Sunday, April 30, 2017

Legrade: An Updated Plan

So far, I used the insurance maps as a reference to draw the plan to scale. However, I was curious to see how it would turn out if I used instead the 1948 orthophographic survey. As expected, there was a lot of discrepancies and some nice surprises.

As you can see, the cattle pen geometry was quite different and much more irregular than was the case on the insurance maps. In fact, it's not a bad thing as it bring some more life to the scene composition.

It is also nice to find out the upper left corner was a wooden area, which is perfect to hide the joint between the backdrop and the layout.

Another nice feature is the fact you can have a glimpse of the mainline. I think it bring some context into the layout, giving you an idea that Legrade is part of a larger work. Sure, the mainline and passing tracks are there for decoration, but they support the story well enough. One could easily imagine a caboose left on the passing track while performing switching moves.

Now, the big question is about rotating the track plan a little bit to make sure the cattle pen isn't sliced. I've never been a fan of sliced building on layout would try to avoid this as much as possible.

What's behind a track plan?

The more simplistic and realistic a track plan is, the more anxiety creeps about it's operation interest. The question is legitimate, but finding the balance between operation, modelling and visual coherence isn't an easy task.

The big challenge is overcoming the idea everything that can sustain trains running through a scene isn't worthy of a model railroad. At some point, it all comes down to how you experience railway activities.

Several approaches can be taken when modelling a scene and I won't tell which ones are good or bad since it always depends on what you want to focus. However, you can model a scene from the railway's perspective or from a pedestrian's perspective. The first one is self-explanatory and will try to make sure the physical plant (rails) are all there to perform a complete sequence of operations. The later is more about what we can see from a scene in a given time and place.

In the case of Legrade, the scene isn't framed to make QRL&PCo the main focus, but rather the plant. Imagine yourself in 1951, as a kid, you ride your bike down a dirt road called D'Estimauville Avenue, cross a bunch of tracks and end up at the plant. You see the office, the meat packing structure and the courtyard filled with trucks and freight cars. If you are lucky, a steam locomotive is switching a few cars here and there, bring life to the place with new sounds. After a while, the train disappears and you ride back home on your bike. In your mind, you later recall the engine and car colors, their dirtiness, the couplers sound and the steam whistle.

Now, is it a diorama? No. Is it a full-fledged layout... not really. A micro-layout? Maybe. A cameo layout? Probably. But at the end of the day, does it really matters? Most modellers have interest in many things including locomotives, building cars and structures, operating, scenery, replicating a prototype or a strong impression. I'm not advocating for a specific type of layout, but rather trying to remind us that layout comes in different shape and type, that many good ideas and worthy concepts are often trashed, denatured or disfigured because we feel they don't fit the mould and thus aren't worth pursuing...

Legrade is particularly disturbing because the subject isn't about an end of line terminus-style layout or a large plant. It's a medium-sized industry located on the mainline and served by trains orignating somewhere else and going somewhere else. In a nutshell, it's not a destination and for this reason, the decision to select such a location and frame it in this way is not conventional, hence the anxiety! But don't feel bad, I'm not agonizing over that. I've been probing that particular prototype for at least 10 years now!

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