Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pendon - Part 2 The Vale Scene

Nothing can prepare you for The Vale Scene. 
Sounds a bit like a tag line for a movie doesn't it? Perhaps I'm overhyping it a bit.
Perhaps not.
Take a look at the picture below. This is the view that greets you at the top of the stairs from the Dartmoor scene. It's nothing much. A view across countryside in 4mm scale. A clump of trees, a railway embankment and not much else. Then you realise that the backscene is about 15 feet away. 
The "nothingness", the space is almost overpowering. In this hobby of ours we are used to dealing with selectively compressed scenes and many modellers advocate using buildings in smaller scales as you recede to the horizon to create the illusion of distance. Here there is no compression, no use of smaller scale buildings to create the illusion of distance. See that farm in the distance? It's 4mm scale too.

 Above: Then there is the structure modelling that Pendon is rightly famous for. Finely finished highly detailed structures, built from card and painted with watercolours. That's right, no embossed styrene sheets here. Each model is painstakingly built from card and the bricks and stonework are embossed and then painted by hand. The roofing tiles are either applied individually or in singles rows depending on the builder. A typical structure like this one probably has in the region of 200 hours work invested in it. I remember seeing Pendon Cottage modeller extraordinaire Chris Pilton doing a demonstration stand at a show many years ago. I was amazed that people could do such work. I remember going away inspired and building my own superdetailed buildings for a while. My guide tried to get me to contribute to Pendon by building something. I was honoured to be asked. Do my standards reach those advocated by Pendon? There is of course only one way to find out.
Above: A bus drives down a country lane. Nothing else. So incredibly natural and realistic.
Above: A slice of English country life now gone.
Above: This farm scene is beautiful.
Above: Even though the railway runs through the Vale, in the time I was there I only noticed one train running through it.
This last picture shows the full depth of the Vale scene. From here the backscene is over 70 feet away that's one scale mile.
The day I was there, thanks to inclement weather overnight, attendance was low so my wife and I were lucky enough to basically have personal guided tours of the Vale scene. So we were able to have lots of the details pointed out to us. I, as a modeller, was able to discuss some of the techniques and what it takes to model for Pendon.
I hope these pictures have whetted your appetite to visit Pendon and you make a visit in the near future. Being close to a Oxford, a major tourist centre, it should be easy for any self respecting modeller to trade a trip to Pendon against visiting some of the historical sights there. Should your significant other (and family) though it is very likely that everyone will come away having enjoyed a trip to Pendon.
So what can we small layout railway modellers learn from Pendon?
You'd probably think "nothing at all" being that Pendon is over 1,000 times larger than my latest APA box creation. But I think you'd be very wrong.
The importance of space. Yes, Pendon takes this to the extremes but I think that we small layout modellers tend to think that because we have small layouts it's important to cram as much track as we can into the area to get good operation. Not so. Absorb the details of the real landscape, see how buildings relate to each other. Only in intense urban situations are buildings slapped down one next to another, one on top of another. I feel each structure, each wagon/car needs its own "space". I know there are people feel uncomfortable when someone violates their own "personal space" in a crowded area. Shouldn't we accord that same respect for space on our model railways?
Attention to detail. This one is absolutely blindingly obvious. Detail draws viewers into the model, to look closely. To spend more than a minute looking at your display. Detail doesn't have to be a fully furnished room interior. Though if you have a structure at the front of your model with plenty of windows I certainly suggest putting a high level of detail in there. Of course I don't just mean detail on that level.


There you go two things you can take away from Pendon and employ on your layouts that will make your layouts better. My, this was a long post I hope you weren't too bored by it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pendon - An inspirational interlude - part one

I have just returned from a 10 day holiday back home in England. OK, so January/February is a strange time of year to go but happy family circumstance dictated the time of year, so we were more than happy to be there. We, (the wife and I) also got time to do some touristy sight seeing in Lincoln, London and Oxford. Of particular importance to this blog was our trip to Pendon, the world famous "Museum of miniature landscape and Transport modelling" to give it its proper title. It is an absolute treat for model makers of all disciplines but particularly railway modellers. 
There are three models to see there, all famous, if not legendary in the railway modelling world. First to see is John Aherns' "Madder Valley Railway". Its attention to detail and realistic approach to the presentation of the models is nothing unusual by todays standards but when this layout was built in the 1930's it was unheard of. The Railway is totally fictitious with narrow gauge locomotives stretched to Standard gauge proportions and structures (some freelanced) and locations from all over England. But the whole thing comes together to make a perfectly believable whole.
The layout is still operable but due to its great age is only operated a few times a year.
Above: The railway station at the town of Gammon Magna
Above: The approaches to Madderport.
The Next layout you see as you tour the building is the Dartmoor scene. Inspired by the railways of South Devon, a single track branch line struggles across Dartmoor to reach a junction station where trains meet the main line. The model itself must be about 30 feet long with the centrepiece being the 13 foot long model of a typical Great Western Railway Timber viaduct. The model has a definite operating sequence of trains that would typically be found on such a branch line. These trains are described in detail by one of the many Pendon volunteers on hand.
These two pictures show (below) the famous timber viaduct and above the small run down farmhouse that sits at the foot of it, and can just be seen in the picture beneath.
These models themselves would be enough for most modellers. But nothing can prepare you for the Vale scene that comes next. So in the best television "cliff hanger" tradition I'm going to let you wait a while before I share that with you.
Then I'll ramble on a bit about what we modellers of small layouts can learn from such huge models.