Realistic Train layouts ?

I build plastic models and dioramas. Realism is something Istrive for. Am curious why layout designs I see often disregard this.
I was googling for info on HO trains as I am thinking of starting up the hobby. What I saw kinda bugs me and I would like to know if this is how its done in this hobby or was it just bad design?
The layout I found was full of buildings but they were all clean and shiny - you could tell they were plastic. No attempts were made to weather or age anything. And right next to the track on the other side were a crammed in park and a lake with boats. I got the feeling that the designer wanted to get everything he owned in the layout. And well, it looked ridiculous. I see this a lot with model dioramas too. A scene with a tank with 3-4 soldiers can tell a better story at times instead of 3-4 tanks and 20 figures and buildings, debris, etc. It can be hard to hold back your stash.
In your experience have you all found that a lean layout looks empty and unfinished? I'm just not sure why they always look so busy. Are you trying to offer a city/country, etc scene all in one layout?
If I get this train disease I hope to build in the 1800's era or WWII era; in the western US. From earlier posts I have discovered that there most likely are no 4-4-0 HO engines or cars so that idea may be shot. Do not know what is out there for WWII era cars.
Hope you all can shed some enlightenment my way.
Best - Craig
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On 12/17/2010 2:38 PM Musicman59 spake thus:

You need to look at some different layouts. I'd suggest starting with George Sellios' Franklin & South Manchester, which is everything that plasticated layout you looked at isn't.
To answer your question above, yes, it's just bad design. One does see a lot of those "Plasticville" layouts, but fortunately there are also many which are anything but.
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I'm afraid we have to disagree here. Sellios' F&SM is, IMO, not that realistic and looks more like a caricature of the Dirty Thirties than real life.
While it may be an example of excellence in modelling, it's far from realistic. More Disneyesque than realistic.
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On 12/17/2010 5:00 PM Roger Traviss spake thus:
[OP wrote":]

[I responded:]

You're putting rather a finer point on the discussion than I had intended.
But since you brought it up, OK: I suppose by the most restrictive definition of "realistic", Sellios' stuff doesn't quite meet it. By which I mean a note-for-note replica of a scene circa [insert time period here].
But damnit, his buildings, scenes, indeed his entire little HO universe is *plenty* realistic, meaning that he captures the feeling, creates a simalucrum of the place he invites his visitors to imagine. Not a small part of it is the "dirt" that he overlays everything with. Now, I haven't really seen much of John Allen's work, but having seen a lot of George Sellios, I think he is *the* master of making things look realistic through weathering. Disneyesque? In this context, I'm not even sure whether to interpret that as an insult or as praise.
In any case, I sense a good bit of disdain on your part to anything that's not a good British railroad scene. Fair enough; I really don't know anything about, nor do I give much of a shit about, what British scenes of the 1930s look like. You do, which is entirely appropriate, since you grew up there.
I think my answer was perfectly good to the OP's concern about "plasticky" looking layouts. Since he wasn't asking about historical-society realism, I assumed that pointing him in the direction of more realism was appropriate, and I stand by my selection of an example. There are many others, of course, and I'm sure there are British masters of the art as well.
So are we OK?
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"David Nebenzahl"

