John's Jottings

158. The Railway Story - August 2019

Posted on July 31, 2019 at 5:15 AM

At the Plonkton show, we overheard one member of a club that had better remain nameless, beefing on about how he had taken over five hours of video of the club layouts, made them into a CD-based presentation, and offered them to club members. He proudly premiered his production one club night. After about five minutes, members started to drift away and resume work on their layouts. He only managed to sell three copies. Over the following months, he couldn’t even give away his surplus stock.


“No support,” he complained bitterly. “They don’t care. They’re an apathetic lot. Pointless me spending all that time doing it.”


Now his friend, who was from another club, had done something similar for his club layouts, and was very pleased with his sales.


“Sold over two hundred copies,” the successful entrepreneur told him. “We’ve usually shifted at least a dozen at every one of the last seventeen shows where we’ve exhibited. That’s brought in some useful cash. It’s almost paid for our newest layout.” His listener was green with envy. He thought it most unfair that his efforts had neither similar sales nor generated significant revenue. He couldn’t see where he was going wrong.


“When I heard this, I did some quiet probing into both their offerings,” Fred explained to us. “The first chap had simply strung together all his shots, possibly in the order he’d videoed them. There was no underlying logic behind the sequence, just a succession of jerky zooms, pans, and fancy cross-fades. While filming, he just couldn’t hold the camera still, or resist using every video-effect on his computer’s editing program.


“There were other problems as well, “Fred continued. “On one occasion, a train went into a tunnel behind a steam loco, and the next shot showed it emerging from the other end being pulled by a diesel. That was a lack of continuity. Several times he revisited a layout he’d shown earlier, and more-or-less repeated the same sequence of shots as before. The whole thing was most disjointed. No wonder his fellow club-members were not interested.


“Now the other fellow had planned his shots and thought about how they would be edited together. They’d been put into sequences, each one telling a clear, if simple story. Sometimes it was just the progression of a train through the scenery. Other times it was shunting. The most complex portrayed the co-ordinated arrivals and departures at a junction station, when a luggage van was transferred from one passenger train to another. Each part of the move was shown, though not necessarily in full, and from a variety of points-of-view.


“Ah, yes,” Bill sighed. “I remember when I was helping prepare some work for a TV studio, both the producer and the director were insistent. “There are three things to remember when making high quality video,” they kept repeating. ”They’re story, story and story.”


“Some people run their model railways with neither rhyme nor reason,” our chairman commented. “They send trains round on a whim, without any purpose other than to look pretty. But there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what brings them pleasure.”


“That’s toy train set,” Paul commented, pleased to share his wisdom with us ignoramuses.


“However, there are others who do their best to replicate in miniature the movements of the prototype,” our chairman continued. “No loco moves without a clear purpose. No wagon leaves a siding without a load to carry, or going to collect a load from elsewhere on the system, even if that place is only represented by the fiddle yard. No carriage runs without a destination, be that a station, carriage sidings, or servicing depot.” It remains to be seen if Paul adopts any of these procedures when he operates a club layout.


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