Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Zen Garden -- in O Gauge

I recently got back the train table I had as a boy (no, that's not it at right). It's a simple 3 x 5 table that my father built. Originally it held a circle of 027 track, with a figure eight in the middle. Nothing realistic -- just a place to run some toy trains.

In high school, the Lionel equipment got put away, and I worked on an N gauge model railroad. Because N scale is significantly smaller, I could build a much more elaborate system on the same table.

Now that I have the table again, I'm back to O-gauge. Which means it's really cramped on the table. Just two loops with one spur. And I'm modeling in tinplate. So what does that mean?

Tinplate means that I'm running toy trains rather than model trains. I don't have to worry about all the buildings being realistic scale models, or that the cars are exactly 1:48 scale, or that the box cars are the correct road names for the area I'm modeling.

And that's where the zen comes in. Because everything I put on this layout is my decision, and only has to make sense to me. I can make it as detailed as I want, or purely representational -- or even some of both.

How I choose to fill the space is something like working out a puzzle. Should a tree go there, or should I leave it open? Add a tunnel, or no? Have a road, or just a dirt trail? Put in another trackside warehouse, or perhaps add a house or two?

All small decisions, and no wrong answers. And there's no deadline. It doesn't matter if the layout isn't finished next week, next month, or ever.

So I work on it now and then and think about things. It's as relaxing as a zen garden -- albeit one with locomotives that puff smoke and have real whistles. And that's the way I like it.

- Ralph

BTW - the image is from the back cover of the Lionel 1957 catalog. It's always been my dream layout. Perhaps I'll build it someday.

Day 81 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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