What seemed to be a trend at ExpoNG this year was for layouts with no backscene or just a very low one.
In the case of Gweek North Quay the rising ground behind the tracks serves to act a kind of view break (and to cover the fiddle yard tracks) but any attempt to represent the sky or distant scenery is skipped over.
Black Hall Sidings, an 09 Inglenook shunting puzzle by Simon Andrews, uses a stand of autumn trees to draw attention into the modelled scene.
The effect is at an extreme with Don Sibley’s Belgian Country Tramway, which is not only sans backscene but very flat and very thin. It is, I’m told, a slice of a home layout which can be brought out for shows but the result is something that is pretty hard to take photos of. Not that the layout itself is any poorer for it as the rural Belgian village scenery is modelled very convincingly.
However the layout which set this post in motion was Ardez in HOm by John Attewell. Again without any backscene but very well captured Swiss scenery, and based on a real location, John’s explanation was that he sees the layout as a three dimensional slice out of the world (albeit 87 times smaller) and therefore a flat panel of sky against one of the edges would be unnecessary. I can certainly see the logic, and I would have to agree that no backscene would be preferable to a poorly painted one.
The other aspect of Ardez I wanted to write about, and visible in the open fiddleyard, is the laptop which runs the Railroad & Co. software that controls the DCC equipped layout most of the time. While I’m not sure that such a level of automation is something I would consider for myself (although the various iPhone interfaces for DCC systems that are popping up are tempting!), in the case of Ardez with its efficient Swiss timetabling and fully working signalling it seems appropriate. It can also allow a single operator to run a more intensive service, with the computer filling in movements between the manual ones and the signalling able to prevent accidental collisions.
So is a trend developing to ditch the backscene? Perhaps, but then again just as many layouts at ExpoNG had a boxed-in theatrical presentation…