Design and construction principles

Principles behind especially the HO Port Bonifacio layout, in descending order of importance:

Reliable
This is the foundation principle. SPL needs to work flawlessly, or as close as we can get. “Like a Swiss watch”. Operating is no fun if things go wrong, nor is just showing off our work to visitors. I have no patience for things that don’t work. Personally, getting things smooth does not give me great pleasure for its own sake, but failing to do so destroys the pleasure I get from the next four principles:

Usable
Easy for a newcomer to understand and operate a train. Able to be operated fast enough and busy enough to put on a show. Does not cause confusion or get (unpleasantly) hectic.

Intricate
The purist simplicity of, for example, David Barrow’s recent work is interesting, but it does not attract me. Except where it makes reliability unobtainable, the layout will showcase intricate systems like signalling and car forwarding operations, and intricate lighting and scenic super-detailing.

Representational
If we are ever to finish the layout, we must limit the Intricacy principle with a “good enough” principle. The layout is allowed to be representational rather than realistic where it suits us. Rolling stock does not have to be super detailed, some of the trees will not bear close examination, plastic building kits are OK.

Believable
Representational is OK, so long as the overall effect is believable. One thing we do not seek is to be prototypical: the layout exists in a mythical parallel universe. We can do anything we want: in effect there is no prototype. We are modelling a real railroad in hypothetical town in a real location. The result must be believable: it could have happened that way; given the scenario, it might have looked like that.

Clever
The elegance of a well-thought-out solution; the use of good research; the application of knowledge; great engineering; cool ideas. These are all things that make a model railroad attractive or admirable to me

Beautiful
The layout should be attractive or admirable to all who see it. I believe that in essence model railroading is an art form as much as it is a toy. It is a means of self-expression for me. It is a kinetic sculpture that is also great to play with. Like all art, it needs form, balance, skill and theme.