Friday, 23 April 2021

Setting the Scene

 I think I'm at the point where I only have one major design choice to make about Grundy's Yard.

It is a big one though.

How do I present it?

The view from our garden gate

What spurred me on to build the layout was an archived article on  Deryck and Peter Featherstone's Abbey Road and Barton Bendish, which was built without a back scene, as was quite common then. But I've always been critical of exhibition layouts that don't have a deep, relatively seamless back scene.

When I built the last OO9 micro it didn't have a back scene built-in because I intended it to be viewed from any side. The original idea had been to have a detachable one for photographic purposes, attached by magnets. In reality, I've taken photos of it outside with a natural background, or indoors with the generic sky blue walls of the studio behind it, as with the current cover photo.

In designing Grundy's Yard Iain Rice's book on cameo layouts has never been far from my side. It should be a shoo-in for cameo style presentation with a fully curved back scene.

But at the same time, I'm a  little uncomfortable about it.  


Well, a curved back scene is going to eat into the available space on the layout. Bear in mind this is set in the Fens, where space is one of the most obvious landscape features, along with our big skies. And that is another issue. Back scenes work well, very well, when modelling a scene with hills and buildings in the background. It is much harder to get the right back scene for open-countryside.

Look at the photo I've included. It is, quite literally, the view from one of our garden gates about five minutes ago. Wouldn't that do? 

Well no. 

Having the crop, winter-sown wheat, in the foreground gives you a sense of space, but the perspective is wrong. But if I cut out the crop the scene will lack the important middle distance.

And in any case, it is the wrong crop for the time period and season, and there are too may modern elements along the skyline.

Then there is the feeling that cameo presentation has become cliched. Now don't get me wrong, I like it, it is a vast improvement on the past, and I have ideas for using it in the future. 

Decisions, decisions, decisions...


  1. Hi James.

    Today I've been culling my book, magazine and MRJ collection for donating to charity. I have kept a few articles, which I have cut out for reference (those mags for recycling), and amongst those was a brace by Martin Goodall on hand painting his back scenes for Burford.

    Now I don't have the talent to replicate his work. I think nonetheless that there is some merit in considering a more painterly look for such an important scenic item. Back scenes have traditionally been the poor relation. One only has to look at the commercial offerings to understand that. Cumulus clouds that don't move and dubious two dimensional renditions of buildings don't really float my boat at least.

    Whilst there is a case forced compression, for many layouts built on a svelte form factor, perhaps something indistinct, whether a hazy high Summer day or a misty Spring or Autumn morning might fit the bill and provide an a backdrop that complements the model rather than drawing attention from it.

    Just a few philosophical thoughts


    1. Yes, I've got those, and the excellent Bambrick & Ellis-Cockell book. You might have a point about a painted scene. But even then I have to work out what will look right given the absence of height.

  2. I guess part of the quandary must be viewing angle. Is the layout to be viewed horizontally or from slightly above. The latter is I hazard the tough one. Viewed horizontally by placing low to mid height bushes, trees and other scenic items between track and back scene it would be possible to draw the eye from the foreground and into the distance. A muted sky with some greys might blend well with some trees (bright blue sky with fluffy cumulus would introduce too much contrast) and on the back scene itself go for something resembling Bokeh. Just an idea.

    1. I think there are two other issues, as well as those. The first is that most backscenes, when you think about it, channel the viewer in towards one or more vanishing points, like stage scenery often does. But here that doesn't work, which ever way you look the scenery broadens out to the big sky. The other is the absence of many of those middle distance features that aid the blending of the foreground and background. I think it is going to be a case of finding a real life viewpoint that nearly works, then artistically tweaking it, whilst bearing in mind my point that the agricultural scenery around here has changed a lot in fifty years.