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Anyone who has ever frequented a forum devoted to playing trains will no doubt have seen comments like the above. Some of us that stand on the less pretty side of layouts at a show may have heard it in person. What seems to be the most common reason for the above? It doesn’t have something of specific interest to the visitor.

Lets think about that for a second, someone spends a day or possibly 2 and some of their hard-earned to go to a show with the expectation that they want to see something they are interested in. If they are truly interested in it they probably have something very similar to what they want to see at home. Why go to such effort to see what you already have. Another one is leveled at magazines – we want to see views we might get at a show! Why? A show is a show – a magazine is a magazine surely anybody with any degree of creativity (and lets face it if you are into model railways you must have some) would use the different ways of presenting their work to showcase different things. I certainly think that a layout article populated with the same sort of pictures you can take yourself at a show is a complete waste of time. What, as the person behind the layout, am I really offering the readers that justifies why they should by the mag or pay to get into a show?

Sadly this inward looking approach is deep rooted in this hobby of ours, so much so that we prioritise models on our own layouts in order of what we like. We all like loco’s so we put a lot of effort in to those, coaches, well yes we need some and the look a bit odd out of the box so we might want to weather them a bit. Road vehicles? Oh god no, we are RAILWAY modellers not car modellers – anything that just happens to fall out of the box will do!

I was at a show the other week and one layout featured a nicely modelled road with a bus depot but all the vehicles where straight from a box – I even saw another layout while setting up taking them from their boxes and straight onto the layout. Why? Why bother doing a nicely modelled road if you don’t care what you put on it?

But it’s not unique to us – not at all. I was a member of a truck modellers forum and the stuff they churned out was magnificent. One example was a virtually entirely scratchbuilt low loader with a tipped from the box Lima 0 gauge tender dumped on it. It looked awful! The point I am getting at is we all do things differently, Railway, aircraft, vehicle, military modellers we do our thing and rarely look at what our counterparts are up to because it’s not what WE are doing. It pays though to look outside off model railways now and then as it can sometimes redefine your preconceived idea of what good is.

DSCF5206-vi

The above model (yeah it IS a model) is by Chuck Doan, features no railways and is in a scale most people would never have heard of (12 inch scale) Chuck mixes traditional materials and good old trial and error with modern approaches like 3D printing etc. He’s probably too modest to admit it but his threads are always well documented (including the failures) and its nice to see a true master at work.

Image © Chuck Doan and used with permission

IMG_74381

By contrast the above is by a chap called Ali Alamedy who lives in Iraq and only has access to basic tools and materials.

Image © Ali Alamedy and used with permission.

Images like the above really do have an effect on me, they change my ideas of what is achievable and make me want to do better. However I have no interest in the subjects (other than they are run down prototypes). Because there’s no trains that are in BR Blue should I really just pass stuff like this by without a second glance?

Of course not everything other modellers do is automatically better than what we do. I’m going to pick on certain types of military modellers here in that, possibly due to a similar inward looking approach that we railway types have, they have gone down a route of style over reality. I have never liked the over exaggerated skin tones of their figures and their pre-shading approach to vehicles and buildings just doesn’t look like reality. It’s almost like a cartoon. That’s just a personal opinion and there’s no doubting the work and skill that goes into it but it’s just, stylistically, not for me. They probably think my stuff is bland and lifeless and that’s fine too.

If this has spurred a bit of interest in looking ‘outside of the box’ so to speak then you might want to have a look at the following sites

Chuck Doan’s site, Ali Alamedy’s facebook page, Randy Hague’s Flickr page, Anders Malberg’s site, Emmanuel Nouaillier, Stefano Marchetti’s Facebook page, and finally Marc Reusser, modelling with paper

 

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Ian Hodgkiss
6 years ago

I have had direct personal experience with that sort of mentality (I don’t model that so I’m not interested). Shame really as it blinkers your creativity to only what you like as opposed to what are truly excellent skills used differently. I belong to the IPMS plus a wargaming group, plus a dolls miniatures group plus a railway modelling group. By exposing my creativity to their talents and techniques I feel I get a better understanding for how to do things rather than rely on my narrow and limited abilities. This could get to be a long post but – I understand where you are coming from and agree entirely. You might notice comments by me on the finescalerr forum as well as many others (just look for the top hat and goggles, a worldwide phenomenon!). I believe we could move away from a purely railway model show to a broader modelling as art show – but doubt the politics and petty narrow-minded attitudes would allow that to happen (and it’s universal as I was just reading about this very subject on MRH online magazine yesterday). Keep posting here – I enjoy reading about your layout as it sets a standard which I find more important than content as the thought processes needed to model to your standards require a more intelligent approach than just shake the box.

