Saturday, 9 November 2013

Raveloe and Lantern Yard...Setting the scene with models

I set this blog up a while ago to have my say without malicious forumites getting the wrong end of the stick, but would now like to add to it with my own personal model likes and dislikes, but mainly the work I do for myself as a relief from all the commission stuff.

I don't have the space for a full layout, so a lot of what I do will be for "layouts in the sky" or small, manageable set-pieces.  They are not dioramas as a diorama is a scene of false perspective to be viewed from a particular point. Anything else is a set-piece.  These set-pieces are to be Raveloe for the scene with the office below and Lantern Yard for the scene with our old historic narrowboat, Heather Bell as the centrepiece.  Both names are from the book, Silas Marner. I had to read it at school when I was 13 and have waited ever since to use them!

Although I think 7mm -1 foot to be a silly scale, it is the scale to which most of the model car patterns I've made have had to be done as that (1/43rd scale) is the one my customers wanted.
Now, with examples of many of those models being in my cupboard, it seems to make sense to use them, so my scenic modelling is also to 7mm scale...British O Gauge. Then I populate the models with vehicles I originally mastered, so the models will be still my work.

I like to model actual buildings if I can, or at least completely plausible approximations in the local style.
Tony Moss's office at Riverside garage, Upwell

I was first moved to a fascination with buildings when my Mum always encouraged that side of my model railway interests by buying me Superquick kits, which my Dad helped me build.  He even put lights in them for me!

The main influence on my desire to make the best models was seeing, as an 8 year old, the work of George Iliffe Stokes in a 1960 Railway Modeller.  It was called, "Does Your Railway Live?"  and was an absolute revelation to me.  In fact it was years before I realised that the pictures portrayed models at all!
At that time I didn't realise how these models were made or that George Stokes had written  a book about them, but I did become aware of a trio of books written by the other great influence of those days, John H. Ahern.  Ahern had built the Madder Valley Railway, the first truly scenic model railway, back in the late 30s/40s.  He then wrote three seminal works.  Miniature Locomotive Construction, Miniature Landscape Modelling and Miniature Building Construction.  It was this latter work that I took out of Collier Row Library so often they gave me the book!  It taught me how to make model buildings from cardboard.  I still use cardboard, although am now experimenting with foamboard to replace the card bits.  It was also full of the most marvellous drawings of everything from a Country Garage (another of my passions) to a Suburban Villa.

I also learned how to make locomotive models from this series and made several as a teenager.

I have finally secured a copy of Iliffe Stokes' book,  Buildings in Miniature, but am told I can't have it till Christmas!

There have been many books by modellers like Martyn Welch, George Taylor, Gordon and Maggie Gravett and various of the Friends of Pendon Museum about how to make model buildings, presumably using more modern materials, I don't know, I haven't read them, but if you have those above, you will never need another, but merely might WANT another.  Not the same thing at all.

I have seen a Martyn Welch layout and was very underwhelmed, since it was nothing more than a skilfully weathered collection of kit-built and ready to run stuff, but I have had the opportunity to look at a Gravett layout and chat on several occasions with both Gordon and Maggie and would suggest that if you want a more modern inspiration, look no further than these charming people.  How apt that George Stokes worked with his wife Doris, whilst Gordon works with Maggie.  It was a delight to me to realise that he had used a couple of white metal car models on his Ditchling layout, for which I had made the masters.  Gordon, I know has published works on buildings, trees and grasslands/earthworks and I'm sure they are full of wonders, but books are too expensive these days for me, so I leave you to spoil yourselves.  The fact is, though, that apart from the fad for electro-static grass application, there is unlikely to be anything in there which Messrs. Stokes and Ahern can't teach you.  In fact nobody, Gordon Gravett included, has yet made a better tree than George Stokes.  He, it was, who said, "you can't invent a tree".  How true.  Look at most model railways 60 years after George's fabulous trees first staggered an open mouthed public.  Ghastly, ill-modelled, poorly observedmis-shapen lollipops, every one of them.
This is unacceptable in an age where there are so many excellent materials that were unheard of in Stokes' day.
If Stokes could do this 60 years ago from Tiger Moth control cable, wire wool and dried tea grouts, so can we now!

If George could make buildings like this from Bristol Board and watercolours just after the War, why do people waste money on expensive kits that all look the same?

Ahern, too...


  1. You have just listed my favourite model makers in this post...George would be at the top, and I have the Railway Modeller with that article of his in it.
    You say:
    "If George could make buildings like this from Bristol Board and watercolours just after the War, why do people waste money on expensive kits that all look the same?"
    Couldn't agree more!

  2. I too find George Iliffe Stokes an inspiration together with Theo Pearson (North Midland) and John Ahern (Madder Valley) . It's a fact that shabby, run-down buildings a much harder to create than chocolate box cottages. There's really good news chaps, Buildings in Miniature is going to be re-printed for all of us who missed it first time round!

  3. Yes, you are quite right, why do people waste money on kits? Methinks perhaps because, above all, they lack the inspiration to make a building themselves. When I began my Elmton Branch Line in 1988, I found a disused station building and photographed and measured it with a surveyors tape measure. Later, I discovered an abandoned goods shed, then a row of terraced hoses with outside loos and so on. I even have a small camera bag in the boot of my car with a 28mm lens on a Nikon F and the trusty tape measure " just in case."

  4. It's great to see recent comment on George stokes work. I am married to his daughter. She is always delighted to see people still enjoying his work.

  5. How wonderful, Ken. Please convey my very best wishes to your wife and my thanks for all her Mum and Dad's works that inspire me to this day.

  6. The work of George and Doris Stokes has transcended time itself. New, younger people are seeking out the book George wrote that so clearly set out his marvellous methods and are adopting them in the years post 2000.