John's Jottings

155. Snow and More Snow - May 2019

Posted on April 30, 2019 at 2:15 PM

There were three snow scenes at the Merle exhibition. One had taken the simple solution. Everywhere was covered in white scenic scatter, deep and crisp and even. Only the rails remained uncovered. Obviously the frequent passage of trains had kept them clear during the recent snowstorm. But nothing else seemed to have moved since the blizzard had passed. Even the runners on the children’s toboggan left no ruts. The skiers left no tracks. Nobody had put a foot anywhere to violate the pristine snow. Had all the little inhabitants been frozen stiff by a blast of super-cold air?

The hall lighting was known to be poor, so the owner had brought along his own well-provisioned lighting rig. This meant that the snow scene could be seen from right across the exhibition. It positively sparkeled, attracting visitors from across the hall. However, the whole scene was so brilliantly illuminated that, close-to, sun-glasses were necessary to prevent snow blindness.

On the second layout, snow had been applied more sparingly. The underlying vegetation could still be seen, only partly masked by a gently filigree of white. One side of the cutting was whiter than the other. Wagons in sidings were dusted in snow, while moving vehicles had roofs more-or-less free of snow. The scene was almost black-and-white, but there were always those subtle hints of colour. It was this sophistication that made it special. It was not surprising than many visitors were taking photographs.

The snow on the third model was as deep as on the first, but had been applied far more thoughtfully. There were deep drifts against the east-facing sides of every building, and accumulations in the spaces between adjacent buildings. But where there was a chimney against an end wall, the curving path of the hidden flues within the stonework could be traced by the lack of adhering snow. Some roofs were blanketed in snow while other had snow slipping down, threatening to land on passers-by below, the difference indicating the relative warmth of the rooms within.

Snow had stuck to one side of every signal and telegraph post. There were footprints, attempts to clear the snow, people resting from shovelling snow, vehicle tracks, with the distinctive paths of leading and trailing wheels, men pushing cars, people attempting to clear windscreens, the route taken by toboggans along a street and then repeatedly down a near-by slope. The accompanying children’s footprints only went up the hill, not down. There were even the paw prints of animals, definitely dogs and cats, and possibly a fox.

There was one set of enormous prints. If you followed them you were rewarded with the sight of a woolly mammoth hiding in a spinney. This caused great amusement amongst the more observant of the visitors. “Ah, you’ve seen it,” the operator would call out amid laughter, much to the annoyance of the less observant spectators.

Arching over the entire layout was a blue sky-cloth through which light permeated giving a sombre cast to the scene – that indefinable mixture of blue and purple, grey and white that is only created by snow-laden skies. It was so atmospheric you could feel the chill in the air.

“Observation” out chairman commented. “Careful observation is the key to realism when it comes to scenic modelling, whether it’s a winter scene, or high summer, spring or autumn. Don’t model as you think it ought to be, or as other people have done it. Get out and look for yourself. Study every detail. Make notes. Ask yourself questions as to why things are the way they are. And if you can’t provide convincing answers, discuss it with scientists, geographers, other modellers, read books, talk with artists and photographers, visit on-line forums, both those dealing with model railways and other branches of art and landscape, consult experts in relevant fields of knowledge.” Now who could disagree with that?

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