Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Simple Scene

There was some great modelling at the recent Manitoba Mega Train show in Winnipeg. But of all the modules on the various layouts, this simple scene from the Echo Valley Railroad Guild of Regina jumped out at me.

Why? Because it is simple, uncluttered, unassuming—and unusual.

Why is it unusual? Because you don’t often see a simple scene like this on a modular layout. 

Instead, many of them are busy and cluttered. Many modules are filled with tracks, buildings, vehicles, people, and whatever.

I understand why that happens. When someone doesn’t have a layout, they can be tempted to use every square inch in an effort to maximize the opportunity and the real estate.

But Jeff Betcher, the maker of this scene, didn't do that. He showed a powerful sense of discipline to not fill the space.

In so doing, Jeff also captured the essence of much of the North American right of way.

The fact of the matter is that most of the landscape trains run through is not urban. It's rural.

For much of the way the trains pass, all that can be seen is trees, hills, fields, water. Repeat.

In agricultural areas, it is farms, with acres and acres of crops.

A believable scene like this is not easy to make. A busy urban scene is easier to pull off since the eye is easily distracted by a hundred different items. 

But having just a few things in the scene means everything needs to work much harder to be convincing.

In my opinion, Jeff accomplished that goal. Looking at it, I can imagine myself in rural Canada, waiting on a gravel road for a train to pass.

When it comes to modular layouts, or even our own home layouts, we can all be tempted to fill every inch. 

Not doing that can sometimes be the best way to create a great looking model railroad.


  1. Great post and thoughts John! I'm glad this very simple module really connected with you and brought back images and memories from your railfanning experiences. It means the modellers wanted to tell a story and share a particular feeling with others and perfectly reached his goal. Now, imagine how a large layout built with the same restrain would be powerful. But that's the neat thing, this kind of scene is effective with only four feet long of benchwork (in HO), meaning is it highly achievable for anybody. As I've gain experience in model railroading, I came to the conclusion modelling the ordinary and mundane was far harder yet much more satisfying. We are too often distracted by oddballs and fail miserably at looking at what characterizes our favorite subject matter.

  2. A well done scene. The other side of the tracks looks interesting too.