It’s been commented before that model railways share certain conventions with the stage (see http://www.carendt.com/articles/Theatrics/index.html for a full article by Carl Arendt on this very subject), particularly when it comes to exhibition layouts. Like plays, model railways need to create the illusion of a world. That means hiding the technical gubbins – few plays are staged with no set whatsoever (those that are generally do so as a conscious artistic decision) and few model railways are displayed without scenery (unless they’re incomplete).
For model railways, a handy way of creating the illusion of a bigger world is the low-relief building. If you’re not familiar with this concept, it’s basically part of a building stuck on to the backscene. Say you want a row of shops – just model the front of the shops, stick them on the backscene and there you have it. A row of shops without the loss of space and general immense hassle of modelling the complete buildings.
Done well, this can look fantastic. Done badly, however, it can look as fake as, well, half a building. What looks great viewed front-on looks awful from the side. But here’s a thing I found today.
As you can see, it’s a hospital building that’s being propped up with scaffolding. But let’s look at it from further along the street:
Yep, it’s just a wall. The front of the hospital building is being propped up, but the rest is mysteriously missing. The idea seems to be to incorporate the lovely Victorian frontage into the new development behind it. It looks sort of like, well, a bad low-relief building. Behind it is nothing but rubble – the plans to redevelop the area are currently on hold. This would make a fascinating scene on a layout – have the front wall slightly forward of the backscene, sky clearly visible through the glassless windows. Some scaffolding propping it up, maybe some construction workers and machines parked in front. Temporary fencing around, maybe a couple of tiny, tiny posters about the exciting new development.
Here it is from the back. The brickwork seems to be protected with some sort of cloth, which again would look interesting and could save you some time messing around with brick paper or whatever your preferred medium is.
[For those of you interested in such things, this was originally the Middlesex Hospital, in Fitzrovia, London. The plan was to turn it into a luxury apartment complex, the inanely-named Noho Square. The Credit Crunch has put paid to that, but no doubt whoever takes over the site will do something similarly awful with it]
Here’s another building being redeveloped, this one in Chelsea (alongside the line from Victoria, in fact).