms that would open up, and I would have to be the one to figure all that out… AND… I reserve ( By the power invested in me, by me ) My sole discretion to award the " Spirit of Mik" award… No discussion…

Other then that I have no opinion… And your opinions and thoughts?

Dave T.