Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Summer is a-going out...

That's it, a bit of bad weather, a change in the day lengths and light style and out comes the buildings and set-pieces, I start looking at the scenery and railway forums and FB pages.

Of course, every year I notice changes to the hobby.  More and more RTR stuff, even in O gauge, more and more 3D printed crap, more and more quite impressive laser cutting and laser engraving.  A bloke doing kits for Great Eastern buildings!!  How esoteric is that?

But...at what cost?  Said buildings are bloody expensive.  How many wealthy people are champing at the bit for some out of the way Great Eastern Railway buildings that nobody ever heard of?  Or a £45 lineside hut!!

The one thing you can't get away from is that almost no proper modelmaking is being done. What people like to call scratchbuilding.  A few smaller buildings perhaps, but nothing of any note or importance.  Great Eastern's all very well, but where's the Somerleyton or Maldon stations?  The ones we remember.  Made in card or ply or Foamex.  Nah, forget that.  I don't know if my chum Iain Robinson  is still making buildings for his clients or if he's jacked it in with his blog, which I miss badly. There were some others who made stuff on commission, but they are always held up as some sort of modelmaking Gods, when really all they are is examples of the kind of modelmaker we all were when there were fewer kits available or when we just couldn't afford the silly prices being asked.

We naturally set to with a sheet of nickel silver and a Skinley blueprint and started cutting and soldering. It really isn't difficult to cut and even with the most expensive kits you still have to solder, so why bother?  Learn to cut and save yourself 300 quid to start with.  Not much we can do about the outrageous cost of wheels, but all else is cheapish still. Motors, gears, metal.....not too bad on the whole.  These days finding drawings is the problem as none of the mags publish them any more. Unless you want to do narrow gauge and then the old Roy Link mag, the Industrial and Narrow Gauge Review, Gawd bless its lovely layout and highest standards.  I haven't seen the MRJ for a while, so can't say if they still have the odd drawing of any use, but the comics don't.  They are just running catalogues for RTR.  By the time you've finished making a branch line to their standards you could start a packaging company.  All out of boxes.  Even the O gauge guys now have endless RTR locos to choose from.  250 quid and up, right up, to 4 figures and beyond.  When you consider the average age of model fans these days, you have to wonder what kind of pension deals these old farts were on.  They can't all have been senior civil servants and teachers!  I know a chap who went to a large model show and was relieved of 500 notes for nothing in particular. Not a loco or a major purchase,....just stuff!  Lucky old him. That's what I might spend on a car if I needed one, but my hobby?

Oh well, back to my brass, my bench and my bashings.


  1. Hi, I log on to your new stuff on a regular basis.
    Your story-telling style is awesome, keep up the good work!

  2. Next time I built an etched kit in print, or scratchbuild a building then I'll do my best to remember I'm writing for noting more than "running catalogues for RTR".

  3. Phil, I take it you meant your 'phone to type "nothing" rather than "noting"! I intended my comments for those who just open boxes. That's what most tend to do. When the one time editor of MRJ actually says to you "Nobody makes anything any more", it's a fair sign that actually making something from scratch is a dead duck.

  4. I think that editor is over egging it. Yes, there are loads who only open boxes, but that's partly because the contents of those boxes are streets ahead of what they used to contain. For most people, there is no longer a need to add or replace bits to a RTR model.

    I also don't think the editor of MRJ would publish most of the articles that appeared in the early edditions. Rice couldn't get away with the bodgery he carried out on a diesel 02 kit for example, that wouldn't be nearly high-brow enough now. What it did though, was encourage people to get their hands dirty and do some modelling.

    There is modelling out there but it's different because the hobby has moved on so much. If I'm honest, I'd like to see more but much is hidden away, not helped by the loud noise made by many who simply open boxes.

    Scratchbuilding is more of a problem. It makes more sense to work in an odd scale now as there isn't much fun in spending a year building a loco only to see the same prototype available over the counter. Pete Kazer's NG stock in the current MRJ is a joy to see but he's working in a big scale.

    And most 3D printed stuff is crap.

  5. You'll get no argument from me there, Phil. For myself, I care not one jot what the Chinks mash out in RTR as it's all way too expensive for me anyway, especially in O gauge. I am now going to S scale, partly because I have always loved the resolutely Imperial nature of it and partly because it ensures that I am never so much as even tempted by RTR. I just couldn't take any pride in something however cleverly done that fell out of a box alongside tens of thousands of others just like it. I don't care how many different weathering techniques and products of narrow Planet they throw at them. I grew up in the 60s making stuff because it was dirt cheap and immensely fulfilling. It was also commonly done by fine craftsmen including some I knew, like Geoff Pember and Jack Nelson, George Stokes and Les Hoffman. Many of them taught me their methods and I use them to this day and not just on model railways. The 1/6th scale motorcycle I am currently working on has already used methods Les taught me. The photo-etching I will shortly be having done for that project and my S scale Derby Lightweight are based on what I learned when I did my apprenticeship at John B. Thorp's.
    Peter Kazer ploughs his own furrow and good on him. I don't know what he's doing currently, but I did admire his use of 1/48th scale, far more sensible than that stupid bloody 1/43rd we're all stuck with these days. There are no shops that reliably have MRJ stocked hereabouts any more, so I don't know what that has in it. I know the last copies I saw didn't make me regret its absence any more and I don't recall Mr. Rice's editorship. It was Shackleton who told me the bit about nobody making stuff. AFTER asking me for articles about boats on model railways! Amen to your last sentence.

  6. I'll admit to being prouder of anything I make compared to anything I buy. I don't really understand holding the opposite opinion but lots of people do. No matter how good or bad the result, surely there is pride in having crafted it yourself?

    S gauge - Yes please. I stuggle with the imperial scale thing but built the most complete kit the society sells a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. More to the point, I liked them a lot and spent much time browsing the website thinking about the fun in making something that won't ever be RTR. Maybe one day...

  7. I think we're very similar, Phil. Mind you, sometimes I wonder, I just resoldered a chassis with new crossmembers according to the drawings and find that there's no way the Slaters wheels will fit around the frames! I'm hoping S7 standards will sort that one out, but maybe I should have just done some model research before charging ahead, but that's how I get stuff done that others claim they haven't the time for. I am a bit quick compared to most, but then I've done this lark for a LONG time!