Why is?

Why is the backdrop attached to the layout?


I feel like it’s one of those assumptions we have just carried without question. At best we have either “no backdrop” or “backdrop”.

  • The forms that three dimensional scenery is composed of will never fade, blend, or “whatever” into the two dimensional form of the backdrop.
  • The way we render a scene within the layout’s plane is not like how we treat equal elements on the backdrop.
  • There’s always a seam where the two meet and eventually reality casts an impossible to ignore shadow on the sky.

The role of the backdrop is to extend the three dimensional model beyond its physical boundaries. Not only softening that hard edge where the plywood ends but also shadowing in a little more aesthetic context to inform the viewer in ways such as the season, the weather, or how we’re only occupying one plateau in a vast mountain range.

When I saw this image on Instagram yesterday I immediately wondered if we could physically separate the layout from the backdrop. A divorce for the better, to offer each partner a chance to be reconnected to their strength and actually make them both individually stronger and, having done that, make their redefined relationship stronger?

Common choices on materials and the way the scene is composed relate the physical form of the bench to the painting. (Translating the image: imagine the bench is the model railway “layout”).

Choices we make on the environment we present the layout in help us communicate to the viewer the story we are attempting to tell. I don’t question the need to use some sort of backdrop just the question of how it relates to the layout and why we needed to screw them together?

I have paintings and photographs in my living room that provide the same very important sense on context and story to the space. Screwing a painting onto the back of the couch won’t make it more effective. Likely, doing this makes the couch less comfortable and the painting unattractive. In my living room we’ve made decisions so the couch and the painting “go together” but creating space between them so we can relate to them as we should and having done so, created an environment in the room that makes it enjoyable to be in and no less about us.


Twosday train

Goderich & Exeter GP’s at Kitchener

I was in Kitchener visiting a favourite friend. While he was off doing important things me and my disposable camera were screwin’ around. Of all the Canadian railfanning photos, somehow it feels like we’ve all taken a photo here of two or three GEXR GP’s. Strangely this composition connects us and here I go again with my fascination about how trains connect us and so much more than simply by transporting us.

This is the summer I met Krista

It ain’t June and it ain’t 2007

I really enjoy seeing Stephen Gardiner’s Tuesday Train posts and the opportunity to peek into his enjoyable past as a railfan.

In June 2007 I was in Winnipeg as part of a Canadian cooperative housing conference and found myself with an afternoon free. I knew about the City’s super cool shortline and had emailed the railway to ask if I could visit and take some pictures. I received the most welcoming invitation in return and spent a very enjoyable afternoon exploring their offices, shops, site. Gosh, I’d love to go back.

GWWD 202

Mike’s post is something I read this morning. The opening notes were so powerful and they deserve an echo so their resonance is embedded in the media of our hobby. This is the first time I’m copying content to both the WordPress and Facebook sites:

I thought I wanted to share this on Prince Street but it shouldn’t be contextualized there. My friend Mike is one of the very good thinkers and in the opening notes of his latest blog post, shares something powerful that I can’t help but want to share.

“Increasingly, my real goal is to spend quality time in the quiet and solitude of my shop, exercising my creativity to produce models that are meaningful and satisfying.”

It is a beautiful statement on the importance of craft and why we make things. It’s not about making models but about how that act enriches the soul. Most of the time the hobby is represented as just a mountain of toys collected for bragging rights alone and I hate how that conflicts with what I’ve learned within my hobby and in discussion with the many people I’ve met so far whose craft guides their lives. Our work is our journey and I love reading something written by someone who really gets why we’re trying to do what we’re trying to find here. It doesn’t matter what we make, instead how much it challenges us to grow, first in terms of craft but ultimately as people.

The post at this link isn’t just about model trains and it’s damn worth reading this morning since it applies so much further:

Reality Walked In And Sat Down (PS2CD 4427)

Speechless in Vernon River

At Taylor’s with Calvin and David working on Calvin’s Vernon River layout. A no compromise, no compression model of this town on my favourite subdivision of the PEI railway. Oh my heart! I’m excited. Follow along on Calvin’s blog here:


Darren’s Railfan Five

It’s exciting to host guests here and wonderfully exciting to find Darren’s email in my inbox this morning. We met soon after I’d moved here and started posting photos in the Atlantic Rails group and his own amazing Canadian Trains group. We both live nearby and it’s the greatest fun exchanging train updates (“Have you seen 407 yet?”). His luck with CBNS is as fruitful as mine is barren and I was thrilled to see them make it into his set. From here on out, it’s all you. Take it away Darren.

Thank you

1st photo Beautiful September morning we headed out to the River Breeze pumpkin patch to pick our pumpkin, Stopped to get gas in Truro shortly after that I heard what sounded like a train so I headed down the road and came across CN 515 hauling a few cars I stopped and saw this was a photo I wanted ,end result was pretty good

2nd photo after missing this train coming into Halifax I decided to head down the fallowing morning to get a few shots , well I crossed the Mackay bridge where I would see CN 999 rounding the Bedford basin. So I said I;m not going to miss it this time and so I turned back around and crossed the Bridge where I would jump onto the highway and head to Enfield to catch them there passing the post office

3rd photo I took the family for a walk at Victoria park and after a nice walk it was time to head home not better I could check the Truro yard where my eyes were lite up seeing the CBNS getting ready to start building their train. with a Quebec-Gatineau unit 3327

4th One fun part about railfanning is the people you hang with and the moments you have while you wait , Mine is my son he took this photo with my camera and it’s been a favourite of mine bringing back old memories from when I was his age doing what he does now

5 th My favourite unit those 2400’s hauling gypsum cars on a sunny day it was a no brainer to grab my camera and head out to catch them on their return trip from Milford

Bonus photo 
This shot was to good to pass up , Chris and I exchange info often well on Monday when I got a message saying 407 was still in the yard I headed there and 407 wasnt on the move yet but CN 505 arrived back into  the Dartmouth yard shortly after I got there 


Check out Darren’s Canadian Trains group on Facebook:


Check out the rest of the My Railfan Five series in the set of links on the side of this blog and also by clicking on the category and labels attached to this post.