Sunday, June 25, 2017

Space VS Place

The layout benchwork is complete and it was time to move it in my office. It now sat on a small shelf, at a comfortable height to operate when I'm sitting on my chair. For the first time, I can now start to see the project from the intended perspective...

Before building anything, I still have to install LED strips and prepare some conduits to operate accessories. Installing the NCE Power Cab module is also an important future step. I generally have a tendency to neglect the mechanical aspect of my home layouts and it's a good occasion to do it right.

But there is more than mechanical and electrical components involved. As said by Marty McGuirk recently, a layout should tell a story, whatever it is... and a story doesn't need to be complicated and convoluted to be compelling. I'd like to come up with a big one for the feedmill, but it is mundane. All we know is that a medium-sized feed mill in an average rural town gets a few loads per week. The train serving the town is minimal, slow and somewhat lazy. There isn't a lot of job to do and you do it according to the rules. Since there's no hurry here, better safe than sorry.

Going so minimal may shake one's confidence because we are used to try to justify everything when building and describing a layout. Be assured I freaked out at some point and had to fight the urge to add a proverbial team track to the layout. Fortunately, I put that idea aside, preferring to stay true to the prototype. That layout isn't about "operation" but about switching a few cars at a rural feed mill in late summer under the harsh sun at the height of the day. That's the story. Once you know that, you can start to frame and build up the layout according to your vision.

I've also came to the realisation I should stop to think small layouts are a transitory step before reaching the dream layout stage. I probably will never have the space to make anything significant in term of rail miles. But I know for sure trains are fun to watch, even from a single spot. Railfanning every grade crossings at the speed of light in car isn't as impressive as waiting that moment of the day when you hear the whistle and come see the action. It's no longer a matter of space, but rather a matter of place... In that regard, small layouts are better at framing a place because we focus our effort on what counts rather than compromise while trying to fit as much as we can. And don't get me wrong, a place don't necessarily needs to be minuscule to be modelled... it is independant from the space available.

How will that translate on the QSSR? I've got no idea, but I know I already framed the place where the story is told... all the rest is a matter of development and directing. And that's the moment I'll see if I can transcend my modelling skills and start painting on a canvas.

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