Saturday, 20 August 2011

Saturday Ramble

Apparently I'm being a little critical.

Good. I don't flirt on the forums like some and I'm always surprised that I don't get more flack in the comments box. In fact I only been taken to task once and that was a little half-hearted.

My criticisms of stuff of late is from a stand point of a novice - and that I ain't. But what if I was? What if I had been coming to this toy train lark anew rather from a 35 year point? As the Rhiw project has gone on I've gradually started to see it from a novices point of view. What if I had been 'Dad' at 47 to a 10 year old who has got a circle trainset, has been to an exhibition and bought for instance a Bachmann Cl 25, uncoupling ramps etc? The points I've made over the last couple of weeks are from the standpoint of someone who has been presented with this equipment by the trade and is quite naturally taking it at face value.

I had a trainset at 10 - just post Tri-ang, still with big couplers, and little in the way of detail and which would only work if the wick was turned up quite high. Then over time I quickly moved onto narrow gauge and light railways and really only saw the RTR stuff as components for building something else. Now that I've returned to RTR for a while I find that it's changed. The quality is stunning. Even the 03, which is fairly old, is good, and the Bachmann 150 which is on the bench for a little light weathering at the moment is stunning. It runs like a watch and the detail is way beyond what I could imagine a few years ago. Iain Rice's almost one man crusade to raise the level of British RTR to that of the Americans and Europeans has largely worked. But there are issues: if my fictional father and son team follow the instructions for adding the bits that come with these new models and buy the accessories to go with them they will be frustrated to find that things don't work. You may say that there is a learning curve to be approached, but then... they may just give up. If things say they work together then they should. And if they don't, they should indicate that you have to compromise.

I note that the Bachmann instruction sheet claims, '... not suitable for persons under 14 years.' Have we missed something somewhere?


  1. Toy trains (sorry, Model railways) are now aimed at "grown ups" as far as I can tell. I have a sneaking feeling that the kids probably make things work whereas the adults (not aimed at you, you'll know what I mean) will struggle and quickly give up and head to a web forum to whine like crazy.

    There is a learning curve and sometimes it is a bit bumpy, far more than it should be as your 03 experience goes to show. On the other hand the manufacturers also have to contend with people who can't get locos out of the box without damaging them (seriously) and think thier clumsiness is someone elses fault. The same people will demand ever greater levels of detail despite the dangly bits getting in the way of the couplings.

    Finally, they will moan that the price has gone up despite all that detail having to be put on by hand by another human being who has worked out that building toy trains for fat, stupid, westerners for a bowl of rice a day isn't fair. Of course same fat, stupid, westerners could be supplied with the parts and fit them themselves but that's too much work and might even require them to (horror) look at a picture of a train and think a bit to work outy where they go.

    I'm sure Rice is delighted with the changes in RTR but I wonder if we were happier scraping handrails off in the 1980's and replacing them with wire. At least that way there was a path into modelling for people.

  2. Agreed on all counts. Maybe it is too easy now and the makers throw these little curveballs at us to see how we cope. I think part of what I wanted to do here was to use the RTR equipment as it stood without EM-ing or hand-building the track just to see what could be done without getting all finescaley about it. generally it all works very well and I doubt whether EM-ing or SMP-ing would have made that much difference to the overall picture.