Using a Digital Camera to Assess The Impact of New Structures

Trevor Hodges

I've owned a small digital camera for about 12 months and have found it an invaluable modelling tool. Space on my O-scale layout is at a premium and this means I want to ensure that I make the most of what little real estate I do have available. I've found that I can evaluate the visual impact of new structures, either mock-ups or the real thing, as I build them, using the digital camera. I simply place the various structures in the desired location, take a few shots, move things around and take a few more. I load the images onto my computer, crop and resize them in a paint programme, and then take a good hard look at them. I also tend to send them to a few friends as email attachments so that I can bore them with what I'm up to. I ask for their opinions about what they think of the way things are looking. In this case the images don't have to be perfect photos but simply demonstrate how the various structures work together in the proposed location. I suppose what I'm doing is extending my practice of gazing at my models as they progress onto my computer; if they don't look right in the photos then it's a pretty sure bet that they won't look right in the flesh either. This practice saves me valuable modelling time and, when you think about it, this commodity is strictly limited. There are no processing costs with the photos and being able to stare at them on the computer screen for a while seems to point out flaws that aren't apparent to the naked eye, your naked eye that is; there's sure to be a version of Murphy's Law that says, while you may not see a mistake on a model, it'll be painfully obvious to the first picky visitor who walks through the door of your layout room.

This corner of my layout had a triangular "hole" that needed filling. I was considering placing a stock race in the spot; however I wanted to devote more space to a cattle siding and I actually wanted something with a little more height. I had a Walther's oil depot kit on hand and the components of this kit fit nicely into the space I have available. The real issue, however, is not just filling the space in two dimensions but also what impact these new structures have on the layout as a whole and the other buildings close by. In this case I was a little concerned that the goods shed, which sits behind the proposed depot site, would be overwhelmed. After looking at the shots you can see here I decided that, if anything, the opposite was true; the oil depot was actually a little more diminutive than I was expecting and now I've decided to add a storage shed to "beef" things up a bit. Even with the oil tanker parked in the siding the goods shed could hardly be said to be overwhelmed. For this reason alone I've been able to justify the purchase price of the digital camera. Anyway, without it I wouldn't be able to bore my friends the way I can at the moment; that is if you don't count the times when I'm talking to them face to face.

Oil 1

"This photo demonstrates how the structures will be placed in the final model. There's been some basic reworking of the original Walther's kit; the brick wall around the base of the tanks is a feature of all NSW oil depots as the law requires that a containment facility be in place in case of leaks from the tanks. I've also reworked the tank stands to more closely represent the prototype photos I was using as inspiration. The prototype was a BP depot in Parkes but most of the stands I've seen around the state are of the same general type and are nothing like what comes with the kit. The new stands are made from various appropriate Evergreen styrene "I" beams".

Oil 2

"Here you can see the three basic structures that come with the kit. The tiny "pump shed" (that's what I call it) is too diminutive, even for my needs, and after I looked at this photo I decided that I'd be extending it by adding a storage shed".

Oil 3

"This is the reworked pump house with added storage shed. You can just see the remnants of the original shed at the right hand end. I've basically bashed this into a structure approximating the type of shed you can see in oil depots all over NSW. It follows no particular prototype but if you want to see one visit your nearest large regional city and head for the industrial area of town. Armidale, where I live, may not have rail-served oil depots anymore but it has at least three sheds similar to this still in use, although they're much bigger than mine would be if it were a real building".

Oil 4

"These walkways and caged ladders are all made from Plastruct styrene. I had to order this direct from the USA as no-one in Australia seems to import the "O" scale sized pieces. This photo shows the work about half completed. Altogether it should take no longer than about three hours to complete. I think it adds a lot to the model even at this stage of completion".

Oil 5

"With a little more work this scene will take on its final shape. However, the camera allows me to see things as an outsider sees them. Building a model can mean that you are too familiar with it and as such you can miss things".


"Petrol deliveries from the depot are undertaken in this trusty Bedford".

Trevor Hodges
"Why settle for half when you can have the whole O?"