Ideas for Adding Personality to Model Railroad Layouts

I’m digressing a bit for this installment. I’ve had many great experiences designing and building model railroads for over fifty years now and met rail modelers from many avocations. For me the most inspiring part of that experience has be the emotional connection that develops while working and sharing creative ideas with fellow modelers.

So, for me, the human interaction component is a key element in “The World’s Greatest Hobby.” Applying that concept to our three-dimensional artwork of building our displays of model railroading is what I refer to as adding the Fourth Dimension. It’s the reward we receive for ourselves after hours of dedicated modeling work.

Focus on Storytelling

Thinking in these terms should be a precursor to scenery detail work. Model railroading can be storytelling as well as all its other attributes. In its own way, the enjoyment of our hobby can be akin to reading a novel or watching a good movie. Just maybe we’re building a movie set including actors, all in a miniature scale. Wow!

As a youngster, I had the great fortune of riding with real train crews and visiting their shops and yards. I asked questions and learned what their lives as railroaders were like. Relating back to those experiences, I believe that as we create our alternate realities, our layouts really need to address the human dimension that ostensibly created those scenarios in the first place. What if we lived in their world? What would our daily activities be like? Would you be the railroad’s president, or maybe the town’s mayor? How about a civil engineer or a town planner? Sound crazy? I’m hoping this blog will be a conversation-starter.

Related video: Personalizing Your Model Railroad Layouts

Develop a Back Story

Think about it – we create the environment for our miniature workers. What are their jobs? Where do they go? Are there historical influences at these locations? Bottom line – does your layout have a “personality”?

A little about the historical aspect. I believe that to bring a scene alive there should be a “back story.” A developed story, real or imagined, can transfer a true believability to our projects. Scenic elements can be used to provide a visual history of passing time, such as an abandoned building, an old roadbed, or derelict rail equipment. Can you feel the creative juices flowing?

Related video: Using Applied History to Duplicate a Prototype Railroad

I’m very interested in your feelings about the “fourth dimension” of model railroading. If we develop enough interest, hopefully we could develop an ongoing discussion section on the theatrics of modeling at the Model Railroad Academy website.

More on designing and creating a model railroad layout next time!

More in this series:

So You Want to Build a Model Railroad Layout?
Choosing Model Railroad Track Configurations
Assigning a Theme for Your Model Railroad Layout
Ideas for Unique Layout Concepts
Tips on Trackwork
Helpful Tips for Model Railroad Wiring
Creative Ideas for Model Railroad Structures

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