Interesting Idea For A Module #10

Plus: Ideas & Techniques To Create More Realistic/Effective Scenes On Narrow Modules

Continuing with the theme of modules with slightly unusual scenes and viewpoints I thought I’d discuss this photograph of the northern entrance of Wolfsburg Hauptbanhof in Germany.

North Entrance of Wolfsburg Main Station & ICE Power Car by Matthias Frey – Own work,
Used With Permission, View Image

It’s a brilliant photograph with excellent composition; in fact it’s the kind of image you don’t often see in railway photography where of course the focus is the trains. However the unusual perspective sparked some ideas for modules and module design in general that I’ll be discussing in this post…

We’re unlikely to be able to create a scene as focused as the image above (unless we are working in O gauge on an N scale T-Trak module)primarily because human eyes don’t naturally zoom-in on scenes like this in real life. So we’re going to need to create a scene that encompasses at least some of the area around the entrance.

This is a slightly wider angle shot of the same station entrance:

Hauptbahnhof Wolfsburg by Ralf Roletschek – Own work,
CC BY-NC-ND 3.0, View Image

There is also a useful 360 photograph on Google Streetview:

As you can see the whole scene has an interesting layout and architectural composition that naturally draws the eye to the entrance doors. The tree standing on it’s own in the forecourt is slightly off-centre and this will catch the eye, however it should still be a relatively pleasing composition as when it is viewed from the front the trees placement in the forecourt scene appears to conform to the rule of thirds. Once or before you’ve taken that in, the curved concrete walls draw the eye towards the entrance doors. Trees on the embankments act as a backdrop and frame to the whole scene. If we were to use a bit of modellers license (by adding a few more trees) they could also act as an effective scenic break either side of a module trying to recreate a view like the photograph above.

You might think this is a bit over the top for a model, but I think looking at scenes in this way and using the same tricks as photographers, architects and urban planners can be useful in designing and creating scenes that are not only realistic but that can also focus attention on a particular part of a layout. I don’t like criticising the hard-work of anyone else as we all get pleasure out of different aspects of the hobby but how many times have you looked at a scene on a model and had that nagging thought that something doesn’t look quite right or that your eye seems naturally drawn to the wrong part of the layout? This is why I think it’s important to find or design a realistic scene or setting for trains to pass through instead of designing a track plan and trying to place scenery around it afterwards.

Back to the entrance to Wolfsburg as an idea for a module: the blue box on the map below shows how the entrance scene could fit onto a single T-Trak module (31cm x 35cm). I’ve also drawn on an unconventional way of using a double T-Trak module (62cm x 35cm), represented by the green box, more on that later:

Below is a rough representation of the scene on a single T-Trak module.

You’d actually have slightly more space either side of the main forecourt area to represent the embankments and trees than this drawing suggests, so using trees as a scenic break either side could work really well.

The only slightly tricky part of using a single T-Trak module is what to do about a backdrop? The platform canopy would help disguise the lack of depth but something would still be missing.

It might be possible to create a representation of the station building behind using a low-relief model. A photographic backdrop could work better if carefully scaled but sourcing an appropriate picture might be quite difficult.

Perhaps creating a ‘full-slice’ of the station with all the platforms and station building on a double T-Trak module with it’s shorter edge facing forwards (see map and green box above) would work better:

Even this approach has limitations though, as it becomes harder to hide the fact the scene is quite narrow when not looking directly from the front and if viewers are able to view the scene from above the illusion will be shattered instantly.

Let’s assume we can keep viewers looking at the scene from straight-on with the entrance/platforms at about eye level. If that is the case then it becomes easier to disguise the narrowness of the scene using platform buildings and objects such as poster boards, canopy supports and even catanery masts.

This is similar to the ‘half-station’ approach where you model only part of a large station using station buildings or bridges to disguise the fact you stop modelling the station at the edge of the module or layout. The half-station technique has been used effectively on the Schwungischerplatz layout I wrote about recently and the Cross Street urban cameo.

Luckily Wolfsburg station does have some interesting art-deco/modernist platform buildings that could be used to help hide the edge of the module:

Waiting Room On Platform Of Wolfsburg Hbf by Ralf Roletschek – Own work,
CC0 1.0, View Image

I wonder if you can buy black styrene with scribed N-scale sized tiles?

Anyway, I think the more detail you can put into the foreground, platforms, platform buildings and canopies the less likely it is that the eye’s of viewers will want to wander off the edge of the module after following the flow of the foreground into the centre of the scene.

I hope that’s been useful in introducing another potential location for a module but also in discussing some of the design ideas that I think might be useful when creating realistic and interesting scenes on a layout of any size.

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