Friday, May 25, 2012

Again with the Mountain Railroading? How about a flatland railroading book?

This little ditty was in my email a few days ago . . .
If model railroading publishing giant Kalmbach really wanted to impress us, they'd get Tony Koester
to do a flatland railroading book instead of mountains, again.

I got an email a few days ago announcing Kalmbach's newest Tony Koester title, Model Railroader’s Guide to Mountain Railroading, and I thought, "oh swell, more tunnels, more coal mines, more puff-ball trees, more rock castings, more basements full of Rockies and Appalachia . . ."

Don't get me wrong--I am actually a Kalmbach superfan, with a long history of subscriptions to and even a couple of by-lines in Kalmbach magazines, plus a sizeable library of Kalmbach books.

But I do think those nice people at Kalmbach love them some mountain-y railroads. I came up as a little guy reading Model Railroader and Trains--and for a long time, I thought the trains in my home area of Northwest Indiana were somehow deficient because we had no tunnels or mountain vistas or high trestles or any of that stuff that seems to get a lot editorial love up in Waukesha.

In addition to this new book, Model Railroader just concluded a Virginian HO project layout, and the year before, a high desert N Utah layout--both were outstanding examples of what could be done in small spaces with decidedly non-exotic materials and techniques (that N layout ran on Kato Unitrack, for crying out loud).

But it's always mountains, mountains, mountains.

Sure, I know that tunnels and bare rock faces and trestles are all 'model-genic' but I would really like to see Kalmbach and its experts like Tony Koester turn their creative guns on the great flat spaces that are actually what a lot of American railroading actually looks like.

So, hey Kalmbach, how about a project layout or a book featuring the glorious flatlands? It actually shouldn't be too hard: after all, Tony Koester does have a flatland layout in his basement, and so does Bill Darnaby, who has penned an article or two for Model Railroader and the Layout Planning annuals that Tony edits.

A project layout in one of the big model railroading magazines featuring midwest themes is certainly overdue. Maybe Tony and Bill could build a layout from one of those Layout Design Element 4x8 plans that have turned up in Model Railroader and its specials, with a town or scene on the front of the layout and staging area on the back, out of sight.

There would be lots of flatland-specific techniques to show off in such a project layout. For example, trees, weeds, crops, and other vegetation of the flatlands, or region-specific architecture, right-of-way, and engineering practices. The visual trickery of seeming featureless landscapes could also be covered--how to disguise passages through backdrops, or use of forced perspective.

I'd buy it if they printed it.  I'll probably buy the mountain book, anyway, though, too.