Despite several revisions in its final years, I consider my former Indiana & Whitewater a success. It taught me valuable lessons and helped clarify a vision that I might not have had without it.
- Give The Devil His Due.
Working in quarter-inch scale came with a steep learning curve. Perhaps I should say an un-learning curve. I had to come to grips with the fact that the scale is not HO on steroids. A satisfying design in quarter-inch is a different beast than HO in the same amount of space. Design conventions we accept without question from one do not translate to the other without a serious compromise to realism.
Quarter-inch has its own demands and requirements, foremost being the amount of space it requires. This hoary old saw is waiting to bite with sharp teeth if you ignore it. Treated properly, quarter-inch scale enables a lovely intimate experience of railroading that I find quite satisfying. Experience teaches me it’s best to leave the sweeping panoramas to the smaller scales.
- I Need to Follow My Own Path.
Prior to the I&W, I built design after design in HO, only to rip them out for something supposedly “better.” The punch line for this joke is I never defined for myself what “better” was. Quarter-inch scale brought this to a head fairly early. I saw how quickly conventional track plan thinking overcrowded the amount of space I had. It took me until the end of the I&W to realize that I actually wanted far less than what the mainstream promotes. In its last form, there were only five turnouts, which provided more than enough interest for me. As you’ve read in many older posts, I was always dissatisfied with the portion over my workbench because it never seemed to come together. I understand now that even at a modest 2×24 feet, I had about fifty percent more layout than I needed. My dissatisfaction with the section above the bench should have been a clear signal. It was, but I willfully ignored it to the bitter end.
- Simplicity is Key.
Every design tells a story. We can tell a deliberate one or a haphazard rambling tale. In quarter-inch scale the story elements can be in your face due to their physical presence. Curve radius is measured in feet, not inches. The type of structures we all typically want can easily cover several square feet and can tower over your head. Track eats up space quickly. All of this adds up to the fact that overcrowding can happen in an instant. It’s easy to produce a toy-like appearance in this scale because people don’t understand how to balance the space requirements and other relationships. The sense of spaciousness we take for granted in smaller scales is harder to achieve. Each element in a scene should be there because it contributes to the story. Otherwise, eliminate it. I had to learn this the hard way, which is why I removed about twenty percent of the track I so laboriously hand laid. Simplicity is your best friend in this scale.
- The Future Happens
A major shortcoming of the design was sowing the seeds of its destruction from day one. I built it in the traditional manner as a single monolithic form that was never meant to be moved or altered. Doing either involved major trauma to the design. Placing the lighting on the ceiling as we typically do further complicated matters, in that it was never positioned optimally. I honestly don’t understand why we cling to these design forms and I simply can’t envision building in the same manner when better alternatives exist.
In the end, we have different objectives and reasons for participating in this craft. We each have to determine for ourselves the what and why that motivates us. Mine are no longer what you would consider “mainstream” but so what? I enjoyed the experience the I&W provided and feel it enriched my understanding of the reasons I do things the way I do. Ultimately, that’s about all one can ask of a craft like this.