Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Good of the Hobby

It is somewhat scary that nearly a year has passed since I started this blog. At the time I expected the basic diorama to be finished by Xmas.

Gosh, you have to laugh.

So many things have changed. on so many levels. For instance I really thought the use of Tillig track might be a long term way forward. I really didn't expect to be sat here with a bunch of EM track components. If I'm honest I'd probably massively over estimated how far the RTR market had developed. The truth is it remains a  starting point and nothing more.

Look at this, for instance, how dreadful is it!

When was whitewash golden?

In my own mind I have a fairly clear concept of the way forward, but it isn't going to be easy. Then it is my choice. Which brings me back to the title of this piece.

There have been some excellent post recently by Iain Robinson *, Mike Cougill and Geoff Forster  that I both agree with 100% whilst also questioning at a fundamental level.

This is still a hobby, rather than a job or something that really really matters on the great scale of things. Most people in our hobby have a hundred and one other distractions in their lives. How do we evaluate what is good for the hobby at a global level? Look back at railway modelling articles from ten, twenty or thirty years ago and there is no doubt that what is accepted as "average" has improved out of all recognition. Perhaps the best modelling from any of those periods still holds its own - Heckmondwicke  still grabs me in a very basic way as a model that just worked, for instance - but look at the mainstream model railway press and if nothing else you'll struggle to spot the use of lichen, and that wasn't always the case. The downside is that perhaps we have a lot of people trying to emulate a certain "look" by following articles that give step by step instructions but is that such a bad thing if it gives people the confidence to go ahead and explore their own boundaries?

In some ways the hobby has never been healthier. Personally, for example, I love the fact that I can order specialist components on line and not have to endure fighting my way past people with a challenging view of what constitutes personal hygiene.

One argument is that in the days when kits and RTR locos were basic people were forced to develop the skills to enhance the models available, but a glance through the model press of the time suggests this just meant the starting position was set a lot lower than it is today. The builder of the typical K's kit didn't build their own chassis and fit finescale wheels. Today, faced with a basically adequate RTR loco I find it quite appealing to guild the lily a little by modifying the few things that aren't quite right.

Are there still model layouts out there that are derivative of other models and based on RTR components ? Yes, clearly there are, biut equally there are a lot of models that encapsulate a very individual vision based on both an accurate representation of the prototype and an aesthetic understanding of what makes an attractive and successful layout.

*Since Iain has now discovered this blog I'm going to have to come back to this subject in more depth to explain what I think a modeller like him brings to the table that the rest of us can only try to emulate.


  1. Firstly, thank you for your very flattering comments. I am honoured to be mentioned alongside Geoff Forster and Mike Cougill. I had to grin when I saw that!

    I agree with you when you say that the best modelling from every period stands out. Heckmondwyke is a classic, one that still amazes me. Off at a tangent, I would be proud to have built something like George Iliffe Stokes made at any time. Marthwaite, too, from an earlier period. I could go on...:-) Nowadays, I see models that are so good that I am slightly disappointed when I see something on them that isn't absolutely perfect. At which point I have to administer a rap across my own knuckles, because that person is, as you say, doing it for fun, and in competition with work, family and other interests. It is supposed to be fun, not a chore,and my own work falls far from perfect.
    I'd hate for the hobby to become like my oil-related work, where a team of people scrutinise every aspect of my model, picking out bits that aren't correct and giving me grief.
    I also agree with you about the current ready-to-run. The potential for satisfaction is that there is always something that can be improved, weathered, made finer...however far you want to go. And at the end of the day, that's what it boils down to. How far you are prepared to go, to satisfy yourself. Your journey to that goal is also a very interesting one...

    I've put your excellent blog on my blogroll, by the way!
    cheers, Iain

    1. My parents knew George and Doris through my father's model shop, but I never met them. Wandering around the Great Electric Train Show this weekend it certainly struck me that there are a lot of avoidable mistakes that constantly get repeated, but also much that was exceedingly good and inspiring.