Saturday, January 7, 2012


Terry Terrance discussed his photo backdrops during model rail radio tonight, and it prodded me to think about the possibilities of minimalist scenery.  Anders Wirten pressed me on the issue in an e-mail after I made a comment in the chat--and it seemed appropriate to go a bit further with the idea in this context.

I know a lot of people will think of Dave Barrow's Cat Mountain and Santa Fe layout when they here mention of minimalist scenery--flat modules with structures, and not a lot else.  That, however, is not what I am thinking of.  I am wondering how little scenic work one could do and still achieve an engrossing scene, one which invites the viewer to suspend their disbelief--and "enter" the scale creation at a deeper level if only with their eye.

Could you model Kansas, or Eastern Colorado with amber waves of static grass and a photo?  I think so.  Could you model the Lucen Cutoff--a long rail causway crossing the great salt lake with a photo for the sky--and a photo of the water--or, of the sky again--representing its own reflection.  The photo of the cutoff below, incidentally,  is from the HAER collection of the Library of Congress.

It seemed clear to me that Terry was conceiving of his scenes with photos in mind--understanding the way that the photo and the models would work together to create a cohesive scene--that photography is not an addition the the model--it is modelling.   Terry's Blog can be seen at

The other model railroader that comes to mind is Pelle Soeborg.  Although his former Danneville Subdivision layout had complete scenery in the traditional sense, it has a clean, sparse aesthetic with plain, even banal structures.  There are not details pouring from every corner--but rather there is an openness and clarity that is itself evocative of the American West.

While my tendencies might be toward more scenery proper--it is fun to think about how little actually needs to be done.

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