The Concept of Color: Matching and Complimenting

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  • Member since
    November 2011
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The Concept of Color: Matching and Complimenting
Posted by Postwar Paul on Saturday, June 19, 2021 1:08 PM

Here's something to consider: the colors in the garden. Feel free to jump in with your thoughts.

  When I started with G in '95, it was all about the joy of running trains outdoors. I was reading Outdoor Railroader, and then Garden Railways. The hobby was just bright colorful trains running through the garden. It was never about scale at that time. This was the hobby that hooked me on G. The hobby has evolved, more emphasis on scale, and many small niches, if you will.

 I try to learn something from every layout I visit, and this one was a big one for me:

  When my daughter was in college in Pittsburgh, we visited the Phipps Conservatory. This is an old school botanical garden, covered in glass. Each room represents a different climate: desert, tropical, and so on.

From time to time, they run a garden railroading exhibit for a few months. We were lucky enough to catch this exhibit.

What struck me, and a concept I've held on to is their use of color:

 In each separate and diverse climate, they had matched the colors of the vegetation and the trains! This was a mind blowing concept; I had just never even considered this!

  So, now I find myself buying very colorful European style trains, and matching or contrasting colors to my back drop. 
 The concept of art, and the color wheel are ingrained in me now.

what do you think?


  • Member since
    February 2013
  • 827 posts
Posted by PVT Kanaka on Saturday, June 26, 2021 2:49 AM



I am with you on this.  We've not undertaken to weather our equipment, for instance, as, frankly, it would stand out as odd against the natural brightness of Hawaii and the colors of the plants that do seem to grow (If I am to  be honest, so many of these old trains are childhood "buddies" the thought of dirtying them up is hard to contemplate! ).  The bright colors all blend together in a really nice whole.


Here's a shot from last summer to demonstrate my point:

Part of the decision process included the trial and error of determinig what would grow.  Various perennials did OK.  "In scale" plants (thyme, sedum, and most succulents) did not.  They are ( summer this year....) all bright and cheery.  We went with it.  The trains look great in it.


I do think part of my decision process (beyond emotional attachment to my little iron horses!) also included a serious look at where I am as a modeler (rusty skills coming back slowly), a gardener (HA!), and a parent.  Getting something running...getting anything running...and keeping it running has been my mantra as I try to keep us all involved in the hobby.   Bright, inexpensive, easy to care for plants not only complement the trains, but also make the garden more accessible and fun for everyone. 

THe other thing, of course, is how we run trains.  The Triple O has the ability to do simple operations, but, for now, it serves mostly as an artistic and social focus as trains run around in their respective loops.   The plantings simply make the garden visually fun without taking from those areas where we've made a crack at being "in scale."


I am sure that many of the same effects could be achieved by reworking the garden so that the "fun" comes from proper miniature plants that draw folks into the schene rather than  large, colorful plants that paint a palette.  We have finally found some native plants that might allow movement in this direction, and, as our modeling skills improve, it might make sense to do this in areas where fidelity to scale or detail in our sundry products begs for appropriate plants to set the scene.


Sort of meandering, here, but I've been working nights for a while!




  • Member since
    November 2011
  • 2,071 posts
Posted by Postwar Paul on Saturday, June 26, 2021 7:54 AM


 that's a beautiful scene! The colors are great! And this is the point I was aiming at. I think GR had an article many years ago, don't remember much about it other than seeing the color wheel. It never really registered in my mind until we went to Phipps. They had a room with green plants with bright yellow flowers. The train running around was the LGB White Pass diesel, which is green and yellow, and a perfect color match. Another room had red tropical flowers, and an LGB red diesel running, again a perfect color match. All very intentional, and a concept I've held onto ever since.

  The color of engines and cars is now a primary consideration in new purchases!


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