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The Illusion and the Reality

The human eye is capable of very fine detail -but it can also be fooled very easily. The G3 scale is 1:22.6 which is in effect the same as the "G" scale used by Lehman Grosse Bahn of 1:22.5. This does mean that quite a lot of "G" scale stuff will work quite happily with G3 stuff. The two other major garden scales are Gauge 1 and 16mm. The former is slightly too small and the latter is slightly too big. However with some thought it is quite easy to "mix and match" some of these into a G3 layout. Putting the smaller figures and items towards the rear produces a foreshortened effect to the eye -as it expects things farther away to be smaller...

The most common "dolls house" scale is 1:24. What has happened in the course of time is that people have grown taller. The height of a typical Victorian was 5 feet 3 inches thus it would be in keeping with a late C19th or early C20th layout to have "naturally small" people around.

Similarly a large item directly in the path of the viewer will enhance the effect. The eye is thus fooled into believing everything is fine even though the scales are wrong!!!

A common effect is the 2D window. If you paint a locomotive window or glass black, the eye will accept it as it expects the interior to be dark. Putting even a simple set curtains cut from a catalogue page and glued to the inside of the window will produce a sense of space behind it -even if the window is simply glued onto a solid opaque sheet of ply. This means that if the eye sees a familiar shape it will automatically put in the things that are not there.

Another thing the eye can be fooled with is "Weathering"... In actuality the amount of muck and grime that have been loaded onto model locomotives in the sake of "realism" can be classed as useless. Locomotives were washed at the end of each day and crews were given prizes for the best turned out locos. This is because a well kept clean and oiled locomotive normally requires less "shop work" than one with grime getting into all the motions. At the end of a long journey say London to Edinburgh there would be "some" grime but the loco would be washed when it was uncoupled.

Wagons are a different story... They were brightly painted and so were seen as brand advertising. ICI had some very strangely painted ones to test their paints in all climatic conditions. The fittings and ironwork will show some surface corrosion, anything more and the "Marshal" would direct them to be repaired. This cost the owners money and thus they did tend to fettle their stock to keep costs down.

Frills and Frippery

With the exception of type 43s and Mk3 coaches not everything is aerodynamically "clean"... Thus there will be projecting parts and stuff to catch on plants and rip off after your pride and joy has done a swan dive into the nearest rose bush. The chief victims of this are handrail stanchions, door handles and coach ventilators.

If possible try and find hand rail stanchions of the screw thread type rather than the glue in plug type. These will have a more robust mechanical connection to the bodywork and the 1/16th inch (or 1.6mm) rod that laces them all together will stand a better chance of survival.

Door handles are a quandry. The "T" type handles are very delicate and will not survive a "side swipe" with another wagon or coach. I use a combination of the brass "T" handles sold by GRS and the plastic "L" handles sold by Cambrian Models. The "T" type is fairly reliable with gentle handling and the "L" type I only use on buildings and brake wagons.

Coach ventilators are another quandry... Depending on how you have constructed your roof -it may actually be impossible to fit them. My LMS coach rooves are made from sheets of cardboard stiffened with PVA glue and covered with "duck" cotton canvas. This lot is then painted with aluminium roofing paint. The result is a very realistic textured matte grey surface. However the roof of the coach is very "springy" and the only real way of fitting ventilators is to "grind" a 2mm hole with a Dremel fitted with an engraving bit.

The Ten Foot Rule

Some people see this as a cheat but it is actually a useful guide to tell you when you have got it "right". It is quite acceptable to do fine detailing on a single model that you can take great pride in. But the question arises -how many do you have to make? I would suggest that you stop at a level where everything that needs to be seen on an item is there. This enables you to mass produce batches of wagons or coaches and vary them between batches -as would be normal! You might also have to accept that despite your best intentions it will never be to scale but it is all there is... A point in case would be the use of "theatre" route indicators at a station terminus. In the mid 1970s and 80s it was very easy to find small 7x5 LED matrix lamps to provide the route numbers, letters and arrows that graced 00 layouts. Finding one of those today is an task in digging through the boxes in the junk stores. The remaining ones on the market are going to be too big by a factor of 35%. By a fluke 8mm LEDs are the right size for 2,3 and 4 aspect light signals with 3mm ones being correct to make "feathers" with.

If the loco, coach, or wagon looks right when moving on the tracks then it is right by definition. You can always add more bits to it, but it would be better served running around in the sun.

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Page last modified on February 27, 2018, at 11:38 AM