Odd or even?

This is a question I’ve heard discussed before – does a train look better with an odd or even number of coaches/wagons?  (Note: American readers modelling mile long double-stacks, please move on now – you will have lost count long before the end of the train.  Or should you debate the number of locomotives – does A-B-B-A look better than A-B-A?)

There has been some recent discussion on N Gauge Forum of this old chestnut…

I’m told that an odd number of wagons always looks better than an even number, for some reason. You should get another one!

Run two trains – 13 in one, 11 in the other (other number combinations are available.)

I realise that this is totally off topic, but a lot of things consist of an odd number. More car wheels have an odd number of ‘spokes’ than have an even number, a lot of stairs consist of 13 steps.

I agree that often an odd number of wagons looks better than an even number, and have wondered why.  My theory is that an even number of wagons can be easily “bisected” by the eye, and broken down into smaller numbers, but this is harder to do with uneven numbers.

I think the thing is, if you have 4 vans together in a train of otherwise low wagons, it looks wrong, but if you have 3, its OK – the other one can be a bit further up the train. Supposedly.

And this interesting (if rather arty) website.

Why Are Odd Numbers So Visually Appealing?

Despite what any of your playground foes may have told you in grade school, being odd is actually a good thing. Odd numbers – and the number three, specifically – have long been heralded by designers and stylists as magical numbers that should be applied to interiors and vignettes to make them look even better. But better how?

Odd Numbers Create Visual Interest – Even numbers create symmetry, but odd numbers create interest. An odd number of details is more effective at capturing your gaze. Odd numbers force your eyes to move around the grouping–and by extension, the room. That forced movement is the heart of visual interest. It’s for that reason that a set of three is more appealing and memorable than something paired off in two’s.

And the answer – in the UK it probably comes down to how much room you have for your layout.  But modelling the Southern Railway/Region, Maunsell  and Bullied coaches were often in 3-sets, so three coaches plus a luggage van would be a quick answer.  And for much of the Atlantic Coast Express, a single brake-composite was dropped off in places – is one an odd number??

Here we see the Wisbech and Upwell again – with three wagons, plus a brake van.  Is this better than four wagons and the brake van?  Does the brake van count?  It certainly seems more visually satisfying to have wagon-van-wagon-brake than wagon-wagon-van-brake.  Did the railways deliberately shunt odd numbers of wagons in a train and leave the last one till tomorrow (especially if carrying urgent goods)?  Surely, making money is less important than aesthetics???

Of course, Rule 1 applies….

About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Prototype, Weird and wonderful and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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