Tuesday, 4 May 2010

New Zealand Model Railway Convention - Part 2

Well, I'd better catch up with my report of the New Zealand Model Railway Convention from Christchurch at Easter (a few weeks ago now).

Day 2 was on Saturday 3rd April. The morning started with a number of concurrent clinics. The clinics included "modelling with CAD" and "NZ scenery". I went to the clinic on layout design by Iain Rice. This presentation followed on from Iain's presentation the previous day. I made some notes during the session in my usual dot point format which I will use here.

Layout design:
  • design for realism and visual effect
  • take a natural viewpoint (the way the layout will be viewed compared to how we view the prototype - the two are not the same)
  • design with consistency when it comes to standards and quality (without a consistent display, variation to standards and quality become obvious and detract from the display)
  • accurate observation of the prototype and layout are critical, especially vegetation
  • use natural colours - colour intensity recedes with distance; restrained colours more appropriate than stark, bright colours; requires superb observation and translation to model; and backdrops are important to finish off scenes
Iain then went on to describe some methods to employ when planning a layout.
  • Need to look at the combined relationship between layout height, viewpoint & backscene
  • Need to pin down the horizon. In real life, the horizon is the eye level to the edge of the visible earth. Therefore, we need to account for the horizon on our model the same way, paying attention to the position of the skyline above (hills) or below (valleys) the horizon.
The functions of the backscene:
  • cut out distractions and focus attention on the layout
  • give the impression of distance and depth to a layout
  • establishes the horizon (viewing perspective)
  • contains the scene
  • complements the model display
  • layout lighting enhances the way a layout is observed by the viewer
  • lighting affects the way colour on the layout is perceived (i.e. prototype v. model colours)
  • light at back of scene to kill off shadows from light at the front of the display
Composition of layout design:
  • need for the right balance between the position of vertical and horizontal scenic elements
  • needs to be visually appealing
  • suggests the use of view blocks to focus a viewer's attention in order to showcase a particular scene or to "discourage" the close examination of a scene or scenic element. Thus, view blocks can direct a view or block a view.
  • the span of vision for humans is 3' (36 inches) for a view 4' 6" (54 inches) wide - that's what my notes say!
  • visual compression - not always possible to reduce a scenic element (e.g. a building) to an exact scale reduction because the object is often too large for the available space. Or it may not look right on the layout, irrespective of what the 1:1 scale might suggest. In these situations, try compressing the object proportionately by 80-90% and then make to scale (i.e. reduce the proportion of the actual object to be scaled for modelling purposes).
Visual planning aids:
  • perspective sketching is helpful (and Iain is quite skilled in this type of art)
  • a "planning model" may help visualise your plan. The idea would be to do mock-ups, either in the same scale as your layout or smaller to check positioning and whether it looks right
  • establish visual balance for enhanced composition
The clinic I went to next was on room and layout lighting. The clinic was given by a local Christchurch lighting specialist and focused on the different types of lighting, light bulbs and tubes that could be used for a layout and layout room. An early decision that affects lighting is to decide the purpose of the room in which your layout lives. Is the room totally for the layout or are there other purposes? A room just for the layout will have a different emphasis on room lighting than a room with multiple purposes.

The main learning point for me was to look for daylight fluorescent tubes rated at 4200-4800K. Fluorescent tubes still offer better quality lighting for the money than alternatives (such as halogen or LEDs for room and layout lighting). Interestingly, Iain Rice recommended "cool white" lights at 4200K as well.

The second half of the day was spent on a layout tour. I saw layouts at five different homes in the north Christchurch area. The five layouts included three English, three US, and one NZR 1:64 (S scale) layout. And if you can add up, let me explain that a couple of the homes had more than one layout! Scales represented included N, HO, OO, S, and G scale garden railroading.

I really appreciated the time the layout owners gave to host the tour, provide information and respond to questions, and for their obvious delight in running trains! And thanks to our driver who took four of us around in his car. The afternoon was very enjoyable indeed.

The next blog posting will have Day 3 and some photos...stay tuned!

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