Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Modeling using selective orientation..."

Back in August, I wrote about a design and modeling concept that I referred to as selective representation. I concluded that it is just one aspect of the overall collective idea of selective compression. Now, I'd like to suggest combining that component with what I term, selective orientation. It's about the idea of necessary compromises to re-orient a structure relative to its relationship with the track, or the track's relationship with the benchwork footprint as mandated by room constraints. Everyone still on board so far?

As I play with track arrangements on my completed sub-roadbed, and continually fine-tune my drawings, I realize just how much of a challenge that selective orientation will be on my shelf layout. The photos below tell the story best.

The flour mill at Ellicott City bears off the main at a fairly sharp angle and crosses the river. The building itself is u-shaped and surrounds two spurs making operations difficult for my 1:1 crew. The angle can be reduced, but the building components may need to be staggered to allow decent access for visiting operators switching cars.
At Ellicott City, the track and Patapsco River travel east-west while the distinctive main thoroughfare climbs a hill in a north-south direction. Rotating that perpendicular relationship into more of a parallel one is the only way to depict any portion of the town, even when taking advantage of the depth that an inside corner of the benchwork offers.

One half mile up the river, around a horseshoe bend that would be best suited at the end of my peninsula is the Dickey textile mill in Oella. Alas, too many other layout design factors mandated that Oella end up along a straight portion of the benchwork, but that is the least of my worries. The structure is t-shaped and accepts a spur almost perpendicular to the mainline and river. This would work nicely if my shelf was about 42" deep!

The Dickey mill will need to be selectively represented predicated on its dominant window and brick fenestration, but re-oriented 90 degrees to fit the 20" deep benchwork. The sharp angle will be reduced so the spur can run alongside the front of the structure rather than the side. So exactly when is it that we enter no-longer-prototypical territory?

The Daniels mill complex is distinctive by the horseshoe curve of the river and the massive original building set perpendicular to the mainline. Like at Ellicott City and Oella, Daniels' spurs are severe and surrounded by structure causing headaches for humans bearing uncoupling skewers. And no one wants to be around a frustrated human wielding a skewer.

This axonometric drawing from the early 1900's shows the two original spurs, including a coal trestle, that bear off at about 45 degrees from the main. A third spur was present in 1960 and cut straight across the front of the original building into a 'well' created by the expanded complex. It is evident in the photo above.

Like so many aspects of building a prototype-based layout, compromises become the devil in the details. We continually try to determine the least of the necessary evils. How can we best determine what must be done, and what might be done without compromising things too much? Go too far, for whatever reason, and the layout becomes nothing more than the equivalent of a cheap made-for-television murder mystery, "based on actual events."

I guess we'll see as we move forward. My very first track plan shows my earliest attempt at dealing with each of these LDEs. Some modifications are forthcoming. But for now, work and life in general will waylay me for awhile. See you a bit later, but please comment with your own layout design experiences.
Check out the 2016 issue of Model Railroad Planning for a feature on the Rutland Railroad layout by Randy Laframboise and Mike Sparks that was a very popular post here last summer. Congratulations, boys!


  1. Jim, I've only recently discovered your blog, but I think you're doing a great job here. I'm also navigating the trade-offs of trying to recreate a specific place. To add to your comments, I've been thinking about the term "prototype" modelling and its connotations. If anyone asks me, I'll self-identify as a prototype modeller, mostly because I feel that my interests are aligned most closely with others who use this handle. But I feel that everyone is modelling on a continuum that exists between extreme ideals. I'll place my intentions and goals pretty far over on the 'prototype' end of the continuum, but I know that the small amount of layout that I've managed to actually build has more compromises that I wish I had to make. And that's probably a healthy thing for me... it keeps the bar just beyond what I'm able to build so that I maintain some ambition to continue developing my skills. But more to the point, I think the term prototype modeller suggests that there is some kind of standard of accuracy that defines membership in the category. It might be better to imagine prototype modelling a space inhabited by people with similar goals, but who are able to express those goals to varying degrees that are dictated by factors such as available space, leisure time, skills, information, etc. I'm interested in your attempts to create a language to describe the fact that prototype modellers sometimes have to alter the orientation of specific elements in order for their inclusion to enrich the fidelity of the layout. Cool stuff.

    Back to you.

    -Hunter Hughson

    1. Hunter - Welcome, and wow!... serious thought and reaction to something I have expressed... doesn't happen too often... you obviously ponder some of modeling's inherent contradictions... absolutely love your "modeling on a continuum that exists between extreme ideals"... beautiful!... I really your enjoyed your comments... they come at a good time as I have seriously considered ending this blog at its one year anniversary in a couple of weeks... just too much work to keep talking to myself... BTW, is your Niagara Branch documented somewhere?... MRH perhaps?... best - JF

    2. Duh!... got it at ... I'm going to have to spend some time here!... but looks like a couple of questionable characters in that photo for the Feb 7th entry! - JF