The Trinity covered hopper car is on hold while I wrap up the major details for the 13th and North E cameo. I’ve completed both buildings and the connector between them. I want to debut the cameo as a work in progress at the St Louis RPM this month and while there are many smaller details still to come, this brings the major construction to a close.

As an experiment in using quarter-inch scale in a small space, I’m pleased with how the 15 x 48 inch scene feels. A significant part of its impact is from the lack of compression. Each building is modeled to full-scale dimensions, yet you only see a portion of each. This selective editing focuses your attention. The mass of the buildings gives a sense of enclosure and the density of an urban setting. These aren’t “boxcar buildings” that are barely larger the rail cars; they tower over the siding, putting each in scale to the other.

The warehouse works as a backdrop because the edges aren’t seen. You know it’s a flat façade, yet the lack of depth isn’t obvious. In composing the scene, I eliminated the horizon and the sky. This massive building surrounds you and defines the space. Where each building meets the fascia, I use color to minimize the visual impact of these artificial areas and to draw your eye back into the scene.

The vacant lot provides much needed contrast and context to the mass of the buildings. This open corner balances the congested nature of the tunnel like alleyway where North E Street and the siding exit the scene. It’s the front row seat where you can orient yourself and view the action.

I often suggest that each modeling scale has a natural viewpoint. Here, I’ve drawn you in close, so P48 can do what it does best: showcase the detail it’s known for. I’m using the natural strength of the scale to enhance the realism it’s capable of.

Representing space and distance are the twin dragons we all deal with. People seldom if ever question the mindset that we have to depict as much distance as the room space will allow. To do this, we compress everything down and use a ridiculous number of tricks to layer in more, often at the expense of practicality or common sense.

At shows in the past, HO modelers will look at a turnout I’ve brought and immediately sift it through the only filter they have: a room size HO layout. Compared to that, the size of P48 is a jolt to the system initially. It was for me and required a lot of time to adjust. At first, all you see is the sacrifices you have to make to do the same thing in quarter-inch. Most can’t make the mental leap. What I really hope this cameo does is provoke the beginning of a conversation about quarter-inch scale and ways to move past the stereotypes around it.

Do I really need to model the entire journey this boxcar has taken? Would the horrendous artificial compression I’d have to use speak as clearly about the size and scope of the railroad? For me, the answer is no. This little 1:48 corner of the world speaks powerfully for itself.

Mike