Modeling in Pleasantville

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Doc Holliday, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Member

    I'm not sure if this topic has been discussed here before. I did several searches but didn't turn up anything.

    In my wanderings through layouts on this and other forums and the net as well I've found the majority of modelers chose to portray good, clean, wholesome living on their layouts. Perhaps this is driven by memories of how it used to be in the good old days. Maybe it's due to the suberb job done by the LPBs in law enforcement, but you hardly ever see any crime. Graffiti seems to be the lone exception to this rule. Since I'm modeling Hollywood's version of the Old West, I plan on the obligatory bank robbery, stage holdup, jail break, cattle rustle, negotiable affection, gambling, public drunkardness, and maybe even a lynching. (Did I leave anything out?) I'm curious as to what crimes others might have included in their layouts.
  2. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    I know one layout had an "unauthorized waste release" into a stream behind an industrial plant. Streakers and "public indecency" have also been a common criminal/anti-social/not Pleasantville activity.

    Finally, illegal aliens make at least one, sometimes more appearances at large N Trak layouts.
  3. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I have a scene suggestive of the part in "The Fugitive" in which the prison bus has been creamed by a train, causing a derailment. Visitors who look closely can find Dr. Richard Kimball treading water under a bridge while law enforcement officials comb the area.
  4. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    That's cool Ralph!! :thumb:

    My layout is pretty much Pleasantville right now, but I did see a layout on the net that had a mugging going on the the bad part of town.

  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hey Doc - what about the showdown at high noon in the main street...?! :D And there are a few well known modellers like George Sellios and others who do a pretty good job on the "wrong side of the tracks", down-and-out, industrial grittiness, bad side of town type layouts. No obvious crime, but it really fires the imagination!

    And Val... We're in Canada - isn't it all pretty much Pleasantville? ;) :rolleyes:

  6. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    Now at the Barrie model railroad show the Muskoka N gauge group has a model of Tim Horton;s donut coffee shop with a number of OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) cars in the parking lot. Were they ready to go out and make a bust somewhere? or just taking a break!!!!
  7. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Yep, pretty much - especially in the 1950s, where you could leave your bike out on the lawn all night and there it would be in the morning.

  8. ddavidv

    ddavidv Member

    I've got no problem with adding a bit of "seediness" to a layout, or creating a scene. It's all part of the modelling process. I personally can't stand graffitti, as to me it's a barometer of the decline in my own locale. :mad: If you choose to model it, that's ok.
    I elected to model the 1950s this time around as it precedes me in birth by a few years ;) and I just like the style of cars, buildings, locos, etc that were common then. The added attraction of less "ugliness" is kind of a plus, but it won't stop me from adding lots of clutter, heavily weathered components and the occasional scene of some ne'er do well's up to no good. :cool:
  9. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Not sure how I'd model the seedy behaviour of the loggers on my early 1900's layout. Mostly heavy drinking on a Saturday night at a tavern in town. And a fight spilling out onto the street? From my reading, that seemed to be the major form of entertainment after a week in the camps where liquor was prohibited. I read that some jobbers would pay local cab drivers to "shanghai" drunk & broke loggers in town when then needed bodies back at the camp.

    Doc: I'm glad you said you were modeling "Hollywood's version" of the old west. From what I've read, western towns were generally quiet places for the most part.

    What doesn't appeal to me is the habit of 1:1 scale scenic railroads to stage "train robberies" as entertainment.

  10. COX 47

    COX 47 Member

    With al that Hangin and gun play don't forget Boot Hill and how about Miss Nancy' Ann's Home for single woman? Cox 47
  11. Sir_Prize

    Sir_Prize Member

    I was planning on putti'n a little Ma & Pa Diner/Lunch shack on my layout. With a sign to sign
    a petition to make the place an historic landmark, that way the developewrs can't tear it down.
    Then on another part the Bachmann Corner Apothcary was going to be a little motel between
    a big fancy hotel tower, with a walkway crossing over to a second tower. Kinda boxing in the place. Like in movie "Batteries Not Included."
    ..but like I said I'm "planning on..."
  12. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    This subject does come up once in a while. Model railroaders tend to be a wholesome sort, and since this hobby is often associated with kids, many tend to keep their layouts very wholesome. The reality of railroading was often very different--a vocation of hard-working, hard-drinking men, often away from home for long periods or drifting "boomers" whose lives alternated between periods of incredibly dangerous hard work, and then various boozeries, beaneries and flophouse hotels.

    In the 20th Century, the "wrong side of the tracks" was generally any neighborhood close enough to the tracks to have the rafters shaken by passing trains--thus residential neighborhoods nearest the tracks would tend to be a little seedier. This can be represented without going X-rated--a few hobos around a campfire or getting ready to hop a freight outside the local yard, or structures like railroad hotels and the aforementioned bars and greasy-spoon diners.

