Where to model

So I know I’m going to create an N gauge layout, but what to model? Broadly speaking, there are 5 options:

  • Britain
  • Mainland Europe
  • North America
  • Japan
  • Something esoteric

I did what you might expect. I googled. I want to enjoy looking at my trains, not watch them thinking ‘jeez that’s an ugly colour scheme’… so I looked at the kind of models available for each of the possible options. I knew I wanted to model a vaguely modern era, so I looked mainly at diesel and electric traction.

But I also wanted to ensure that there was enough choice available without spending the price of a small house or having to build everything myself, so I decided to eliminate the last option immediately. There’s no point in modelling the railways of Vietnam or Azerbaijan, when no stock is available and everything must be scratch-built. Not when you’re as impatient and cack-handed as me, anyway.

After extended googling, I realised:

  • I’m not interested in British outline, maybe because I grew up in a railway-centric household and travelled by train in the UK so much that familiarity has bred contempt – and some of the latest colour schemes make my eyes bleed
  • I simply don’t know enough about Japanese railways, cities or landscapes to try modelling them
  • In North America, trains are long – very long – and I don’t think I can do them justice on an 8 foot long or shorter layout

So that left Europe, which felt right – I’ve travelled on European trains quite a lot, and have always enjoyed seeing the various liveries, which seem to me somehow classier than British train liveries.

Having narrowed it down to Europe, I was going to weigh the various merits of different European countries in turn, when I realised that there was one country in Europe that stands out, in terms of the variety of colour schemes and motive power, and also offers good opportunities for putting together trains containing stock from more than one country – and that country is Switzerland.

You have the SBB national railway company of course, then there’s the BLS running through the middle of the country, and a whole bunch of smaller companies. Not to mention the possibilities for running multinational passenger and freight trains. And on the landscaping side, Swiss railway lines are so full of tunnels and gradients that interesting layouts can be built in smaller spaces without looking too unnatural (it’s hard to justify a tunnel if you’re modelling the Netherlands).

Some searching online confirmed that there is a wide range of Swiss outline available from many manufacturers, from old 1930’s locomotives to the latest Vectron cargo locos and Cisalpin passenger rakes. And if I model Epoch V (roughly 1990 to 2007), I can run a variety of locos and coaches in different colour schemes without it looking out of place.

So, decision made – I will be setting my layout somewhere in Switzerland. And it’s also a great excuse to holiday in Switzerland again sometime soon. Purely for research purposes, you understand.

BLS Ae8/8 in N gauge
BLS Ae8/8 in N gauge
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