It’s probably a bit of a hackneyed ideal, but when you look over this photo and take in the fact that almost everything is hand-made with the minimum of commercial parts, you realise why the Reverend is placed on such a pedestal. Then you realise how much we have lost; not just in his recent demise, but in how the hobby has changed. Despite the headings on the current crop of magazines we are in the main not modellers, but assemblers.
Today’s contributors to a magazine (even the hair shirt P4, Scale 7 etc) are mere put-together-ers of kits and arrangers of structures. You could say that today’s style of layout is no more modelling than painting-by-numbers is art. There are a few out there: Jas Milham springs to mind as does Gordon Gravett – using the merest smidge of commercial componentry preferring to plough a very individual scratch-built path.
I wonder where the acceptable lines are now. None of what you see in the magazines is what is actually built. Everything is visually manipulated in some way. Is this the direction we want to go in? Will we get to a point in a short while where there are no real layouts in the magazines, just computer-generated layouts as ideals to aim for with digitally arranged subjects and photo-shopped backgrounds. Don’t shake your head and say it will never happen; I did the same 25 years ago about the recording industry. Now nothing you hear on the radio is real and un-touched. This is going to happen; it possibly already is. When Nigel and I took Unnycoombe to be photographed, toward the end of the shoot Nigel stuck his day-old Dapol Hymek down on the track. There was a comment that there were no head-codes on it. Someone quipped that they could be photo shopped in. And if you look... there they are. Modelling, sorry... assembling, now eradicated.
There is a desire on my part to get back to a point of modelling. Where I am now is possibly the most RTR based place that I’ve been since I was 15; it’s time to pull back from that once Llynfordd is up and running. The Denny/Ahern ideal is often quoted as an influence(less so as people age) but it’s an ideal that is rarely followed; there is just too much tempting stuff out there. I would add that in many cases the temptation is all there is, as much of the stuff which is bought is discarded or kept ad infinitum in a drawer remaining unbuilt.
It is possible; as Rev. Denny has shown to, in his words, build a model railway with the minimum of skill. The rush to meet exhibition and magazine deadlines has reduced the method of picking a subject and gradually building it using one’s ingenuity. Perhaps we should become less assemblers and return to being railway modellers once again.