My place on the map

I’ve been reluctant to place my layout on a map. In the past, I started with a list of prototypes, a list of what I have already, and a list of what I could or wanted to buy. Past layouts were borne in the common ground where those lists intersected. With the opportunity to start over again this time, I wanted to approach everything from a more emotional perspective.

By hosting my mock operating sessions and pushing trains around on the cardboard deck I’ve been fine tuning locations of not just track or scenic elements but providing myself with a chance to evaluate each element and questions like:

  • Do I like the way the locomotives look when they’re backing down the branch to tie onto a car?
  • Do I like standing here when I’m switching that car?
  • Does it feel comfortable when I reach into the scene here?

Questions like those and the responses the design are negotiating in return focus on my engagement as a user of the layout and my role as an operator of the finished piece where, with any luck, I’ll be immersed in an operating session pretending myself into the scene. Part of each response, facilitated by having nothing fixed in place, is the ability to shift an element a few inches in each direction or the angle a few degrees.

The layout’s location in a public room in our house provided a different set of questions, such as:

  • When I walk into the living room this way, does the layout catch my attention in a good way?
  • If I glance over from my seat on the couch, does the layout look out of place as an element in the same room as “normal” living room elements?

I wanted to test my own instincts and I wanted to see where I would arrive if all I worried about was the space itself. Treating the design of the layout like a conversation between myself and the proposed design iteration, I’m transitioning to designing from within the space and not super-imposing a design into that space. The goal for this initial design is to nurture the layout’s design within the room and hope that what I produce will look natural within the space as if it should be there and not just could be there.

I’m discovering that as a layout designer and builder I enjoy regarding the layout in both its roles. I realise I like model trains as much, if not sometimes more, than real ones. With regard to this, I want to design within the scene something that stimulates an emotional response recalling something I associate with but I also want to explore an opportunity to create a model that is, without any signal to real trains, something I’m engaged in. In model railways as elsewhere in life I believe that our measure of happiness is something we can affect and that it is not chaotic in nature. As with the design, this is an ongoing conversation, I’m far from an expert on the subject but this approach already feels like the most fulfilling method I’ve adopted so far.

Categories: How I think

2 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Andrew's Trains – Formerly and commented:
    Chris Mears has posted a great article on the aesthetics of layout design. About how things look, how they feel to him as the operator, and as a viewer within his living room space (the layout will be a piece of furniture within the room so I think his point is more than valid. He’s aiming for something that is organic but satisfying from a modelling perspective too. Have a read, I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

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