Right, the baseboards were built, track is laid, wired up and tested. Now is the time to consider what is going around the tracks - i.e. the scenic treatment. Some might say that the time was actually earlier than that, that the scenic treatment should have been considered before a rail was laid. Well in broad terms it was, but in detail certainly not. I knew I wanted an urban setting, my station would be placed somewhere within the Bangkok city limits, but my thinking has been evolving over the time the layout has been in planning and construction.
Very early on I decided my location would be fictional. Partly this was due to the practicalities of researching a location 6000 miles away, or rather the impracticability of that, and partly it was because none of the Bangkok stations I knew had the sort of backdrop I wanted. I don't think this is an unusual situation in railway modelling, very few layouts are exact representations of a particular location. However as far as possible I wanted my layout to have models of real buildings set in their actual immediate terrain. I also wanted the overall effect to give a good representation of Thailand as it is and not how people expect it to look. But if we are going to take a warts and all approach then it isn't absolutely necessary to place the warts centre stage. I do want an overall positive representation. After all Pendon glosses over the fact that many lived in very straightened circumstances in the Vale of White Horse in the 1930s.
The railway side of things is straightforward. Station building, platform canopies and signal box are being lifted straight from Thonburi, the locomotive shed will be a cut down version and those ancillary buildings (offices, mess, refuelling plant) will be as close to Thonburi's as I can get with the information available. Another structure is a large corrugated iron shed used by the permanent way department, though it appears that by 2016 squatters had taken over part of it. I had a number of photographs of this and using Google Earth to estimate the overall dimensions I was able to put together a drawing to work from. That is now awaiting painting.
For the non-railway side of things, my thinking has evolved. I wanted to have traditional Thai houses and a Buddhist temple, but I also wanted to include the sort of shops and shop-houses I saw around Bangkok - a 7-11 mini-supermarket is a must - and I wanted to reflect the modern side of Bangkok. And naturally there had to be somewhere to put street traders and have a market. Not THAT market though, others can fiddle with servos to make collapsing awnings but not me.
The outline design I am working to then is to have an urban village of traditional houses at one end. There is an example of this near Thonburi from which I have taken some inspiration, but I'm not following that slavishly. I have some good photos of three storey shops from some sois off Sukhumvit to work from. One actually housed a fish and chip shop, not the sort of thing you expect to see in Bangkok, but another was home to a 7-11 store. This "traditional" end of the layout is also going to have a temple. Most of it in half relief unfortunately as I don't have space for any but the smallest temples in full relief. Finding a suitable example to model took some time though. There are two temples near Thonburi station. One is a magnificent example but far too large to fit on the layout. It does appear in the background of many archive photos of trains at Thonburi. The other was way too small, more like a little chapel, and bore as much resemblance to the sort of temple I was looking for as a Baptist chapel does to Canterbury Cathedral. In the end I found one through the city tourist map the hotels hand out which had helpfully marked every significant "wat" (or temple) and simply walking down the roads that had a few on them. One on Rama I road fitted the bill. I took loads of pictures - isn't digital photography great - and made some sketches. Again with the help of Google Earth I estimated the size of the main prayer hall and so far I have a quick mockup made of card sitting on the layout to give an idea of the effect
(As a complete aside, Rama I road crosses the throat of Hualamphong station, a great sight from the bridge is the Hualamphong pilot loose shunting coaches, there are clips on YouTube of that)
The key feature I want though, in order to really fix the Thai theme is the golden tower used to store relics. I think it's called a chedi but I stand to be corrected on that. The wat on Rama 1 road has one of the right size and type, typical I understand for Bangkok's Rattakanosin period in architecture. Modelling that will prove an interesting exercise.
The middle background will be taken up by the locomotive works, and that means I will have to figure out a way of building the water tower. Thonburi shed is home to the SRT's small stud of working steam engines which get a run out a couple of times a year on Specials, presumably that is why the water tower is still there
The other end is intended to reflect modern Bangkok, and I covered this in my first blog entry. This is where I intend my model of Starbucks to go and where I hope to find a home for the Kibri tower crane - which is to 1:100 scale despite the HO label on the box.
But now, what trains are going to run in and out of my station?