A decision on kiln numbers

I was flattered to have so many thoughtful responses to my posting about the number of tobacco kilns I intend to build for St. Williams. To recap, I originally planned for five kilns in this scene, but lately I’ve been thinking about doing just three.

Many of you offered an opinion and with some very sound reasoning to support your thoughts. Thank you!

As I mentioned in my January 30th post, I planned to play around with the mock-ups a bit more to determine whether three or five worked best for me.

While shooting the video I posted yesterday of Extra 80 East through St. Williams, I realized that I should go with just three kilns for this scene. There are many reasons in favour of three (and of five, for that matter), but what cinched the decision was an experiment I did with photography and video angles with the kilns.

Here’s the set-up for three kilns. Note the space between the right-most kiln and the road crossing:
Kiln Test - 3 (Set-up) photo KilnTest-3-02_zps68ce2fb6.jpg

Now, here’s the set-up for five kilns. (Not all are shown – I simply moved the three mock-ups on hand to the relevant positions.) Note how much closer the right-hand kiln must be to the road crossing in order to fit five kilns:
Kiln Test - 5 (Set-up) photo KilnTest-5-02_zpsb65c9a84.jpg

While it doesn’t seem like that much – it’s one kiln length, so only about 4.5 inches. But note also in the above two photos that I’ve had to reposition the camera in order to shoot the station scene without it being blocked by the corner of the right-hand kiln. With just three kilns in the scene, I can successfully shoot a photo of the station that looks up the mainline, under the trees, and including the tree fort:
Kiln Test - 3 (Result) photo KilnTest-3-01_zps93bbce83.jpg

If I reposition the camera to shoot past a five-kiln scene, and still capture the entire station structure, here’s the best I can do:
Kiln Test - 5 (Result) photo KilnTest-5-01_zps5fa06280.jpg

It’s not a bad photo, but I like the first one better. (And of course I can shoot that second photo in a three-kiln scenario – but I can’t shoot the first photo with five kilns in the scene.)

The St. Williams station scene has become a favourite for me and it would be a shame to limit my photo-taking opportunities by placing a kiln too close to the crossing. And I don’t want to create removable structures so I can shoot past them, because that presents opportunities for accidents involving scratch-built structures and the train-room floor. So – three it is.

Thanks again to everyone who commented on the original posting. It’s difficult to offer an opinion when you don’t have the whole picture but every observation – in favour of three, five, or another number – gave me stuff to think about and helped with my decision. A number of you raised possibilities I hadn’t considered, or made me think about the scene in a different way.

It’s now time to resume building my kilns – with confidence!

8 thoughts on “A decision on kiln numbers

  1. Hi Trevor,
    Because you’re such an excellent modeller, would you want to add a greenhouse to the scene? Every tobacco farm had one or two and I believe it has never been modelled . Another feature of tobacco farms was the cureman’s shack and don’t forget the pole light standard in the middle of the kiln yard with guide wires. As to your kilns, since you model late August or early Sepember, you could model the table, elevator,work gang and having the doors open for them filling a kiln with green tobacco plus a door open to allow another kiln to contain cured leaves.
    What do you think?

    Monte Reeves

    • Hi Monte:
      Great, as always, to hear from you.
      Unfortunately, I don’t have room for the greenhouse – I assume this was where seedlings were started.
      I do have room for the cureman’s shack and I photographed one while photographing my kilns.
      The pole light? As in, a lamp so the cureman could work at night? I hadn’t thought of that, even though I know that was a round-the-clock job.
      I am thinking about modelling one kiln open with the table and elevator out front, and a crew tying sticks. Kilns first, though!

      • My recollections of my aunt’s and uncle’s tobacco farm is the same as Monte’s. The cureman’s shack was centrally located with the ubiquitous pole light for the inevitable middle of the night trips to the kilns–not sure if these were “trouble calls” or routine checks. Sounds like it will make for a great scene.

        Not sure if it was standard but their greenhouse was close to the farmhouse; perhaps to shorten the walk during late winter.

  2. My first trip to Strasbug Railroad in August 1962 they were loading the tobacco barns and also auctioning the leaf — the smell was delicious.

  3. One reason why I keep track of your railroad is that you explain why you want to do something, why one choice over another and when simplicity is the way to go and when extending the size might do well, such as in your corn field to make it seem like it was part of a actual farm and justify some business for the railroad. The same goes for each item that you talk about wild flowers, how much is enough, your apple orchards. your tobacco crop, and the number of tobacco kilns.

    This is something I don’t notice to be common in most blogs about layouts, the reasons for making the choices.. As that thinking out seems to lead to good results it is something the rest of us need to think about if we want to create a believable scene and model layout.

    • Hi Christopher:
      What a nice thing to say. Thank you!
      Talking these decisions definitely helps my figure out the best approach to take, to create a layout that’s most satisfying for me. I expect others do it, but perhaps they don’t share it as much. I agree with you – I enjoy reading about the decisions behind various approaches. It not only gives me more to think about for my own layout, it also helps me understand what another layout builder’s goals are – which helps me to understand how well they’re achieving their objectives.
      Lots of people in the hobby will make snap decisions when they see a layout. “This is a successful layout” or “This is a failure”. Without understanding the thought processes that went into the creation of the layout, the best those types of decisions can be are ill-informed judgements based on whether it’s the type of layout the visitor would build for themselves. I’ve been subject to that a few times on this blog – very few times, fortunately – so I do make an effort to explain why I do things the way I do.
      Glad you noticed – cheers!

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