What makes a layout "realistic"?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Gary S., Sep 7, 2007.

  1. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    A point I touched on briefly in a previous post but worth returning to on the subject of realism - there are "interesting" scenes and there are realistic ones and the two aren't necessarily the same. Now I've never seen this module, nor know the exact era it depicts, so I have no way of judging which (or both) it might be. However, as an increasing number of years separates us particularly from the so often modeled Transition-Era, a distinct leaning toward caricature is sneaking into the modeling of it, sometimes making it look like a George Sellios scene.

    As someone who lived through that era, let me quickly point out that, except perhaps in the worst parts of the big cities, rundown, dilapidated structures with filthy surroundings were decidely the exception and not the norm. Even during the heart of the Great Depression such scenes didn't exist on a broad scale! Neither were freight cars of either period typically so heavily weathered as to be almost unidentifiable. I have some fine pictures from WWII showing freight yards filled with cars whose major weathering consists of no more than slightly faded paint and an overall coating dust. Rolling wrecks in those periods are largely a myth (unlike some of today's rolling stock!). Always keep in mind that even photos of structures or rolling stock that appear to be in particularly sad shape were probably taken because they stood out as such decided exceptions.

    So, again, I'd advise anyone not modeling an era they aren't intimately familiar with themselves, to adhere closely to a cross section of good photographs whenever possible. Color images are always preferable, even with their potential for color shifts, because early B&W film had a decidely different spectral response than does the human eye.


    CNJ999, modeling New York and New England in the autumn of 1941
  2. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    This may not be "right" thinking...but to me a scene looks the most realistic if, when I see it either in person or in a photo, it reminds me of a place I've seen before. When I see an old building, a well weathered rail yard, a clean just-factory-built diesel, a car I remember as a kid, whatever - If it reminds me of what I thought I've seen before but maybe can't specifically recall - to me that's realism. For example, just looking above at CNJ999's picture...I don't remember seeing cars like that on the roads - but the building placement, coloring, foliage, backdrop, all remind me of things I've seen before and the whole scene makes sense to me and comes across as totally believable (and very well modeled). Just like the movies...if you can get a person to suspend their disbelief, you can fool them into thinking it is real just for a little while. I agree with CNJ999 regarding color pictures of older images...whenever possible I always try to reference a color image to capture the lifelike qualities present in that era.
  3. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    It just dawned on me when I saw Kurt's pic in the WPF thread. DocWayne alluded to this earlier. LIGHTING. Pictures taken under adequate lighting will look better than dark dim photos. Think about it... we've all seen the photos from the guys who do the exquisite weathering jobs over at MTW forum. Their best shots are done outdoors on a diorama/display track. Everything appears more real.

    So to me, the whole she-bang starts with good lighting. And then it doesn't hurt to have some wonderful modeling skills like Kurt has.

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