Sunday, May 25, 2014

Realism vs reality, or why you measure before you build

Measure twice, cut once.  Check whether you've got the funds before starting a building project.  All good advice.  And when it comes to model railroading, there's another good one to remember: decide how you're going to trade off realism and reality.  I've seen pictures of amazingly detailed models, capturing in near perfect detail a particular section of a particular line in a particular year.  Right down to the numbers on the carriages and wagons.  At the other extreme, some folk just want to run trains, and don't care if it's on bare track, no scenery whatsoever.

I'd like to think I sit somewhere in the middle - I want my layout to look realistic, but I'm not trying to replicate the scene perfectly.  I'm willing to compromise realism to fit within the limits of reality - space, budget, time, all that.  What I didn't understand was how quickly I'd be tested on it.

The scene I'd like to model is simple: a set of eight silos beside the train line on the western Darling Downs.  I knew from the outset there'd be some compromise: the line is a single track, but the T-Trak model standard that I'm working to specifies two tracks.

Then, as reported in this post, I discovered a kit that was a candidate for the job.  But, it differs from the real silos in a few too many ways, so I'm not sure whether I'll go with it or not.  For example:
  • The kit has all eight silos in a single block.  The prototype (model railroad slang for "the real thing") has two groups of four, linked only by some overhead fixtures.  Modifying ("kitbashing") it to achieve this would probably require two kits.  Alternately I can get PVC pipe from a hardware store and use that to the same effect.
  • Some very rough photo matching with Google Earth suggests the kit is taller than the prototype, and that each silo is a smaller diameter.

But, after buying track yesterday (yay!) I'm continuing the paper design today and once you allow for the pair of tracks across the front of the module, there's not much space left.  The scale equivalent of 50 m wide by 32.6 m deep (away from the tracks).  And some more very rough analysis suggests that the prototype silos will take up all of that space.  Whereas the kit will fit in quite nicely.


Looks like my next step is downloading Google Earth and SketchUp to do some more accurate size estimation.

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