This can be a funky hobby.
For decades this hobby was driven by the spectacular, the out-of-the-ordinary and the oddball, all in the quest for “modelgenic” layouts and scenes. Layouts overflowed with huge spindly trestles spanning bottomless mountain gorges and had whole neighborhoods of funky buildings dripping with gingerbread trim. It didn’t stop there. A mish-mash of locomotives and rolling stock completed the image. No doubt fueled by extensive photo coverage of some famous examples, too many layouts in the 1950-’70s looked more like a theme park ride than the everyday scenes right outside. The ordinary was considered boring.
Times and tastes have changed considerably. Thanks to the work of other foresighted modelers, we’ve come to understand that there’s more than meets the eye in a simple scene and, when handled faithfully, such simple images can offer an amazing depiction in miniature of the real world.
A common grade crossing, a culvert, a field of grass, or just a long stretch of track offers counter-intuitive, but satisfying opportunities for modeling. Ordinary scenes give modelers the chance to focus on details that are easily overlooked, like grass texture, or the transitions between parts of the landscape.
We’ve finally become aware that there’s more to modeling prototype track than simply painting the rails a rusty brown color. Modelers now look at the profile of ballast slopes and the rest of the built right-of-way, where items like drainage ditches and an adequate number of culverts are finally getting the attention they’re due.
Learning to pay more attention to the ordinary is also influencing layout design. There is a growing movement toward smaller, simpler layouts featuring more open areas of scenery. Vacant lots in urban scenes and open fields in rural areas are showing up on layouts now and this is a good thing because it reflects what the modeler observed in the real world. Every square inch of layout doesn’t have to be filled with track and buildings. Prototype modeling goes beyond getting the rivet count right.
I agree that modeling that spindly trestle with its million board feet of scale lumber can be a fun and satisfying exercise, but let’s save a few scale trees and look outside the city limits of Funkytown to see if anything interesting is happening in Normal IL.
The inspiration for this post came from wandering around looking at the landscape. My eyes kept going to the most mundane things imaginable, like mud puddles. Go figure.