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

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