Thursday, October 24, 2019

Framing a Subject...

A great aspect of this hobby is about sharing. And by sharing, I don’t mean that meaningless unboxing carnival that has plagued modelling forums for the last few years, where everyone to ride the proverbial bandwagon in search of cheap attention. I’m talking about sharing musings about the hobby, its goals and philosophy. I recall Trevor Marshall often advocating hobbyists to enter the conversation by means of blogs and other such platform. While a good advice, I only started to appreciate this invitation to the public debate in later years. Writing a blog is a strange thing because you barely know who will be interested in your quests. So far, I’ve been blessed by many people that helped me shape my vision, providing both encouragement but also constructive criticism.

Developing a vision isn't a straightforward process...

Many years ago, I promised I would build a small layout depicting Connors, NB; a lovely Temiscouata Railway end-of-line station set in the St. John River valley on Maine’s border. However, I had a single condition to meet before starting this project: I need a clear artistic vision because I wanted it to be an impressionist piece, a layout with a soothing atmosphere, just like a well-executed painting.

A big part of this condition was conditioned by the way I would frame the scene. Until now, I had serious doubts how to do it, but thanks to Mike Cougill’s recent blog posts (one, two and three) about setting a layout in a room, I feel more confident in my work. That’s the nice thing with Mike, he has done enough in this hobby to be able to question the obvious. By doing so, not only he enable conversations, but also brings with it a level of sophistication we rarely see. Many modellers in the past influenced me and I’ve wrote about them a few time. They mainly confirmed my intuitions in providing coherent visions that shared many of my own observations. However, Mike’s influence doesn’t work like this. He is the kind of nagging little voice in your head asking “are you sure?” He isn’t aware of it, but his little voice guided me through the rebuilding of Clermont since last year. I no longer approach design as a set of steps to follow in order, but I now take a lot of time contemplating my work and looking how to make it better. It could have stalled me in a sort of paralysis; however, it provided in fact a reason to do better each time.

His recent posts triggered me to rethink about Connors as I am looking for a small and manageable home project. Many questions arose: how much layout, what to crop from the scene, how to frame the subject, how to work on it in a practical way, etc.

Interestingly enough, I’m coming close to a vision for this project. Like a professional photographer, I framed the subject from all possible angles, than worked on focus and lighting. I now feel I’m ready to shot the final picture. I suspect this picture will be blurry, kind of impressionist, with not so well defined borders. Light will be uneven, drastically enhancing some details and leaving others in the dark. Colors and textures will play an important role too and trains will be set in such a way they are the main actor on the stage. As you will discover in a future post, the framing goes beyond the scenic nature of this small layout and will also imply framing the action itself. I’m not sure many people attempted this artistic vision with pre-WW1 railways in Canada, but I sure feel it is a worthy pursue…


  1. Hi Matt,
    I'm looking forward to what you've come up with for the design. Like you I'm enthusiastic about the exchange of ideas that blogging offers and I've benefited from many others over the years. Thank you for the kind words. I'm truly touched and humbled by them. -Mike

  2. Hi Matthieu,

    I am so excited to hear that the Temiscouata Ry project could get revived! This was the original reason I started following your blog; I was a little disappointed to see the turn of the century disappear, but I've enjoyed following the conversation since then.

    As to your question about other modellers attempting an artistic vision with pre-WW1 railways in Canada, I think I shall have to raise my hand. I hope you will indulge me with a link over to my own blog: My recent post about Art Nouveau is my most recent rumination about how the layout might integrate with the room it shares.

    Looking forward to the continuing conversation.

    1. Hi Rene! Thanks for your kind words. To be honest, the project was never shelved. However, I always felt it was an artistic venture and not simply about building a "layout". Until I felt I grasped my subject from the right angle, I wasn't feeling I could do a good job. I don't know when I'll start working on it it since I want to complete some scenery on Hedley Junction before Christmas and finish my workshop in the basement, but I already have lightweight modules built.

      You CAR project is quite an impressive endeavour. I was recently reading about 622 starting to come to life. The dedication you put in this project is astounding. I feel ashamed I won't venture that far in prototypicalness at this point, but this is certainly inspiring. It's crazy how these old prototypes push us to really take into account various details from rolling stock to room integration.