I Blame Mears for this…

I lay the blame for this post squarely on the shoulders of my friend in Nova Scotia Chris Mears. He posted a gorgeous drawing by James Hilton of the mini layout of Coy Paper in New Hampshire that Chris is Building (you really should check out his blog on what he’s doing, its going to be great!). I sent Chris an email about something for his mini layout, and the observant sort he is, he commented on something I said in the email and pushed for more info.

My response, was that I am not nearly the artist that James is, and I didn’t think I could do a sketch nearly as nice as his of what I have been noodling around in my mind as a possible side diorama project, which, I note, I don’t really need, I’m building a layout, and I don’t model modern…or own the equipment for the diorama…yet here we are…

Pre-visualization is an important tool in painting, sketching, drawing, architecture, movie making, and, yes, Model Railroading. Sketching things out, looking at how the pieces fit together, can you achieve what you want, and yes, inspiration on the look of what you are doing. Despite my education and professional background as an Urban Planner, I was not strong in drawing, never was. I am decent on a computer in CAD or 3D modelling, but in my life I have never been particularly good with pen, pencil, marker and paper.

So, inspite of my better judgement to continue to not entertain the ideas rattling around in my empty head, in response to Mears’ email (coming back to he who shall be blamed), I pulled out the drawing supplies, and off we went sketching the “Modern” diorama shelf that has been brewing in my mind.

Stages of sketching, from blank paper to pencil lined and ready for ink and colour.
EDIT: Adding this sketch from Anyrail just to try and help visualize my initial thoughts on the track alignment in response to James’ comment. This is really a project where I would need to build the bridge at least in high quality mockup to see what the angles and spacing are.

So what am I thinking of? A tiny compressed slice of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Galt Subdivision in Milton. Using my usual diorama base of Ikea shelves, I can re-arrange the two wide Billy’s I have under the layout to get a 30″ by 10″ shelf, wide enough for a compressed version of the view east from Canyon Road (note my spelling error in the draft work above..d’oh!). This is a stretch of double track, with a slight incline from east to west, where there are a pair of signals to the east of the road, past an old private crossing wooden farm bridge (which is still in use as the only way to access some fields between the CPR tracks and Highway 401!). This is a gorgeous spot, and I became quite smitten with it after finally taking a day and making sure I got some trains there with the bridge framing them. Lets be honest, private crossings like this, especially old timber ones are rare, and it would be all to easy for it to be gone tomorrow and I’d spend years regretting not getting the shot!

The view east from Canyon Road as a CPR train climbs towards Campbelville passing beneath the wooden farm bridge, and my sketch of what I’d like to create. Room for a modern locomotive and an autorack to create the feel of this for photography.

The actual length from the farm bridge to the signals is a lot more than could be modelled in 30″, but, I could create the feel of the location, and it would give me an excuse to buy an Athearn Genesis SD70ACu when they do a second run including the D-Day Tribute locomotive 6644 (I love it, some of my friends think I’m nuts, either way) and a nicely detailed modern autorack like those from ScaleTrains. Do I need any of this? Hell No! But I kind of want it, and I’ve been spending an undue amount of time of late thinking about what supplies I’d need, how I would lay track (even contemplating handlaying it…gasp), and how I would create the sense of the view from the road in HO scale. I guess watch this space dear readers…and Mears….this is for you…

5 thoughts on “I Blame Mears for this…

  1. Thank you for the praise and kind words about my sketches and if it has encouraged you to put pencil to paper than I’m sure that Chris will happily take the blame!

    If I can suggest a few thoughts on the scheme, being familiar with a Billy book case…

    First of all, what emotional response does the prototype encourage, you don’t have to share it, but if it’s strong enough this will be built, if it isn’t, it won’t. Having designed and built layouts my whole life I’ve learnt this through experience…

    If you feel the response is deep enough then for me, the view here needs careful thought.

    As drawn, largely side on it would be easy to include lighting on the underside of the front edge of the above shelf, but you’ll struggle to disguise the edges of the scene as the prototype is soooo long…

    I’d maybe think about angling the track, front to back… giving the option of a view down the track, which seems to me to offer the best view of that lovely old bridge… it will also help break up the horizontal nicely!

    Hope that helps!

    • Hi James, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your thoughts, and share some of them that didn’t translate well into my attempt at a sketch.My initial track planning software sketch has the track angled with the area by the signals at the back, and the end at the bridge as near to the front as the bridge will allow (i’ve added it into the post above). My initial thought was really creating something for photography with a backdrop where the angle you would photograph from when its set up is down the tracks under the bridge like the photo from the level crossing. You are right that in reality, more often than not, it would be viewed side on while in the bookcase. That changes what you do. The first rough plan I was trying to have the signals on both sides, but in reality, that may not be necessary, and the signals on the viewer side only would allow the track angle to be skewed further across the board.

      The emotional response thought process is an interesting one, for me, since I took that photograph in October last year, It has been in my mind as such a great opportunity for a cameo scene to display equipment, even if only just static and not operating. The image of the train working uphill under the old wooden bridge just makes me happy thinking of how rewarding it is getting the shot when you are out railfanning as so many things can spoil the effort and the waiting.

      As I said, this is an early idea. Its one that needs more thought and processing before it reaches the point of buying anything or building anything, but sometimes the process as much as the building is the more important part of the adventure. Will I build this, who knows, but I might, and working my way through the considerations and permutations both in my head and from others feedback can only help to make it a better project if it happens.



  2. Haha! This is brilliant!

    Thank you for taking the time to share this idea. And that sketching is fantastic. Sometimes we draw to present our vision of the idea to an audience but I often find the sketching is a beautiful method of testing the form of an idea (the old “if you can draw it you can build it”). Sometimes the process of creating the drawing becomes like its own conversation and during that narrative an opportunity is exposed.

  3. Looking at your photo and because this is a diorama could the track be arranged to recreate that same view of the bridge? It could even breach the front face of the shelf and reach out a little closer to the viewer. I’m so excited. This is fantastic!

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