Hide And Seek
Traveling east from the depot on North E Street in Richmond, you’ll play a game of hide and seek with the railroad. Although the two roughly parallel each other, the street gradually angles away from the tracks forming a long wedge of land in between.
Past the depot, you only catch a glimpse of the action at the cross streets of 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th, due to the large industrial buildings in each block. Pacing a train is difficult, if not impossible thanks to city traffic, four-way stops and traffic lights. In spending more time in this area, I’ve gained an appreciation for the modeling potential it offers. The track arrangement is simple yet switching takes longer than one would think. Visually, there’s the pull of the nineteenth and twentieth century buildings and plenty of clues about what used to be here in the past.
I’ve also gained an appreciation of the hide and seek viewpoint offered from North E Street. By default, most modelers would flip things around, placing the buildings in the rear with track in front, which would be a mistake in my view. Few people would put a five-story city block long warehouse between the aisle and track. How would you spot a car, uncouple, clean track or do a myriad other things we deem as essential? Such questions assume that the building is fixed in place forever but making such features removable is relatively simple, so why do we presume they can’t be? With planning, turnouts and other critical features can be as accessible as anywhere else on a layout.
Whether it’s on a 4 x 8 table or the longest wall in the basement we want the best and most unobstructed view possible. We agree that no one enjoys running blind over a long distance such as you might experience crawling out of a hidden staging yard or climbing some helix from the basement to the attic and I understand the operations driven thinking about reach-in access and the potential for damage to foreground objects. Those are all important; however, as long as such criteria are provided for, what’s the big deal? Why does a train have to be in full view every second?
Being married to such ideas robs us of options that might prove very desirable if we’d open our minds a bit. As I consider how to move forward in terms of a layout, I’m more focused on how I want to interact with it and how those interactions are enhanced or destroyed by the design. With those thoughts in mind, I’m looking at non-traditional ideas and what they offer in terms of a satisfying layout.
There’s more to come on that.