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The Absence of the Train Driver

An individual's hobbies and personal effects can reveal much about their personality and life experiences. These items give us a window into our own memories of childhood and our connection to those who are gone.

One of my late father-in-law's hobbies was his model railway. Unreachable as a child, he fulfilled his wish to own one later in life.

Now his house is sold. Last year, it was cleared out except for the model railway in the basement. Upon inspection, it appeared someone had left it for a break and would return soon. The tracks and landscape were visible, but it was clear that the work was unfinished and in a state of flux.

Initially, my objective was to preserve the remnants of a man's life through the eyes of a fictional observer who enters an abandoned house, examines a miniature landscape with a flashlight, and begins to ponder about the individual who constructed it.

During work, two worlds opened up, like Neil Gaiman's description in »Neverwhere«, where a »London above« is accompanied by the mysterious »London below«. In my case, above is a structured miniature landscape and precisely labelled switches, but below is an impenetrable cable tangle with current paths that only the designer could understand.  The cyanotype cables made me think of Rebecca Solnit's »The Blue of Distance«, »The Discovery of Melancholy, of Loss«, and Benjamin's »Trace and Aura«: »In the trace, we become aware of the thing; in the aura, it takes possession of us.«

I also used the cyanotypes for another remnant: the precise track plans he drew. These images, with their sharp lines, reminded me of the »Blaupause« used for technical drawings in the past. For them, I developed a book that contains 14 track plans my father-in-law made. It starts with plans for »Anlage 1«, followed by one intermediate and then all »Anlage 2«-plans I found. The last two are very reduced, maybe not finished, but in this edit, they also simulate a fade, like fading memories, a fade into the blue of distance…

The Cables
The Sketches
The Sketches book


©Marcel Rauschkolb – Cynaotype of a stencil used for model railway track plans


©Marcel Rauschkolb – Cyanotype of an oil bottle for model railways
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