June 20, 2017

Ship Models versus Model Railroads as Art


Finished Model posed on the Aquia Line layout


I finished the model of the sub chaser.  Alicia and I delivered it to the Lyceum Museum this evening.  We did a test to ensure it would fit in the vitrine. While we were there Jim Mackay, the Director, showed us a sneak peek of some of the other items planned for the special exhibit. They have collected some really interesting artifacts. It is going to be a great exhibit of Alexandria's part in WWI.

As I was building this model I thought about model building as an art form.  I had recently finished reading a book called "Ship Diorama: Bringing Your Models to Life," by David Grifffin   In that book Griffin focuses on small scale water line models.  As I read the book and looked at the photos of the models in it, I realized that the dioramas that were most successful were those that had a strong story to tell. Usually, that meant having people in the diorama. But he had a few examples where the ship itself was the story.  The story contributes to the art.

While building the sub chaser was a treat, it was mostly an exercise in model building skills. And even though it is destined for public display,  it really didn't feel like art to me.

In contrast, designing a model railroad layout feels a lot more like art. There is more space for interpretation and story telling.  Selective compression, scene composition, backdrop integration, and historical narrative are all aspects of a model railroad design and build that contribute to the art. Furthermore, operations on a model railroad add a whole new level of appreciation and interpretation.

This static model has a much harder time telling the story, but it will be augmented with textual materials and photos to help in that aspect.

I enjoy ship modeling. However,  I like setting them in place in a diorama or layout to really bring them to life. So I am psyched to move forward build the ships for the Aquia Line and the PoLA expansion.

But, first I am headed to St Louis for the Railroad Prototype Meet in Collinsville, IL. I will be presenting a talk on Friday morning. Perhaps I will see you there.


Jim Mackay and I checking the vitrine for the sub chaser model

June 8, 2017

Model WWI Era Sub Chaser


Over the past few weeks I have been building a 1/35th scale model of a 110-ft wooden WWI era Sub Chaser. This is a static model destined for the the Lyceum Museum. It will be part of their display on Alexandria's role in WWI.   The exhibit is scheduled to open at the end of June 2017.

Many people today do not realize that Alexandria once had a thriving manufacturing sector. During WWI, factories and ship yards in Alexandria produced twenty wooden sub chasers (numbers 189-208), ten larger steel freighters, and several float planes for the war effort.  Now, those industries are gone replaced by law firms, lobbying groups, web advertising agencies, and tourist services.

The model is not yet complete. I have been posting build photos on my Facebook Page. Here are some in-progress shots. The model is mostly scratch built, but I am using some detail parts from the Dumas R/C kit. That kit is destined for use on ponds and doesn't really meet museum quality standards.

If you want to learn more about the WWI sub chasers, there is an excellent web archive at sub chaser.org