Before there were railways … in fact before humans imposed their mark on the Earth there was The Landscape, formed by billions of years of geology and evolution and then whatever scars we mere mortals could impose on its surface.
Now, railway modellers get their satisfaction at many different levels.
I’m a member of several model railway discussion groups whose members ambitions vary from those who get great satisfaction from layouts that, to me, seem one step up from a toy train set, to those that are detailed to the highest degree and level of realism and authenticity.
I’m not going to disparage any one of them. Everyone is entitled to their own model of the world of railways.
However, my bugbear is the layout set on an 8ft x 4ft slab of plywood, composite or MDF.
I’m very happy, pleased even, that lots of people like to see their collection run around on this two dimensional world. I have no trouble appreciating the fun in that.
However, I’m seeking a world that seems plausible and authentic, not necessarily to those rivet counters and historical record buffs who delight in trivia. I actually don’t care that a particular engine might not have worked on a particular line with a particular rake of rolling stock – and, by the way, those signals are wrong too … But it has to look plausible. It could have happened. And in my quantum, hyper-dimensional world, it actually has to look like it did.
Ideally, I might have started from a representation of a 3D portion of the world and carved cuttings, tunnels and embankments like the original railway civil engineers.
Instead, I laid out a horizontal plane just wide enough to take a track bed, and have tried to work the landscape around it in a manner that looks realistic. That means there has to be a way for the land to be represented below the plane of the track, as well as above it.
My other preoccupation has been to devise scenic breaks around the edge of the layout. That is to develop, what are in fact, optical illusions to disguise the boundaries of the baseboard and give the impression of the locality, and indeed, the world stretching out beyond this 8ft x 2 ft fragment of my universe.At the moment, I’m thinking that the northern – left – exit from the first inklings of Boltorr will be under a road bridge, the boundary Dartmoor stone walls curving around and descending, with the lane behind the vestiges of the station to a level from where the platform can be accessed.
To the south – right, towards Plymouth “in reality”, the track has to disappear into a tunnel, ostensibly under Bolt Tor, but it has to look as if it’s been carved into something solid, like granite, not just a papier-maché lump.
The up stream entrance of the river/stream which flows across the landscape from east to west is causing me some thought, although more and more, I’m thinking of making it a Dartmoor dam, something like Burrator with the distant horizon visible over its ramparts.
But who knows? I feel a bit like Slartibartfast draughting the Norwegian fjords. Fun tho’, isn’t it?