Thursday, March 04, 2010

Kidding Yourself

I work on more layout designs and track plans than most people -- dozens and dozens, in fact, in the last six years. These plans are for many different spaces, concepts, and scales. And yet, I'm still sometimes surprised when I start a new project at how little of what my clients and I have conceptualized will actually fit -- when drawn to scale.

Curves, turnouts, straight sections to ease S-curves, horizontal and vertical easements, and on and on. Each of these takes more space than I would like. And certainly more than most people think.

That's why I just shake my head when I see what some people post in forums. They prattle on for months (or years!) about the fabulous layout design on which they are working: Steel mills, division point yards, car floats, auto plants. And all in 10'X10' in HO.

OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but only slight. Bottom line, if you haven't rendered the major elements to scale in some fashion, you're kidding yourself. That can be CAD, paper templates, or a to-scale sketching technique like John Armstrong's squares. Any of these can provide a quick (and usually sobering) reality check.

But these empire builders carry on, regaling their rapt forum audiences with tales of how great it's going to be. And they often illustrate their posts with photos of clutter-filled corners, stacks of unbuilt Blue Box kits, and horizontal "benchwork" surfaces piled high with soda cans, stacks of magazines, and other detritus.

Now there is a time, early in the design process, when it's a very good idea not to be constrained by scale. However, that's an early conceptual phase and reality must eventually be reckoned with.

So if you've been talking about your "design" for a couple of years, it's time to face the facts. If you haven't yet drawn your space and the major elements to scale, you're not working on a layout design; you're working on the idea of working on a layout design.

The Aqua Velvets' CD Nomad has been in heavy rotation lately at LayoutVision headquarters. A different take on modern instrumental surf music, with many of the tunes having a slightly darker tone (surf noir, if you will). Just for variety and whimsy, some other styles are mixed in, including what sounds like a rumba and a bit of reggae flavor. The playing is crisp and toneful, without the speed-for-speed's-sake that burdens some instro surf music.

And there are plenty of conventional surf sounds, too, played with a respect for the tradition but an eagerness to stretch a bit musically. The kind of surf music that might make you remember fondly those sunny days at Hermosa Beach -- even if you've never been out of Nebraska.