The man made world we model tends to be built on engineering order. In other words, ninety degree angles, perpendicular orientations, and parallel lines are the order of the day. Right-of-ways tend to be straight. Streets, fence lines, and utility lines generally are as well. The scenes we are modeling need to be placed on bench work that tends to be (or needs to be) more of a shelf format. Finally, we have a general tendency as a species to subconsciously create order. When you combine all of these factors, we tend to get a design that looks like the diagram above. Operationally, there are no issues here. Visually it’s another story. To be blunt, it’s a little too orderly. It’s boring to look at.
If, however, we take these same elements and orient them at an angle the scene becomes much more interesting to look at. The slight shift is easy to create and the overall improvement in appearance much more dramatic than you’d expect. In addition, angling streets and streams makes it much easier to hide that troublesome layout-to-backdrop transition because you can screen it with a few strategically place trees.
Let’s take a look at another example. Shown above is a typical town scene with the tracks running parallel to the fascia and the street oriented perpendicular to the track. This approach is the simplest to build but suffers from a little too much symmetry and and overabundance of ninety degree angles. The advantage is that it’s easier to construct, makes efficient use of the space, and doesn’t require any modification to the structures.
Now, if we take the same scene and orient it an angle visual interest improves dramatically. The downside is that such an approach often requires some kitbashing of structures and doesn’t always make the most efficient use of our layout surface area. In some cases the track orientation simply won’t fit into the flow of the design. It’s a nice look though if you can make it work.