You just have to be there

I know, my affection for photographing and sharing pictures taken near Alderney Landing here in Dartmouth is obvious.

I am so drawn to the complimentary lines in views like the above. I find places that offer patterns like these attractive and even calming. I don’t know why, I just do. Perhaps it’s that I see a strong architectural relevance here in the way that all the man-made elements repeat a parallel line that converges almost as if to a common focal point. Further that while everything man put here agrees to this pattern, the natural elements do not. There’s a contradiction that to me feels fundamental and standing here feels powerful. And good.

And the train passes through here so often that it’s easy to practice photographing in this location to test it.

Scrolling through the many photos I’ve taken at or near this particular location I noticed something that distinguishes time trackside from the hobby of model railroading: When I’m trackside I don’t get to choose between things like the best way to interpret the scene as a miniature. I just have to be present and enjoy it. That’s a quality I find attractive in the minimalist approaches to model railways.

I wonder what the minimum number of decisions a modeller could make and still complete a layout is or what they are?

I wonder how that completed work would compare to our current, decision-heavy, approach in terms of the experience for the creator.

Is there really a link between the work and the satisfaction?



  1. Excellent questions, Chris. Re: the number of questions…I like to model while making decisions. Many others choose to make ALL the decisions before modelling. And I think this is why completion and operation sometimes comes as an anti-climactic letdown.

    Sure, the prototype RR’s decide things before operating, but operating is such a dynamic process…and sometimes things happen! Even the arrival time of prototype trains varies, unlike modellers at the throttle. And that is dynamic

    That’s why modellers invented ‘situation cards’.

    Clearly, this is your Tehachapi. This is your Horseshoe Curve. This is your Bayview.
    And you are there!

    1. Thank you Eric

      As for answers I’m thinking about things like:

      When the local crew show up they power their train with the engines they get. What if modellers did the same? Instead of fretting over the paint scheme, brand, details, or price point we used what was available? Just like the train crew stuck with that old GP in the photo, we railfans get the same lottery when we go trackside. Better engines or worse, they all work basically as well at moving those autoracks around and I go trackside just as enthusiastically too (I’ll confess that if it is a GP7 or 9 I do move way faster!)

      So the next questions become ones like: why are the questions we ask important?

      Thanks for the comment Eric. Happy new year!


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