Cameo Planning: Scenery Is A Model Too.

by | Oct 8, 2018 | The Modeling Conversation, The P48 Experience | 12 comments

As I consider the scenery for the cameo, I want to move beyond the generic textures, colors and materials that look like everywhere and nowhere. Different regions have their own identifiable sense of place, that’s characterized by soil types and color, native plants and growth patterns.

Interrogate The Photo
To truly understand a subject you need time to become familiar with it. A photo only shows the surface of things and is a poor substitute for actual experience of a place. While I’m fortunate to have my inspiration close by, there are other ways to push for the deeper knowledge I’m suggesting.

One-way is to take an image and sketch what you see. Think of this as interrogating the photo. You are actively asking questions of the object that take your understanding further. We do this with rolling stock as we build. How does the siding fit at the car ends? How are the exterior posts spaced? What size is this, how does that relate to those and so on. What I’m suggesting here is no different; we’re simply applying it to an unfamiliar subject that will, in time, become familiar. Regardless of how crude the sketch may be, there is value in the exercise.

This image represents the effect I’m after.

It isn’t obvious in the photo but the areas around the track is anything but flat. The old roadbed is rough and uneven with several low spots that are a mix of dirt, cinders and ballast fill. Both tracks are higher with the siding slightly lower than the running line.

The straw colored tall grasses are the dominant cover plant. To get the impact on a model, I need to capture their mass and volume. The trees form a backdrop on the right side of the track, while the opposite side has a more open quality. I also need to pay attention to the colors and textures of the area and materials. Small things like this are like the details on a freight car. You can go with an impressionistic look via cast on and moulded shapes or take the time and care to apply correctly formed separate pieces.

It’s A Meaningful Choice
Modelers will go to great lengths to reproduce a specific piece of rolling stock or structure as accurately as human skill can manage and then place it in the most generic of settings. Scenery can be a model too. A tree is a prototype, so is groundcover. The contours of the land are like the basic dimensions of a freight car. Get them right and the other details will fall in place. Get the basics wrong and nothing will look right. This approach won’t suit every taste but it’s there for anyone willing to make the effort. As with other aspects, you make a choice about what means more to you, something generic and quick, or an expression that is more meaningful. The quality of your experience with the craft is the sum of many such choices.