    One factor to consider--often neighborhoods near the railroad tracks, because of lower rent, were ethnic neighborhoods. A way to provide a realistic sense of place, as well as to diversify the otherwise lily-white faces of our Little Plastic People, would be to include some non-white miniatures in such neighborhoods. There are some examples of this sort of miniature on the market, although if you're hand-painting unpainted miniatures you can use whatever colors you want.

    There are other sorts of businesses one can use to "seedify" without diving to the depths of obvious houses of prostitution (which tended not to advertise): barbershops, pool halls, dime-a-dance halls, junkyards (with mean ol' junkyard dog: also a good choice for an industry), and liquor stores.

    Junk and crud also helps define an area--overflowing trash cans and bits of litter on potholed streets, older cars with fading paintjobs, scruffy and ill-tended lawns.

    It is necessary to give careful thought to what one is intending to portray in such a scene, without descending into caricature or offensiveness. While it isn't nice in today's society to point out that nonwhites generally lived in separate neighborhoods through much of American history (and in some cases, still do), it is a fact, one that we shouldn't shy away from any more than the indifference to environmental harm the railroads typically showed. And if your ancestry includes such a background, it can be a way to express a bit of your own cultural history.

    My family is mostly Italian, and several of my ancestors worked for railroads--I'm going to include a "Little Italy" scene where one was located in town, as well as bits of the Chinese and Japanese neighborhoods in town, where my uncle (who is Chinese) used to play as a kid around the warehouses next to the railroad tracks.
  13. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    We have a modeller in our club who produces X-rated small layouts. The LPBs are doing all sorts of things if you look in the right windows. I think the larger scales have ready-made figures that are a bit naughty. There are a few stripped down sun-worshippers in HO.
    WS has a box of figures in striped outfits -- I considered using them for post homeland security ex-railfans.
  14. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Also the ubiquitous pawn shops - a sure sign of a down-at-heels neighbourhood.

    One thing about modelling "run-down ethnic" neighbourhoods is that we have to be careful about stereotyping. I agree that our LPBs are mostly lily-white folks, so I can imagine it would be extremely upsetting to a black person for example to find the one time black people are modelled is in a slum-type setting. Don't mean to open a huge debate here, but sometimes we have to balance "historical accuracy" with current day principals and sensibilities. :)

  15. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    In my case the neighborhoods in question weren't necessarily slums, but just the older, less expensive part of town. Also, there were and are plenty of "white folks" in the less-expensive bits of town too--depending on the time and place, Irish, Italian, Portugese, Jewish, Slavic or other European ethnic neighborhoods would certainly be appropriate.

    In some ways a neighborhood more down on its luck seems like a lot more fun to model than one that is squeaky clean. Kind of like weathered locomotives vs. spanking-new-paintjob ones...
  16. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Well, my layout is just getting going, I had not thought of any "detail" stuff yet.
    Mine is set in the same era as Doc's, except I am in Southern Ontario. Just poor country folks. Hmmm, maybe a still out back of a cabin.....

    Doc, don't forget to model "The Best Little Chicken Ranch in Texas". Remember Dolly and Bert?
  17. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    I don't know much about Ontario, but there is all sort of potential for backwoods fun--the presence of either an outhouse or a satellite antenna behind a shack can set an era!
  18. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Jet, I will agree with the outhouse.

    But satellites in 1880-1900?

    If you think upstate New York or maybe Vermont or New Hampshire, you will be close to Ontario. Go to Buffalo New york and head 250 miles north.

    The Credit River flows along beside an escarpment. Think 800-1000' hills, rocky yet very green.

    The Credit Valley RR follows the course of the river, as most of the towns were near the river. Mostly mills (flour, grist, saw, etc) and small industry (furniture factory, cooperage, wagon builders, etc). There was a quarry and gravel pit on the line as well. Plus lots of small subsistence farms. Also a couple of large cattle ranches, to provide milk and beef for Toronto.
  19. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Member

    Noch has come out with a series in HO scale if you're interested in that sort of thing. I got a set as a gag. I might include it in an upstairs saloon window if I can find the right spot and work out a switched interior light for selective viewing.

    I'm also looking to model the famous open coffin photograph taken after the shoot out at the OK Corral. Anybody seen any figures I could use for the Clantons? I need straight, arms at their sides guys.
  20. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Will_annand: Farthest east I have ever been is Chicago. I'm a Western boy by inclination. Rocky and green I have no trouble imagining from the Pacific Northwest, although I understand the terrain is still very different.

    About the satellite dish: One thing I always noticed in small towns in the 80's and 90's is that many places look like they haven't significantly changed in style in 100 years--except 50 years ago they got that truck, which has been rusting out in back ever since, and just about every house in the back-country had a big ol' satellite dish so they could get the teevee, Not appropriate for 1890's, of course, but there were still backwoods in the 1980's and forward, and, well, they had satellite TV even if they didn't have running water or air conditioning!

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