Monday, March 21, 2016

HO Railroad That Grows

     Linn Westcott. HO Railroad That Grows (2nd ed, 1972) First published as a series of articles in Model Trains, the book is a nostalgia trip. The hobby has changed enormously since then, but the spectacular technical changes are I think less important than the changes in philosophy. Beginners now learn that they should define their interests, and then consider how a given layout design may meet them. Are they model builders? Train watchers? Operators? Do they want prototypical accuracy, or an invented world? What are their craft skills? And so on. They also have many more resources in local clubs or groups of modellers who welcome newbies and help them avoid mistakes.
      The book leads the reader from an oval (carefully constructed so that future changes entail the least possible effort) to a complicated spaghetti-bowl of a layout on which two trains can be operated through a town, a tunnel, over several bridges, and around two reversing loops so that a train can go round and round clockwise, and then counter clockwise, and then clockwise again. A couple of industrial sidings offer switching, but there’s no discussion of how to operate train.
      Westcott’s strength is his  conversational step-by-step instruction. He  explains why some things are done with the future in mind. He warns about possible glitches, and suggests alternatives. He covers every aspect of layout building. Builders were invited to submit photos of their versions The book includes three of them, sadly not of high enough quality to allow study of the owners’ interpretations of Westcott’s advice.
      This book was a game changer, I think. It made the building of a layout less daunting: at every step,  it would look finished. It inculcated the sense that a layout could be rebuilt any time in any way you liked. More recent books about Model Railroader’s project layouts include a chapter on operations. That’s the only lack here. Even if one will never build this particular layout, the book is worth reading. It’s short, clear, and could well inspire one to start. Out of print, but used copies may be found here and there. **½

No comments: