Thursday, November 23, 2023

Trackside Treasure's 'Just Four' Video

Two of the clearest-thinking fine model railroaders I know are Chris Mears and James Hilton. Their cross-ocean mind meld is figuratively as deep as the ocean, relatively rendering my thoughts on trains merely puddle-worthy. But that doesn't stop me! Undeterred and undaunted by convention, I wade into the water which I'm not afraid to muddy with a chorus of controversial cross-currents, smatterings of stone-skippingly superficial scattered thoughts, and alarmingly anachronistic admonitions about model railroading that not only don't stand the test of time, but are counter-cultural not to mention clock-stoppingly atonal to the alliterative alternatives in conventional thinking, and which may in fact result in me making an assonance of myself.

Notwithstanding the above, unfettered, let's push onwards to Chris' The Shove and James' Modelling Workbench. Both these gentlemen are fellow bloggers discussing specific items in their layout collections. If I understand their thoughts correctly, it was a 'what if?' scenario. What if....from my whole collection be it large or small, what would I keep if I could keep Just Four. 

Ones to watch! Here is the link to James' Just Four and Chris' The Beating Heart and Four Engines and his just-published 2r2. (The actual title of the latter is longer and I was dismal at math. Or as the kids say these days, "The math just ain't mathin' for me!") Chris deftly weaves the stories of his power into the power of his layout and how he chooses to structure his collection.

Never one to shy away from standing on the shoulders of giants like a grinning garden gnome gone Newtonesque with irridescent Isaac eyes, I decided to consider this theme and try to make something, anything, meaningful to it that I could. If I could. And I couldn't, so of course I deflected into my own deadhead headroom of deliberation, thinking how could I possibly make a celebratory contribution of my own. Having been to many marriage ceremonies, including my own as well as that of my wife, I decided to hackingly hijack a hackneyed term, "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue". Though I was not wedded nor even welded to this theme!

Rather than laboriously looking at my collection to find 'those four' I settled on 'this four' and applied the above mainly matrimonial maxim to wonder what they meant to my collection. Which era of my modelling career? Which iteration of my layout? Which fellow modeller did they represent? Why the heck did I still have them in the collection? We won't address the issue of why my collection is closer to 444 than 4!

So I made a video entitled Just Four. Here's the YouTube link. My grandson was visiting and except for one tiny cough, he kept silent as he played away at the HO-scale emergency scene he was crafting for those four minutes. And, I added another 'those four more' just for fun!
Then I watched the video back and I realized an omission or three in my narration. I needed to say more about the 'who' not just the 'what' of three of the items:

  • The mainly-black Maine Central 44-tonner
  • The Tangent Scale Models Manitoba covered hopper
  • The cardboard Baltimore & Ohio boxcar.
All three were given to me, two magnanimously by mail and one by inertial inheritance, and all have been blogged about. None other than Chris Mears sent me the 44-tonner and it found a prominent place in my first front porch layout. Bob Fallowfield found that the Manitoba car was not a keystone of his prototype. The B&O car is one my Dad built and represented a much earlier paradigm in the panoply of  model railroading and the pantheon of model railroaders. I came to have each of the items in my collection for a reason. In my Dad's case, he noticed my obvious interest in taking our home layout in an operational direction, vintage rolling stock and all. The other two were engendered by genuine generalized generosity!

I am proud to not only be a bottom-feeder in the model railway ecosystem, scouring the under-table 'underworld' of trainshows for deals and relics, but also loudly and ludditely planting my flag in the 1980's model railroading world, and proudly inflating then thereafter pricking the balloons that bring greater visibility or just hot air as they rise above the everyday horizon of our benchworks and backdrops - way, way, up in the consciousness and controversiality of those who inhabit the modelrailosphere.

So this is my Just Four. Hope you like it, and enjoy the four minutes watch time as much as I enjoyed the four minutes' execution time that I put into it!

Reading Extra...

That's right, you read it correctly. No sooner was I finishing writing about James and Chris than a couple (and some couplers from another fellow modeller!) of their collaborative compendia made it to my mail slot for extra reading. 
James' two books Small Layout Design Handbook and The Art of Railway Modelling made for an enjoyable afternoon read as I enjoyed a cold beverage and peanuts while pecking away at page after page of layout modelling ingredients and results. Chris' name is not merely there, it's because he's written and inspired many of the ideas and layouts on these pages. As I'd glimpsed online, James has an engaging way of adding insight, illustration and ingenuity into his layout planning and detail-driven modelling. Actual thought! Not just let's add another track here and here annnnnnd here!
I asked my good wife to snap a photo of the after-the-unboxing moment. Just One.
After thoroughly enjoying James' first book, I was still alarmingly awake and alert as I picked up a copy of Model Railroader. I was immediately hit between the eyes with a 16x22-foot HO layout that photographed well, but I was floored by the associated trackplan and the presence of a giant yard of perfectly parallel yard tracks and the presence of only three industrial spurs on the whole layout. After studying James' prudent use of space, this seemed like an HO scale version of uncontrolled urban sprawl and inefficient land use planning! Spaghetti bowl? This was more like All You Can Eat Pasta - and the second bowl is always smaller for a reason. Pasta is prologue, as they say.

Final words from James: "I do hope you enjoy them - my heart is in the first sections of both, the plans more a vehicle to encourage sales and hence put the ‘word’ in front of more eyes. My hope is it encourages a change in how we talk about this wonderful hobby of ours!"

Thanks to James and Chris for leaving a trail of breadcrumbs out of the coniferous cornucopia of confusion in today's model railway forest. We would all be wise to follow!


J. Schraven said...

"standing on the shoulders of giants like a grinning garden gnome". Now THAT is a mental image that makes me smile. Like you Eric I am firmly and enthusiastically entrenched in the seventies-eighties DC era. I like the old Athearn growling motor noise more than the modern recorded sounds, I enjoy flicking toggle switches on my control panel to bring motion to different tracks among other out of fashion aspects of the hobby. The old wood rolling stock kits with staples as grab irons and CDS dry transfers, Kanamodels cardstock and wood stations, Rivarossi passenger cars and Athearn/Roundhouse 40 foot boxcars populate my happy little empire and give me a warm and comfortable glow.

Eric said...

That's good to hear, J. It's not that I want to be in the 1980's, it's mainly that I can't afford (or don't want to spend) 21st century prices! Though I do have a couple of items of Rapido Trains Inc. rolling stock, it will never dominate my collection.

Thanks for your comment,