Sunday, January 2, 2022

Planting the Flag - 1980's Modelling in 2022!

When neoclassicist John Vanderlyn painted The Landing of Columbus, commissioned in 1836 and installed in the U.S. Capitol in 1847, he only had five years left to live (*). His painting shows Columbus raising the royal banner (**) of Aragon and Castile, claiming the land for his Spanish patrons, with his right hand pointing his sword at the earth. Behind Columbus and to his right, the captains of the ships NiƱa and Pinta carry the banner of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and a friar holds up a metal cross(***). 


Now you're asking yourself, "Has Trackside Treasure suffered mission creep and become an art appreciation blog?" Hard No. Nobody wants that (****). When the United States featured the painting on an 1893 Columbian Exposition stamp issue, the flag was cropped out (*****). Whether journeying from the Old Word to the New World, or landing on the moon, the flag is planted and a claim is made! In fact, the above artful deception included some starred phrases that pertain to model railroading, and I've listed them below:

(*) YOLO = You Only Live Once
(**) PTF = Plant The Flag
(***) FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out
(****) Groupthink
(****) Rule #1 = My Layout, My Rules


I've occasionally dipped my toe into the swirling tide of editorializing. It is a deep pool, not a wading pool, and it's not really what this blog is about. Trackside Treasure does not represent a clambake, the illuminati, or any other current buzzwords. There is no vaccine (most Googled word of 2021!) against editorializing, however, so for the first time since January, 2020 I'm putting on my water wings and hitting the editorial beach once again. In this post, I described the five phrases above in a modelling context.


This year, as we reflect on one pandemic period while on the verge of another, I'm focusing on Planting the Flag. That means - where have I planted my modelling flag, and what does my layout represent? It's important to remember that as in football, we can move the flag up and down the field. We can even Capture The Flag! Or Move The Goalposts! Just as a good photographer never shows his bad photos, and a magician never reveals his secrets, I've trashed those maxims, and decided to show you exactly where I've planted my flag in HO scale on my Kingston's Hanley Spur layout room.


I remember watching one of Chris Lyon's layout-visit videos, where an older gentleman operated his layout with some old rheostat-thingie. He acknowledged it was outdated, but it was already in place and working well, so why not? Hey, I started with an MRC 'golden' transformer, but I now use an MRC Tech II. I operate with DC, not DCC. I use brass track, not even nickel-silver or any particular Code #. My cars have plastic wheels and X2F couplers. I don't use Vallejo acrylics or powdered weathering. I have only a few Super Trees and no static grass. So, by 2022 standards, I have planted my technology flag in 1980.


My layout is based on a nominally-1970 prototype in Kingston, Ontario, Canada depicting CN and CP operations serving a sleepy waterfront with dying industries that would be gone within a decade. 


Well, that's something I haven't adopted. In fact, that also include late 20th-century developments like switch motors, cork roadbed, four-part car cards, handlaid track, DCC, JMRI, modern throttles, a helix and more. Main reason for not moving the flag? Cost. Deneros. Drachmas I don't need to spend. Besides, what more do I need to really buy? Do I want to update and upgrade my layout to 2022? This is the most scenicked layout iteration I've ever had, so I have little motivation to uproot what I've got. At train shows (remember those?) I rarely bought rolling stock, mainly paper items instead. With freight cars well north of $50, DCC locomotives over $300, vehicles more than $20 a pop, I just can't justify more, more, more due to FOMO. (That's not to say that I don't aspire to, and get inspired by, excellent state-of-the-art modelling by Bob Fallowfield, Matthieu Lachance, Stephen Gardiner and others.


So, instead of further decrying or describing the above, let's just enjoy a little trip back 40 years to aspects of my layout that graphically show my flag-planting. It's best to end an editorial with a call to action, so here it is, even if the call to action is really to take no action:
Car storage. Of pop skids 'n' plywood.
Here's the wiring for the whole layout. Concealed under a loading ramp.

Two freight shed tracks and one headed downtown. All end with X2F's.

Operation? It's MRC and file-card car cards for me.
This should keep me on track. Lots of it.

Power pop skid: Atlas and Athearn anachronism.

No switch machine. Spare tie holds points in place.
Of parts 'n' pieces. Reduce, reuse, re-coupler. 
Fibre-tie track and flextrack. Robertson Securement System.
Let's hope 2022 will allow us to stay well, and enjoy our layouts in whatever way, whatever era, and wherever we choose to plant our flags. Oh, and I'm christening 2022 The Year of Optimism!
Running extra...

Fellow blogger Chris Mears got me reading this excellent editorial post about the effect of social media on modelling. 

This Pierre Fournier Brockville photo and response gave me a chuckle. This view is associated with Jason Shron's layout, planting the technological flag in 2022 but the prototype flag in 1980!
My optimism to-do list of stories to follow, so far: CNN Films' Carole King/James Taylor concert, Vancouver Canucks' equipment manager melanoma, New Year's babies and Desmond Tutu's legacy.


Steve Boyko said...

As the song goes, if it makes you happy, it can't be that bad! Go wild with the X2Fs and the DC power and the plastic trees.

Do you use lichen or dyed sawdust for grass? :) I remember using lichen many years ago during my brief stint at military modeling. My dad used dyed sawdust.

Eric said...

Hi Steve,

I use a mix of products. Always paint then white glue with a mix of: Woodland Scenics coarse and fine turf, and I tend to buy interesting unlabelled bargain bags of scenic material at train shows. I have lichen, a few Super Trees, homemade trees, and instead of static grass applicator, I make sparing use of 'fairy mats' from Michaels, intended for gnome gardens for my grassy knolls. I try to use everything a little bit, with no material dominating or overused.

I always like the smell of lichen on the the morning!

Thanks for your comment,

Eric May said...

My Tech 2 throttle has momentum. My slightly more advanced 1981 technology suits me fine. It's been interesting seeing your current layout develop.

Eric said...

Hi Eric,

I reember the demonstration of those momentum throttles at our LHS. Just as revolutionary at the time as Atlas flywheel-equipped locomotives!

Thanks for joining me on the Hanley Spur journey, and for your comment.

DandHColonieMain said...

We have all been down that road. Your earlier modeling brings back similar memories for me. Thanks for sharing!

Eric said...

Always great to hear from the D&H, one of my Dad's favourite 'roads!

Yes, I am still on that road. I kicked the can down the road for awhile, but I think I've now flattened the can and it'll stay here for awhile. Unless, of course, I open a new can of energy drink and decide to change my modelled locale, or track plan yet again.

Thanks for your comment,