The Dream

Every model railroad is an improbable thing, a collection of little plastic pieces and metal parts, brought together from a variety of sources to create something interesting.  It is interesting for the model railroad’s builder, but it also can be a thing of interest for the casual visitor.  And it all begins with a dream, the imagination of creating such a thing. And, one key element to this dream is the perspective view of a model railroad layout such as above, which dates back to a brochure “Model Railroading for You”, printed by the Model Railroader magazine, apparently in the 1940’s.

The layout illustrated above was probably never built, being just in the imagination of Frank Taylor, the artist who drew it, but this drawing served a very important purpose.  It got individuals to decide to do something out of the ordinary. And the perspective layout drawing was important because many of the actual model railroads of that day looked like this:

So, if model railroading was going anywhere as a “top-flight men’s hobby”, to quote the brochure, people were going to need imagination.  Which is not bad thing. As stated on another page of this site, my first view of a “scale” model railroad hooked me for life. I had received hand-me-down Lionel trains from distant cousins and they had moved on to scale trains.  I liked the Lionels, but when I saw their model railroad, I was hooked.  Along the way, however, my model railroad dreams needed nurturing.

The model railroad books of that era were replete with layout illustrations that pushed my creativity. One of the early projects was the Pine Tree Central, which was published in the December, 1952 number of model railroader. There, to one side, was a very nice perspective view of the railroad:

For such a simple track plan, the right combination of scenery and structures made for a real world.  The effect was magical. So, too, there were others from the 1950’s.  Originally published in 1956, Linn Westcott’s “101 Track Plans for Model Railroaders” contains a wealth of model railroad ideas. Here, a few:

Even a simple switching railroad became interesting in the perspective view.  Below, a larger switching railroad:

Note the initials “LHW” in the lower right corner, Wescott’s mark.  A Chesapeake & Ohio coal hauling road:

Although I have worn out at least one copy of “101 Track Plans”, it was not until I was preparing this page that I noticed an interesting detail on Westcott’s C&O Railroad, a cutaway section of a coal mine:

Nor is the perspective drawing of model railroads unique to the United States. This site covers many of the German model railroad manufacturers, and they, too, used perspective drawings to illustrate their products in use.  Like the North American perspective art, the European illustrations evolved over time. Here, the simple oval:

This simple oval appears in the German language track plan book published by Arnold rapido in 1967 (their No. 0020). The layout measures 75 cm by 57 cm (30” x 23”), very small.  Compare this railroad to the Minitrix 1977 version of the simple oval:

The Minitrix layout occupies 90 cm by 50 cm (36” by 20”), about the same size as the rapido oval, yet even in black and white, the rapido oval is more interesting. The added track switch gives you a side track, for additional operating interest, but the big difference is that the rapido oval is twisted slightly. This makes for better visual interest because the trains never run parallel to the edge of the layout table.  By doing so, the viewer’s eye is not drawn to the relationship between the train and the edge of the table, so the scene appears to be bigger.

The Minitrix perspective layouts of the 1970’s were somewhat stark:

In comparison, the Arnold rapido layouts of the previous decade had a certain richness in texture and color:

Arnold would publish two track plan books in the period of between 1967 and 1971. One was in German (No. 0020) and the other was an English language adaptation (No. 0023E) translated by Eric LaNal.  I am not aware of any further track plan books from Arnold.

The perspective art would continue, especially from Kalmbach Publishing.  Here, an example of an Andy Sperandeo track plan, drawn by Bob Wegner:

In 2004, Trix would revisit the track plan book with a new edition, their No. 69012.  In so many ways, it shows the progress of 25 years.  Here, a round layout, measuring 110 cm (44”) in diameter:

Likewise, there are still new ideas. This bookcase Minitrix N-Scale out & back railroad, which measures 244 cm by 55 cm (96” by 22”):

And there are still model railroad dreams.

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