Kevin Prince
Kevin Prince
6 years ago

Spot on Jim, always worth looking over the fence but with a discerning eye. I know a bit about AFV’s and keep an eye on what happens in the hobby. The current fad is German railway stock but it’s painted and weathered as if it were a tank. The base kits are nice but no observation whatsoever yet try the same with one of the 4 million Sherman variants…

We all have lots to learn from each other but it comes down to basic observation and not modelling other models.

Bob Hughes
6 years ago

Good observation Jim. Scenic modelling carries over between railway, military and road vehicle modelling and the images you’ve used in this blog entry are undoubtedly scenic and structure modelling at its best. As such they are well worth aspiring to match. Most of us never will be that good, and we know it, but the aspiration is what makes us tick.

Of course, there are always going to be those who prefer their toy trains (buses, tanks, whatever) straight out of the box. They’re the ones found foaming at the mouth on forums every time there’s a new release announced and queuing up to throw money at the manufacturers.

They’re probably largely the same ones that complain about there being nothing of interest for them at shows because they really just don’t get what modelling is about – MAKING THINGS.

Andy Vines
Andy Vines
6 years ago

I am also a member of the Airfix Tribute Forum and have learned a lot of techniques that can be applied to the model railway hobby from there, I also enjoy building other types of kits including aircraft and AFV’s.

I have seen Emmanuel Nouaillier’s work before and it was an inspiration to make my own buildings better.

Walter Burt
6 years ago

I have always liked model railways, it is in the blood. I worked on the railways like my father. But now, I am a bus driver who happens to like model buses too. I asked on a model bus forum once why you couldn’t get the option of model buses in a weathered form. I felt like they were laughing at me for that suggestion, and to this day, I cannot understand why.

I think model vehicle manufacturers should at least give us that option, and not just for buses, but for model road vehicles too. I would even suggest perhaps including some plastic figures or other parts on a sprue, just to give us the option.

Maybe one day, the model vehicle manufacturers will wake up and realise that there may be just a market out there for that option.

Carl Hazelden
6 years ago

I’d say 80% of making a model railway has nothing to do with trains at all. Kevin is right observation is key to success. However when I did exhibit and heard the line; “well from 6 foot away you can’t see that, I don’t why you’ve bothered.” You wonder what people actually see in what you do. The best response to that line I ever heard was ” well I was thinking of doing a night scene and placing it in a dark room, that way I wouldn’t have to bother modelling anything at all.” Wish I’d thought of it.

John Woodall
John Woodall
6 years ago

What an interesting concept!!!

The local IPMS have a show every year, and about every three years or so Invite the Gauge 1 group I belong to to come and set up the layout to run.

Now to be honest some of the IPMS modelling is simply mind blowing, and they are a great bunch of people as well.

Sometimes wing nut wings are their as well. Now while the temptation to start building 1:32 WWI model planes is high, I have resisted the temptation.

Doug Dickson
Doug Dickson
6 years ago

I admire quality workmanship in any field, be it cake making, sculpture, railway modelling or glass-blowing.

When I took up railway modelling at 55 I had very fixed ideas about ‘what I liked’ and thereby what I would read about or look at in the modelling press or click on in forums. Blue diesels? Urban situations? Oh no….

Seeing New Street in the flesh, discovering Emmanuel Nouaillier’s work and finding ‘Diesels in the Duchy’ on R.M.Web opened my eyes to attention to detail, at the same time I too have become less and less interested in ‘trains’ and more and more interested in 4mm card architectural work and as Carl says above

“I’d say 80% of making a model railway has nothing to do with trains at all. Kevin is right observation is key to success. However when I did exhibit and heard the line; “well from 6 foot away you can’t see that, I don’t why you’ve bothered.”

