Kingsvale, NSW 1963

Kingsvale, NSW 1963
A view of Kingsvale station, looking north towards Cowra c1963. Courtesy Ken Ames, "From Grease to Gold Braid".

Monday, 13 June 2011

Real or imaginary?

Hi all,

I had an interesting discussion at the Epping exhibition yesterday, about the pros and cons of a layout which represents a real location, or one which is "fictional" - somewhere which never existed, but recognisably follows NSW practice.

I've always wanted to model a specific place, to re-create the feel of a location I like being at.  To do this would be a kind of labour of love; you would really need to know the place intimately to capture its character in model form.

The alternate view put to me, was that this is too limiting.  With the inevitable compromises imposed by space, time or budget, modelling a real location can be frustrating and difficult.

Furthermore, the public want to see layouts which have the "wow factor", and real locations are generally pretty dull, especially on country branchlines.  I can accept that, but my goal is to model a location on a country branch, dull or not!  Besides, I'm not really that interested in satisfying the tastes of the general public.  Most of them would expect to see trains charging around the layout (one every 10 seconds or less), with the KFC hard up against a bright green tunnel.

I'm not dismissing the vital role that exhibitions play in bringing new people to the hobby.  Nor am I criticising those who exhibit month-in month-out, which must be a pretty thankless task.  But I'm not building an exhibition layout.  It's for me.

Would a rose by any other name smell any different?  If I build a real location, with a few compromises, but give it a fictional name, what does that do to the perceptions of the viewer compared with the same layout given the name of the location it's intended to depict?  Does it attract a more critical eye, looking for those errors and omissions to expose the modeller as a fraud?

In my limited experience of building layouts (this being the first serious attempt in my adult life), I like building real locations.  I see the advantages of the limitations this imposes.  It constrains my tendency to add too much to the layout.  It prevents me from buying every piece of rolling stock that I happen to like.  I don't have to think too hard about what would be consistent with usual NSWGR practice, because I'm just building it "off the plan".

Anyway, it's a subject I think about a lot and am quite interested in.  A number of high-quality layouts over the years with fictional names have captured the essence of the NSW landscape and NSWGR practice; it was not hard to guess the location they depicted; would they have been perceived as "better" or "worse" if they  used the real name?  East Matelend, Warratoo and Hawkesbury River are examples.

Should I change the name of my layout to "Queens Vale" or "Kings Vail"?

1 comment:

  1. Hi James,

    I don't see a problem at all modelling a particular place and calling it that name, even if it means some compromises by means of compressing the size of the area modelled, and that not every single item of the prototype will be present.

    At the end of the day, we are recreating a "likeness" of the real thing, so as long as the parts modelled represent a fair interpretation of the real thing, then why shouldn't it use the name of the original place?

    I do tend to agree that if the location being modelled has to be changed too heavily that there may be a case for not calling it after it after the real thing. Building a version of Sydney Central Station with six country platforms would be too much of a stretch for instance.

    Also with some locations, there may be a part that you don't particularly like, for instance if you are modelling a particular era and the old goods shed that was there has been replaced with a tin monstrosity, then a little modellers license could be used to keep the original style shed. At the end of the day it's your layout and you have to look at and operate it, so you might as well have what you want within reason.

    It seems to me that even those who don;t model a specific area then go to a lot of trouble to make up a story about it being a proposed line that was never built in order to give it some validity in time and space, so if you can build something that didn't exist, why not build a likeness of something that did!

    At the end of the day if what you build can be recognised and compared to the real thing (Crafton, Hawkesbury River, Menangle, East Mateland, Warratoo etc) then why not just use the correct name?