Hoboken Manufacturers Railroad

Chapter 3: Structures as Scenery

Structures are structures, and scenery is scenery, right? Yes, there’s a distinction between
them with respect to their origins: structures are manmade, and scenery is natural. But in
terms of a layout, both are really just visual elements—stage props to surround the actors
(the trains). Buildings convey certain information in order to create a setting, and really,
this is no different from the role of trees and rocks and water. The realization inspired me
to look at a model railroad as a whole, not as bits and pieces; it’s helped me to shape the
feeling one senses when looking at the layout.

To be sure, I didn’t arrive at this in a sudden revelation; it’s come to me gradually over
the decades I’ve been modeling. But I’d pretty much become cognizant of it by the time
I started building this layout: I was looking at everything in terms of the feeling conveyed.
Today, I don’t do anything else; I treat every object on a layout as a visual element
designed to support a core theme (or, as I prefer to call it, the “mood”). The only thing
that bothers me is that it took so long to realize this.

Among other things, it helps explain why it’s been so hard deciding which of the two sister
layouts is set in which era: they both have elements that support both time periods in
visually interesting ways. Perhaps one day I’ll divine a third option that, to paraphrase,
allows me to have my cake and eat it too. But that’s not only a tall challenge, it’s also not
important right now, since both layouts are in suspended animation.

Meanwhile, I’d like to share a few of the kitbashes I’d done for the Hoboken Manufacturers
Railroad. Heavily influenced by what I’d learned while building the Jersey City Industrial,
they also influenced much of the modeling I’ve done subsequently.

Ordinarily, Kibri’s popular factory kit is a bit too ornate-looking to fit in with the more bland
industries found in the industrial northeast, but I learned it can be “diluted” enough—mostly
by just making it a lot bigger—to blend in.

DPM is an indispensible source for highly realistic urban structures. But, when some parts
are taken out of context, so to speak, one can create wonderfully ordinary-looking, entirely
believable industries as well. Haber Leathers was made from the back walls of two kits:

Here’s an entire city block of bashes.

I love to make buildings that follow the geometry of adjacent track. This heavy-duty bash
of Cornerstone’s American Hardware kit gets the curved wall treatment. Incidentally, you
can see an earlier “draft” of the buildings shown above; it’s not uncommon for me to make
two or three (or more) stabs at getting a scene right.

All of this “scenery” is carefully stowed away, waiting for the day when the spirit moves
me to resume working on it.

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