Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Letterbox layouts ?

Highbury Colliery

At Railex, there were several layouts displayed in what we call "letterbox" format. That is, the model is completely surrounded by a fascia above, curtain below and sometimes "wings" at the side. The idea is to focus the viewers attention on the model itself by cutting out all extraneous visual distractions.

On the plus side, these do seem to showcase the modelling well. On the other hand they can block the operators from the view of the public. This might not be a bad thing in the case of some people (never mind having a face for radio, some of us have a face for hiding behind several feet of plywood) but can also inhibit the chat that for me is so important.

Some layouts get around this by placing the operator at the front. While he is then available to answer questions, he also has to get in the way of the audience if anything needs to be carried out on the layout such as re-railing rolling stock. From a practical point of view, it would make sighting magnets for auto couplings impossible (you need to do this from above) and puts things like control panels and mugs of tea on display.

We tried this with the Hellingly Hosptial Railway and I think it looks very nice. However, Melbridge Dock & Flockburgh are more conventional with the scene in front of the viewer, high fascias and the operators easily visible. Backscenes help to stop the view being ruined by railway modeller tummies but obviously there are more distractions for the viewer.

So, what works best ?

As a visitor to the show, do you like letterbox layouts or not ?

I ask because at present Foxdale is planned to be displayed this way but if enough people aren't happy then perhaps we'll change out minds.


David Smith said...

Lighting the model works well with a letterbox but like a theatre the audience should be set back from the stage. At an exhibition people tend to 'rub their noses' against the model and when there is a crowd a letterbox makes it more difficult for others to get a look in, especially for smaller layouts. I think good lighting is more important. Think about how to achieve that whithout constraining the view.

Zeb said...

Letterbox is OK for fully auto layouts...the effect is spoilt by 'the hand of god' uncoupling manoeuvres

matt scrutton said...

I don't really like it, I find the bit at the top never leaves my line of vision (I'm quite tall so can't avoid it!) and it just looks odd.

Nevardmedia said...

My layout's conform to both. Like you I am undecided. A boxed in presentation is great for storing and transportation in that everything inside is protected and when it home can be stacked. It's also far better for getting a scene properly lit with the built in lighting.

But for big layouts, tranportation could be an issue with a high permanently fixed backscene because far more room is taken up in transport.

I won't lose any sleep over it, because when seeing layouts at shows, good modelling will alway be the most important aspect which will over ride everything else.

Combwich (open trad)

Catcott (boxed diorama)