Is that where he’s been, The Peninsula Club? Low cut dresses, heels and G&T’s by the bucket load. That’s enough about what I do at the weekend though.
In the UK a pretty rare piece of layout design, and even less frequently built. You can easily see the rationale behind a peninsula, it gives you more layout, and can project into an area of space as a stub of a larger layout. The UK exhibition scene is, as a rule dominated by rectangular long/short layouts or an oval large/small in simple terms. There are a few notable exceptions to the rule and they often stand out as interesting examples of modelling and design, Mark Tatlows evocative BR Blue era layout Portchullin, highlandmiscellany.com being an excellent case in point. Portchullin for the viewer, is a convex crescent shaped layout, which can give a few challenges to an exhibition manager.
The Peninsula is likely to offer similar viewing challenges for an exhibition manager, a stub projecting into an aisle at a UK show will likely get the foamers lathered up even faster than a lack of soap or a backpack. I do feel that there is an almost formulaic design template for ‘UK exhibiton layouts dot com’. We all know that a plank or rectangle/square can be accommodated within the show scene, and many layouts clearly fit that requirement or mindset, my previous layouts certainly do. Where I’ve started to take a different look at how a future layout of mine will be presented is a result of wanting to build a ‘railway’ rather than a ‘location’. I’ve still not laid any rails or cut any significant wood for my Severn and Dean project almost a year on from me really getting the concept sorted. Over the past couple of weeks this has come to a head. Manchester’s Exhibition mmrs.exhibition was at the beginning of December, and we’d agreed that part of the Severn and Dean project would be shown as Work in Progress. The section, a simple station module, Mitcheldean Road, allowing train reversals is under way, track laid and just waiting wiring, but it was definitely feeling ‘meh’ as I got further into it. At the same time Model Rail magazine featured ‘Wharfedale Road’ in No.214 as ‘Shelfie’. MMRS asked if it would be possible to have that as an exhibit instead, so that’s been agreed and got me off the hook regarding the layout module that wasn’t working. As an aside Shelfie also appeared at Warley, running the Model Rail USA Dock tanks on the magazines stand throughout the weekend.
What’s this got to do with Peninsula’s then? Two things. The original module was to have been a peninsula, which clearly has to be joined to the bigger layout. The baseboard chassis is built, track (as mentioned), laid, and needed to be properly designed and integrated to the bigger scheme. Except the bigger scheme doesn’t physically exist. So I would be starting the Severn and Dean project with a module that was getting towards ‘MEH’, in capitals this time! Not a good place to start. Shelfie has helped enormously and unexpectedly here. As built the lighting gantry and display boards/fascia were for home consumption, so were made from offcuts and made to work well for its home base, the workshop wall. Having accepted both Warley and Manchester requests it was clear that the layout superstructure would need a makeover, to protect things like the trees and lighting and not least moving it from location to location. The original superstructure was stripped from Shelfie to make the new framework, this time from alloy angle giving weight saving, rigidity and strength. To engineer this I used the baseboard chassis of Mitcheldean Road, Shelfies footprint comfortably fitting within the chassis footprint. This was set up at my normal track level height of around 50 inches allowing me 360 degree access to work on it.
It was at this point that the penny dropped, I had a ‘peninisula’ layout in front of me. I could move around it and see it from different angles. Recently with Albion Yard and Shelfie I’ve worked in the digital backscenes and view blocks so the layouts have a defined view point. Seeing the track of Shelfie in the round helped me visualise how a peninsula might work in the workshop/garage for Severn and Dean. Lighting for me is critical on a layout particularly for exhibition models.
A peninsula needs lighting, and that has its challenges. Under the workshop lighting all is well, but its all to easy to block the illumination just moving around so the module will need its own gantry, ideally without the view being blocked by gantry supports. One exhibition layout I saw recently had equidistant lighting supports along the front edge of the baseboard which I found a real distraction. I was also concerned that the offstage area would distract from the layout. Whilst doing the new framework I was also rebuilding the front of the wife’s car after she had hit a deer, so there was lots of ‘stuff’ lying around and in the way. With the lighting rig working, the attention was drawn to the layout, rather than the clutter of the replacement front end. With the lighting off and normal room lighting, the eye was quickly drawn away from the layout to the rest of the clutter. The track height was settled at around 50 inches from the floor, this also helps with the visual separation from the surrounding room/area.
There is a simple way to minimise this impact and a brilliant example of this is Pete Kirmond’s Laramie enginehouse layout. Peter has spent a good deal of time and effort in the design of this simple layout laramie with the presentation and lighting being key elements in bringing the whole display together. Interestingly our layouts were back to back at Manchester, and the track heights we had chosen were within an inch of each other.
The differences in lighting of our exhibits was striking, and the very different ways we’ve gone to make support structures was too. Laramie uses a full LED display using warm and cool white mix. This is built into the upper pelmet with a clever cantilever design which means there are no support struts in the way of the viewer. Shelfie uses a mix of cool fluorescent and controllable full blue LED lighting. Shelfie uses a diagonal batten along the length of the layout with fluorescent and LED lighting washing evenly across the scene, It uses a digital print wrap round backscene -the-digital-backscene (image kindly provided by Chris Nevard nevardmedia.blogspot.) The presentation for Shelfie is a letterbox style, seeing Laramie has literally opened my eyes to how a fully lit peninsula could be built as a home layout and exhibition feature too. The two layouts have very different color balances that are configured for each display. Laramie catching the high plains drifter lighting, and Shelfie having a variable ‘english’ color cast, or white balance in digital camera terms, with the LED intensity control.
The next thing I need to resolve having decided ‘Mitcheldean’ is ‘meh’ in terms of how it will integrate into the Severn and Dean Scheme, is what will replace it. A peninsula can be made to look very effective as Pete’s Laramie has shown, and I’ve already found a possible plan for a location to feature on that section. Do I build it? I think so, but I said that about Mitcheldean ..
As a close a big thank you to those of you who came and said hello at Warley and Manchester, thanks too to Richard Foster at Model Rail and David Haarhaus at Bachmann for allowing the opportunity to demonstrate the USATC Dock Tank. For those of you who have ordered it, and not yet seen it first hand, you are in for a real treat!