Monday, August 3, 2009

Reality Vs. Plausibility in Model Railroading

Two SD40-2 units pull a train upgrade on the M & M Sub.

With the great ready-to-roll models being produced today, it's possible for our model railroads to look increasingly more like the prototype--correct fans, hoods, doors, louvers, wheels, handrails and other details all add to our ability to make our modelling look as good as possible.

But despite the tremendous strides being made by manufacturers, our model railroads will never look realistic, in my opinion.

No matter how "real" a photo of a layout looks, there is always something to let you know that it's just a model--the size of the couplers, size of the rail, the ties, rail joiners, trees, grass, etc., not to mention the figures (which rarely look realistic, as far as I'm concerned).

For this reason, I don't strive for realism in my modelling. (I couldn't achieve it, anyway, even if I tried.) Instead, my goal is plausibility: Does a scene look believable? Does it look like it could really happen in real life?

There are various ways to create plausibility. Good scenery helps, as do good looking structures, backdrops and trees and some generous weathering.

Sticking to one railway, era and region also makes a difference; an AC4400 running beside a steam locomotive, a mix of roadnames from across North America, or a mixture of rolling stock from the 1940s to the 1990s will undermine any effort to make a layout look plausible.

I'm resigned to the fact that my layout will never look realistic. But if it makes you think that you could be seeing CP Rail in the prairies and Canadian shield in the early to mid-1990s, I've achieve my goals.

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