I have an advantage, if you will, by having experience in modelling both sides of the pond. I have seen the best of both worlds. In general, I think the best North American modelling captures the more gritty aspect of railroads than do most UK models which I feel are way too clean and tidy. The buildings are usually pristine as are platforms, rolling stock and locomotives, which is not how I remember the railways in the UK in 1960s at all. :-)
That's why I now model North American, even if freelanced, over modelling the UK.
There are numerous published railroads in MR and RMC that I feel are far more "realistic" than the F&SM or in fact the G&D, although I think that's considered sacrilege by many. The V&O, the Midland Road and others who's names I can't think of right now as I'm too tired. :-)
Overly detailed scenes populated by hundreds of miniature people are not realistic, unless you're modelling downtown on a Saturday afternoon and even then, that needs to be done carefully. Next time you are out in your car driving around the suburbs, where you probably live, see how many people you can see either walking, working in their yards or performing any other function. Not many I'd hazard a guess. Ditto for industrial parks, you see very few people. Go to the local shopping mall and see how many people you see in the parking lot. A dozen at most, if that? Yet MR and the other magazines are always writing about creating "mini-scenes" which, on their own, are OK but when you have a layout over populated with mini-scenes, as seen in the Big Picture, you end up with a model railway that is over crowded with people etc..
As for plasticy buildings, I agree. Everything on my GER was weathered. Freight cars, locomotives, passenger cars, automobiles, trucks, buildings, even people. There were also few people visible, which is as it is in the real world. A few people on the downtown streets, one or two workers visible or partially visible at the manufacturing plants and warehouses and one or two around the freight yards and engine terminals. Just like real life and not how the model magazines suggest.
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On 12/17/2010 9:51 PM Roger Traviss spake thus:

I'll grant you that about the F&SM; I guess you could say it is a bit "cartoony" (and maybe overpopulated). Sellios doesn't make many bones about how he likes to create such "scenes" in his writing about the layout.

(Or like the shiny new layouts one sees in TV commercials, like the one for Amtrak currently running here in the US.)
Well, got to give it to you: you write a good answer there.
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On Fri, 17 Dec 2010 21:51:51 -0800, Roger Traviss wrote:

You're comparing a layout set in the '30s with today. There were a lot more people on the streets back then. People walked a lot more. They shopped a lot more because ice boxes were small. Houses got hot with no air conditioning. Next time, consider the era before you reach a conclusion.
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.

Look at photos taken at the time.
Yes, there were more people walking but as I wrote before, you still need to be careful and not over do it.
I think Sellios et al do over do it. Even Sellios has rebuilt parts of his original railroad as even he thought it was too much of a caricature.
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On 18/12/2010 12:51 AM, Roger Traviss wrote: [...]

[...]
C. S Lewis in one of his essays about fiction drew a distinction between "life-like" and "like life." A story can be "life-like" without being "like life", sci-fi and fantasy are the obvious examples. The opposite is also true, a story can be "like life" without being "life-like." Many (most, in my experience) of those educational stories concocted by well-meaning preachers and teachers are of that kind. TV's so-called "reality shows" are neither. ;-)
We may claim that the highest art is both life-like and like life, but that's another issue.
Apply these concepts to layouts: Allen's Gorre and Daphetid and Sellios's Franklin & South Manchester are life-like, but not like life. McClelland's V&O, Koester's Midlnad Road, are like life and life-like. I've seen many layouts (such as the UK ones you mentioned) that are like life, but are too neat and clean to be life like.
I think we differ mostly in our attitudes to "life-like" and "like life." But we can, I hope, all admire high levels of craft and skill, even when it's in the service of a fantasy that doesn't appeal to us. We all, I think, imagine the world we depict, more or less successfully, in out layouts.
Wolf K.
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"Wolf K"

I agree with that last statement Wolf. I've seen far too many UK model railways that exhibit excellent modelling and as I wrote in a previous post, are far too clean and neat which I think spoils them.
OTOH, I've seen far too many (usually) narrow gauge model railroads that have gone overboard in the other direct. Far to run down and decrepit. So run down that in real life they would be shut down. :-)
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On Fri, 17 Dec 2010 20:04:01 -0800, David Nebenzahl wrote:

I'm not so sure about that. I grew up in the '40s and a lot of his scenes look quite familiar. Of course my memory may have exaggerated things so maybe George has too. But I'm more inclined to think he just ignored the nicer part of town because it wasn't as interesting :-).
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On 12/18/2010 11:59 AM, Larry Blanchard wrote:

One of the comments that I have made in the past in comparing the modeling of George Sellios to that of Dave Frary or Rand Hood is that the layout of the former has character, while the allegedly more realistic layouts of the latter two lack character. Frankly, I'd rather visit (and build) a layout with character.
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On Fri, 17 Dec 2010 14:38:40 -0800 (PST), Musicman59

