Behind the Lens

“If you want a happy ending, that depends … on where you stop your story.”
-Orson Welles-

With the conclusion of The Hills Line with James McNab on Kalmbach Media’s Model Railroader Video Plus, I thought it might be of interest to learn some of the backstory behind the show, and how I went about conceiving and producing each episode.

I’ve mentioned how I previously had worked with MRVP for coverage of my former layout, the IAIS Grimes Line, as one of their exclusive layout visits. Whether as a result of that experience, or in spite of it, Kalmbach reached out to me in late 2019 about producing a build progress series for The Hills Line. Despite a general reluctance to appear on camera, since my professional experience is exclusively behind the lens, I ultimately felt that I could not pass this opportunity up.

©Morash & Associates, Inc. and WGBH Boston – All Rights Reserved

In determining what the series should look like, I turned to one of my broadcast inspirations… The New Yankee Workshop. The WGBH series remains, in my opinion, the gold standard for how-to shows. And while I’m no Norm Abram, I hoped I could channel his approach to delivering content in a simple, straightforward, and succinct manner.

What makes New Yankee unique is that it does not serve as a true step-by-step set of instructions for a given project. Rather, the show covers a single broad topic and takes you through the big steps needed to make it happen. You’re not going to see every piece of lumber cut or stained to build a bookshelf, but you will finish each episode with a general roadmap of what you need to accomplish the task.

So The Hills Line with James McNab became less about technique and more about process. Each episode therefore had an overarching concept, with multiple practices and procedures demonstrated that supported that overarching concept. But I was never going to lead you through the steps of, say, staining ties in real time. First off, that’s boring television. But more importantly, there are much better people showing much better methods for staining ties than me.

From the first episode, the goal was that in presenting my philosophies and concepts in designing, building, and operating a scale model railroad, that you would ultimately develop and refine your own philosophies and concepts in designing, building, and operating a scale model railroad.

The Hills Line with James McNab, Episode 11: The Complete Scene

Ultimately I hope you left each episode with an understanding of how I built and continue to build The Hills Line, so that you could adapt, adopt, or adjust to meet your own needs and desires in scale model railroading.

My sincere thanks to Kent, Ben, Jenny, David, and the entire team at Kalmbach for giving me the opportunity.

One thought on “Behind the Lens

  1. Thank you James for a great video series and all that you’ve shared on this blog. Though I model a major urban area, we have similar approaches to switching layout design and operation, and I have appreciated your focus on concepts and philosophies. Great work! I hope there will be a Season 2 of the MRVP series.

    Liked by 1 person

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