Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thank you notes - a physical interaction with the layout

Thank you notes on official PoNY letterhead.
I assume everyone writes thank you notes after they participate in an operating weekend - my mother certainly would expect it! The time and effort that a dedicated group of modelers who are willing to share their layouts with strangers should be acknowledged in some way - be it a phone call, email or note. I prefer to hand write physical letters as a small gesture that says I understand the effort they went through, and that I care enough to spend a fraction of that amount of my own time and effort in return for the enjoyment they created for me.

Several months ago I created a custom letterhead for the PoNY to use for courtesy cards and thank you notes that would help make writing thank you notes easier, so that I was more sure to do it in a timely manner. I used Adobe Illustrator to create the logo and return address, and I print from a PDF file, which is easier to do than opening up Illustrator every time I need to make one. I just print on my own home printer on thick card stock, and I use envelopes with a string tie that makes opening even more of a tactile experience. An ink stamp of the railroad's rooster mascot Pony, customizes the envelope.

It is a first draft that will be refined and maybe offset printed when I get it the way I like it. Besides being a useful and fun thing to do, it helps establish the layout as its own thing that exists in this world apart from me.

The physical letterhead gives the layout I'm creating more gravitas, so that it is less my own private mental construct and more of a real thing that others can approach without my having to be an intermediary translator. For me, this is a significant way to think about how things are created form the layout. I put this in the same category as a physical interaction with the layout, and I treat it as a considered interaction just as important as being able to reach a switch or a read a town label in a satisfying manner.

This is also another opportunity to create a mood and a narrative about the layout that helps frame people's approach to my little world I am creating. The rooster hopefully adds a bit of whimsy and character, and the red envelope reinforces the red in the logo and is an auspicious symbol of happiness and well wishes of gratitude, good fortune and appreciation.

Besides, as I continue to grow up, I realize my mother was usually right about such matters, and it makes me feel good to let others know I appreciate what they do.


  1. I will either drop the host a thank you note or email upon returning home. Your mother was quite right in this regard... a common courtesy too often ignored.

  2. This is a beautiful, beautiful idea. Well done. I think that now, I'll have to develop my own thank-you notes to send to those who open their layouts to me.
    - Trevor @ The Model Railway Show