In planning the display, it’s easy to fixate on the scene composition, construction techniques, track and modeling specifications and so on. These are all familiar topics and this is where we tend to stop, thinking that we’re done. I still fall into this mindset easily. So I stopped and thought about a rhetorical question: are we missing an opportunity because we’re so locked into tradition?

The stated goal of this work is to introduce P48 modeling to interested people. That’s simple enough on the surface but, what sort of introduction am I really offering? It’s a counterintuitive question.

Before we’re willing to consider a new thing, we have to see there is something in it for us before abandoning our current choices. So for this work, dispelling old myths is one task.

The primary myth to overcome is the perception that nothing satisfying can be done with a large scale in a small space. My response is: define satisfying.

If your definition of satisfying is married to images of big-time, full bore, bone-jarring, multi-train mainline railroading, then yes, you have a problem in any scale. It’s frustrating to have visions of long trains rolling off the miles, massive yards full of cars or sprawling heavy industries only to realize how much room these actually take. That’s the reality we all bump into and, having bumped our heads on that reality, we either give up or compromise the daylights out of everything, turning our vision into a cartoon caricature. Lot’s of folks get stuck at this point and pine away for more room, thinking more space is the answer to everything. However, if one is willing to look deeper you’ll see that big-time railroading entails a lot of things, some of them quite small and manageable in nature.

Intentional Railroad Modeling_00

Going back to this photo from part one, it doesn’t matter that the building on the left is a city block in length. It doesn’t matter that the building on the right is two city blocks long. Here, you only see a portion of one wall of each yet you correctly infer from all the other visual clues, that these are big structures. So, how much space do you actually need to convey the size of these buildings?

This urban scene with the close quarters, freight cars and the well maintained track in the background suggest that this is a mainline setting, not some little rust streak in the weeds. How much actual space does it take to convey this?

With staging on each end of the module, one could do a modest amount of switching, or even simulate the arrival and departure of the local. Chris Mears explored such possibilities in this post of his a few weeks ago. You’re not going to pull off a triple meet between three one hundred car freights on a 20″ x 48″ module but you can convey many aspects of big-time railroading in such a space if you’re willing to think outside the box, or as Simon once suggested: just throw the box away.

I heard a statistic from a speech given by Dr. Nido Qubein, President of High Point University in North Carolina, that a young person graduating college today could potentially have 29 different jobs in their lifetime. If that’s even remotely accurate it doesn’t bode well for the old school layout tradition. However, a modest series of modules like this is easier to fit into an increasingly mobile lifestyle. Will this work for everyone? Of course not, but it will work for some and how will they discover such ideas if all we can do is parrot a sixty year old status quo?

How much of our vision of this craft is based on the generational paradigm that you will work one job for forty years and live in one house for that time? How much of our vision is driven by status quo thinking, or by the desire to fit into a community? How much is driven by peer pressure to conform to an agenda promoted by some guru? I asked if we’re missing an opportunity? I believe we are. The real challenge for this display is to stretch people’s imagination and demonstrate the futility of letting others define things for us that we should define for ourselves.