Earlier today I finally shared two new posts on my layout planning. I’ve been re-reading them and reflecting on what I wrote and I realise that this shift in focus is only limited to a method of deciding on the size of the layout or how much track to fit; it’s also recognition of how I want to interact with the layout during an operating session.
I feel like we regard the design of a model railway like it’s a competitive challenge to see how much track we can stuff into a given area. I remember reading in an old British book on the hobby where the author distinguished between model railways and models of railways. I liked that distinction and think it’s worth considering. With this in mind, I enjoy treating layout design as an architectural activity in which we look at which elements are important to the overall composition and which are not. We also take into account not just who will operate the layout but also how it will be operated.
It’s that “how” that I was reflecting on after my posts this afternoon. I can’t remember ever building a layout that wasn’t designed to be “operated”. Operation here is the act of designing train movements over the line. I think that traditionally I have operated the layout in a prototypical manner but it’s still just a game of moving toy trains. I wonder if there’s a chance here to model not just the physical railway but also the work and activities that really make the prototypical railway come to life? In many ways I hope that whatever I build it has been designed to bring me into the scene as an active participant and not just someone far removed from the scene who just makes the train move.