I enjoy putting kitchens and furniture inside buildings, most recently an aspidistra on a cottage window sill…

I could happily begin again in ‘Model Village’ mode but know now that I wouldn’t confine myself to any ‘M.V.Web’and would remain far more catholic in my reading.

James Finister
6 years ago

The oo9 society recently ran a convention to celebrate their anniversary. Reading the report on line it seems to have been a successful format. It is nice to go to a show and be able to engage with the builders/operators but that can be difficult when the focus is, understandably, putting on a show for the public.

I wonder what would happen if you turned up at a show with a layout that had no railway in it at all – or at least not any operating railway

Doug Dickson
Doug Dickson
6 years ago
Reply to  James Finister

Good question, James….

If you turned up with a model of Barry scrapyard, for instance, who could/would say that it wasn’t a worthy entry to an ‘Exhibition of Railway Modelling’?

The name says it all, the title doesn’t include the words ‘moving’ does it?

Doug

James Finister
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug Dickson

Doug,

That’s one idea I hadn’t thought of, although a line in the immediate aftermath of closure had crossed my mind. I was thinking more of a model where the railway was more hinted at than present. The road side of the station, not the rail side. There have been a few layouts over the years, Inkerman St comes to mind, where the movement of trains almost detracts from the atmosphere.

Doug Dickson
Doug Dickson
6 years ago
Reply to  James Finister

Very true. I recall a layout on YMR from some time back, a complete row of terraced houses with a path between them and a double track on which DMUs passed backwards and forwards very occasionally. The detail of the modelling, the atmosphere evoked and the ‘realism’ did it for me, just because Evening Star wasn’t whizzing by with a train of 40 wagons didn’t mean it wasn’t worthy of several prolonged coats of ‘looking-at’!

Iain Robinson
6 years ago

Much to think about in this post and all the comments! Railway Modelling is such a broad church. There’s room for the loco buffs, track enthusiasts and all shades in between, ad infinitum. I love steam locos and wagons, but I am not interested in them moving about. Left to my self, I would probably build model villages. Recently on a certain forum, I was accused of being a “Doll’s House modeller” because I wasn’t man enough to build locos out of brass. Actually, I have built a couple. It’s just that attitude of intolerance, an attitude that needs to change if this hobby is to progress past the first half of this century.

Now more than ever, we who make models need to pool our resources and not be intolerant just because so-and-so doesn’t have the correct facing point locks on his layout or models blue locos!

I’m guilty of intolerance myself, I can’t stand military modelling and I don’t get why we glorify war and violence in this way, but I do appreciate some of the very finely crafted vehicle models made by those exponents and would be the last person to deny their skill or genuine interest.

I’ve been banging on about Chuck Doan for a long time- thanks for giving his incredible work an airing. Thanks, too for introducing me to those other guys, I hadn’t heard of them, except for Emmanuel Nouaillier.
Iain

Martin Field
Martin Field
6 years ago

How very interesting to see my long held belief at least aired here by James. For me, railways are only an excuse for scenery. I did once begin a largish layout on which nothing would move. Alas I left the first board there as we moved onto a boat, but I have continued the intent with my main set-piece, Lantern Yard and on some other set-pieces, no railway at all.
Despite all the knobs whistles and chair legs that now abound on layouts, it’s all ruined, the moment the train jerks into motion with a driver aboard who seems to live in the cab, as the passengers live in the coaches and the fruit rots in the vans.
My intention is always that there is SO much detail in the scenery that a viewer could amuse himself for 30 minutes and not even notice a lack of rail movements. Much more than this I like the complete absence of trains idea altogether!

I’m afraid however well made (or more likely modified RTR) a blue diesel may be, I hate the very thought of them and could never look at a layout full of them. 2 tone green, maybe, but never, ever blue. Pure aesthetics at work there.
I also dislike modern image, because it seems to be merely reflecting the crap modern world we live in, like reality TV. I no more want to be reminded of what’s out there today than to witness a bunch of idle Chavs on Channel 4. However if there were hints of superb modelmaking I would still be interested in that rather than what it purported to depict. I think we can safely put New Street in that category, Jim. Something is driving you to do well what I would never even want to do and that, I find fascinating.