Going Off The Grid – Ararat 1972

Just like our big sister from which we draw part of our inspiration (and part of our name), the Brick Model Railroader will have a recurring item where we (re)-visit layouts. For inspiration, to draw inspiration from, but also to showcase all the great stuff that has already been displayed across the world and had an impact on the Lego Train Hobby. Without wasting any more time, we would like to present our readers with the first showcased layout: Ararat 1972.

Mainly thanks to Elroy’s announcement post for his Matson Landing in L-gauge series, I couldn’t think of any other layout than Ararat 1972, by Timothy Gould and Mike Pianta. And yes, it has been featured at the well-known TBB before, but no L-gauge blog can be without this layout in my opinion.

Ararat 1972 – front by Timothy Gould and Mike Pianta

I mean, just look at it. You wouldn’t say from a distance that this is build with Lego bricks, do you? So let us dive a little bit deeper in this layout and learn why this is such a great piece of work.

The layout of Ararat 1972 by Timothy Gould and Mike Pianta

In basic, Ararat 1972 is a pretty simple layout. In fact, its just one loop with a couple of sidings. However, what makes this layout groundbreaking, is the inclusion of Model Railroading techniques. The simplest, but most effective, is making use of backdrops. Most LTC’s, and most L-gauge builders, for that matter, tend to build loops. It’s a fair point; it gives the possibility for continuous operation, it is a great way to see your trains running at full speed and if several people chip in, you can really make an impact. But what if you are only with one or two people? And what if you want something more prototypically than a loop, but without scarifying said loop? Exactly, then a backdrop is the ideal solution!

Ararat 1972 – Forest by Timothy Gould and Mike Pianta
Ararat 1972 – overview by Timothy Gould and Mike Pianta

The second great thing of this layout, is it’s intention to build ‘off the grid’. As you all know, Lego bricks have a tendency to ‘square out’ thanks to the geometry of the system. This means that putting things diagonally is a real challenge. Yes, Lego has some wedge plates and wedge bricks, but as long as you build on 48×48 baseplates, you are pretty restricted. Ararat 1972 circumvents this by ignoring baseplates altogether. Instead, big parts of the layout are build as independent parts that join each other fully off-grid. The baseplates are exchanged for black cloth, which works, together with the backdrops, as a way to emphasize the brick build layout.

Ararat 1972 – Front by Timothy Gould and Mike Pianta

The third great thing about this layout is that it’s able to create depth in the layout, even though there isn’t so much of depth to begin with. How do they do this? By making facades instead of whole houses. A row of them in the back gives the impression of a far deeper layout, even though its only a couple of bricks. It’s just as simple as brilliant and takes it’s que from our fellow Model Railroaders, where this is an often used technique.

Also, take a look at the ‘hole’ in the backdrop on the right side; it’s almost unnoticeable but this way trains can get in and out of the layout without disturbing the overall design.

Ararat 1972 – School by Timothy Gould and Mike Pianta

Last but not least, the detailing is just stunning. Just look at this small hill, the trees, the bush in the back, and the Yellow wagon which has been given a weathered look by combining yellow with tan bricks.

The lesson of this layout? Start selling those 48×48 baseplates and start investing in plates!

For more information, do stop by at TBB, where Timothy Gould himself explains the how and why of the layout, the Ararat 1972 Flickr Group and the Ararat 1972 Brickshelf. Or ask about the layout to Mike Pianta himself, he seems to hang out in the comment section of Brick Model Railroader every now and then!

Edit from January 6th: I had completely forgot about it, but ofcourse there is also a great article about both Ararat 1972 and it’s successor, Elmore 1972 in Railbricks issue #12!

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