This has to be the ultimate layout.
Pendon, 4mm scale depicting a huge swathe of British countryside in which the railway is only a small part of re-creating the 1930s as realistically as possible.
Just look at the attention to detail.
From Bob Symes-Schutzmann's youtube channel (BobSymes)
Pendon part 1
http://www.youtube.com/user/BobSymes#p/u/4/jXoQJYqL4kw

Pendon part 2
http://www.youtube.com/user/BobSymes#p/u/3/-u-bGH2o7Cw

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Agreed, 100%. You don't get much more realistic that Pendon.
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Nor do you often get that much space. For smaller, but equally well detailed British layouts, see work by Chris Nevard - I particularly like 'Arne Wharf' - http://www.nevardmedia5.fotopic.net/p64821535.html or 'County Gate' by John de Frayssinet and Jennifer Ayres - http://www.009.cd2.com/index.htm
Those two ought to keep the OP busy for a couple weeks!
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On Fri, 17 Dec 2010 14:38:40 -0800, Musicman59 wrote:

You might find a lot more help for the 1800's at the EarlyRail Yahoo group. Give it a try. For early cars take a look at:
http://www.btsrr.com/btscar01.htm
and check out their US Military RR offerings.
Locomotives are not as easy to find but some exist and many "modernized" versions can be backdated to their original as built state.
For a more realistic layout than the one you looked at, there are lots of possibilities but this is about as good as it gets:
http://www.horailroad.com/fsm/fsmlayout0.html
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On Fri, 17 Dec 2010 14:38:40 -0800, Musicman59 wrote:

I'm rather new to the game - haven't yet built a 'proper' layout, but I think I can give a little insight into the issues you address. First, I think many folks are 'into' running trails more than they are 'into' doing detailed scenery. As for the busy-ness of the layouts - I think that is related to horizontal compression. Yes, you can do all this stuff to scale, but to 'model' a mile (5280 feet) in HO would require 60 feet - about 30 feet in N. Who has the room to 'model' a 50 mile section of road?
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You don't. You hide it in staging yards and fiddle yards.
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You can fall into your own navel getting a layout more and more detailed, and yet never reach absolute one-to-one realism. That being the case, most model railroaders prefer to get their layouts up and running and then backfill the details once the mechanical parts are running consistantly.
Some folks never get around to doing much detailing, weathering, etcetera; but what the heck: it's a hobby and if they get more pleasure out of running trains -and look upon the layout as being only something that keeps the trains from falling to the floor- then more power to 'em.
OTOH, some guys prefer to spend circa 50 hours on each boxcar, and go for details that will never be visible when the car is on the rails; if, indeed it ever *gets* on the rails. Because some model railroaders just like to build stuff and don't care about running it. Ever.
In short; there isn't a "right" or a "wrong": it's *your* railroad and you're free to do whatever you wish with it. (After all, it wouldn't be much fun if there was a rulebook we all had to follow.)
~Pete
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wrote:

You can fall into your own navel getting a layout more and more detailed, and yet never reach absolute one-to-one realism. That being the case, most model railroaders prefer to get their layouts up and running and then backfill the details once the mechanical parts are running consistantly.
Some folks never get around to doing much detailing, weathering, etcetera; but what the heck: it's a hobby and if they get more pleasure out of running trains -and look upon the layout as being only something that keeps the trains from falling to the floor- then more power to 'em.
OTOH, some guys prefer to spend circa 50 hours on each boxcar, and go for details that will never be visible when the car is on the rails; if, indeed it ever *gets* on the rails. Because some model railroaders just like to build stuff and don't care about running it. Ever.
In short; there isn't a "right" or a "wrong": it's *your* railroad and you're free to do whatever you wish with it. (After all, it wouldn't be much fun if there was a rulebook we all had to follow.)
-------------------------------------------------------------------- And some people have fun Following the Rulebook!
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