Leafing through the pages of a notebook I found some sketches of a little model railway layout I had on my mind a while ago. In terms of place, I had a vision of the sort of place that was only barely nimble enough to stay one stride ahead of a future that had already overtaken most of its neighbours.
The simple layout plan consists of partial models of only three structures and a small amount of track. It can be “operated” by adding a staging area to each end. It isn’t the plan that fired my imagination but more the presentation of it that I still find rather attractive.
The entire layout should be built inside a shadow box. Rather than simply opening up the front completely, I wanted to use silhouettes based on the shape of the grain elevators to control the view into the scene. The colours on the layout would be golds and greens in the scenery and browns in the structures. A fading blue sky leads off across the background, far enough that “you could watch your dog running away for days”. The entire front fascia, including those structure silhouettes, is treated with the same finish. Something without texture and perhaps the whole face is painted grey. Grey for the way it doesn’t take away from the scene and further frames it as it each peeks around edges. When trains are moving, their movement isn’t always fully on display and we have to look around and in between those elevators to see the train. Perhaps an operating session isn’t made more “interesting” by adding more car moves but by exploring the different views of the train as it goes about its business?
The layout has its own integral lighting rig providing more than enough light to very comfortably see what you are doing while operating the layout. In between operating sessions this same light frames those silhouettes – even from across the room it’s easy to see what this scene is about: grain.
Just as the front of the box is cut out to create silhouette views of the grain elevators I played with ideas to similarly frame the view down the line and along the layout. An old tree growing by the station softens the left line of the frame and the right side might use the gable end profile from a grain bin. Peering down the line, our view is framed by the station and the rail-side of the elevators. Again, the hope is to create something that controls your view of the scene and relate it from the same perspectives that we’d enjoy if we were actually there.
In real life, a place like this wouldn’t have a train running every single time that I was there and neither would the layout. I wanted to play with a concept that used the layout fascia as more than just a rectangular picture frame. A fascia that was as interesting as the work it presents.