getting the layout to look 'right'
Most of us build model railways which
represent a certain area. It could be a line in the depths of Black Rock
Canyon, in Colorado, 'somewhere on the West Coast of Scotland' or a
line in the Hartz Mountains. What we need to ensure is that our layout
really does evoke the atmosphere of its supposed location.
When you are creating the scenery for a model
railway, you have to consider EVERY aspect of it – colours, patterns,
textures, the position and relationship of buildings and structures to
their surroundings, etc. OBSERVE everything you see – the colour and patterns of
tarmac, the structure of hedges, types of fencing and gates, brick walls,
details of buildings, telegraph poles, street lamps, pillar boxes, types
of roofing, TV aerials, the colour of the grass and crops in the fields,
outbuildings, road works, building sites, gardens, car parks, pot holes,
drains, windows, guttering.....
So let's look at some of the factors that
will help to make our layout look authentic.
latitude, altitude, temperature and humidity
Colours and light will differ dramatically
depending upon the latitude and altitude of the area to be portrayed.
Those who are used to living in Northern latitudes often will regard the
lighting and colours of say, the Caribbean seas, rather unnatural. The
Caribbean is an area of high humidity however so distant objects lose
Australia and parts of the USA also have
terrains of quite lurid colours. In addition, low or zero humidity may be
normal so distant objects will have great clarity and often appear much
closer than they are.
As we climb higher and higher the sky also
becomes a deeper blue. The photo below was taken at 9000ft during the aspen
fall and looks to the average European like something that was brewed
up in Photoshop! Average temperatures and humidity will also dictate the
type of vegetation in the area.
All in all, such places are a far cry from
If you are unfamiliar with the landscape,
your model will almost certainly be unconvincing. At the very least visit
and take as many photos as you can. If you are not modelling a subject in
your local area, your next best bet is to model a place that you have
visited often, say while on vacation.
The world has changed in so many ways over
the years. Without doubt, it is far easier to model an era that you are
familiar with. I model the 1930s but because of the War, little had
changed by the 1950s, a time I well remember. Early epoch modelling will
require a considerable amount of research. Fortunately, the internet is a
wonderful tool for this.
Architecture, street fittings, vehicles,
clothing and even farming methods have changed so it is really important
to get it right.
A region is first and foremost defined by its
topography and geology. In general terms, the older the rocks (in
geological terms), the softer the landscape. Snowdon mountain was once
higher than Everest, amazingly and the remaining hills are for the most
part rather rounded and the valleys smoothed by glaciers. Anglesey is even
older, geologically speaking and is therefore much smoother and lower.
The geology will also play a big role in the
type of vegetation one will find. Some plants love chalk while others
prefer more acid soils. Remember, layers of rock may get folded and show
at all angles. The type of underlying rock will also weather very
If you are able to obtain aerial photographs
of your chosen area, you will get a far better understanding how the
landscape fits together. Almost certainly, you will find a volunteer for
this exercise at your local flying club. Google Earth can be veryhelpful.
The vegetation of an area will be a
significant factor in making it distinctive. From the Nevada desert to the
Black Mountains, each area is special. Make sure that you are familiar with the ecology
of the area you are
modelling. Even in town, you may find plane trees or other species which
are typical to a particular urban scenario.
Local architecture will define your
chosen location. Everything from which building materials are used to the
style will be a signature for the area.
Stone is not locally
available in Norfolk but flints are readily found
a Cotswold town
St Elmo Colorado
Southern French village
Even street furniture is typical of an area.
Of course, railway architecture is quite specific to the operating
company. Advertising signs are also special for an era and region.
The countryside is in many places, itself
'industrial'. Farming practices have changed our landscape beyond
recognition. As time has moved on, fields have become larger and crops
have changed. A modern farmyard is actually an industrial complex in its
own right. Some areas are infested with hedges; (personally I hate them as
one can never see the landscape around you). Wales specialises in dry
stone walls which are there just to tear your car to pieces while France and
much of the USA has open vistas thanks to wire fences.
There are even big regional differences in
how the soil is tilled. For instance, ploughing is still commonplace in
Herefordshire while on the Lincolnshire fens, the soil is disturbed as little as
Livestock used to be more specific to an area
than it is now. Suffolk Punch sheep (just about the dumbest beasts on the
planet) would be farmed in East Anglia on flat fields, Welsh Black cattle in Wales, etc.
Whether horse drawn or motorised, vehicles
are always specific to a region and epoch.
late 19th century
late 19th century
early 20th century
Clothing has changed more than almost
anything else. In earlier times, the clothing was much more class related
than it is now. In Britain, a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum is
well worth while.
So there you have it. I feel it is quite pointless
to ensure that your trains are correct in every detail unless you are
also prepared to invest an equal amount of research into the layout
around it. I admit that this is just my approach to modelling. Whether it is the correct TV aerials to be found in the 60s or
which cars were commonplace, your hobby can offer you hours of fascinating
research. By doing so, you will elevate your trainset to a museum standard diorama.