Monday 22 August 2022

Saturday Ramble – mojo

 Gradually climbing out of the slump where I really couldn't be arsed to do any modelling. Not that It's been particularly productive in the last week, but there has been some movement both physical, getting stuff out and looking at it. And mental, thinking and talking about getting stuff out. A lot of the reasoning is the fact that I/we lost ten shows due to Covid, and the one  show in Eastbourne aside have have fallen off the train. A long chat with Mr. Hill yesterday considered some of the options. These, in very loose terms, were:

  • The recommencement of Rhiw 2 above which is in kit form with the track down, wired and the principle structures either built of half built.
  • The upgrading of Svanda with more modern materials.
  • The N gauge which is due to return to Beer in the fullness of time pre-Warley.
  • Dury's Gap.
The first is the frontrunner as it is a) new, b) is modelling, c) would provide an excuse to relaunch an exhibition journey post pandemic. Dury's Gap is show-ready, but is really only a one day animal. Svanda is possibly the easiest, but has already done most of the decent shows in the South and so has less drive behind it. The N gauge has no redeeming characteristics on an exhibition level, although in some ways is a fast option.

The logic points toward a three pronged attack; I need some shows in the medium term to aim Rhiw 2 at, with possibly the back up of one-dayers for Dury's Gap. Check and test DG, hustle. There are changes afoot and I need to fire the mojo and create something.

Show the love and buy me a coffee

Monday 15 August 2022

Is railway modelling doomed?

 I read Phil's post from a couple of days ago (link to your right) with interest. The general argument is that there is a demand for perfect RTR coupled with a shift toward add-ons being produced via the medium of CAD and 3D printing. I have to disagree, well up to point anyway, and I don't think that traditional modelling is doomed – far from it.

Whitemetal lumps

When I started, the overriding material used for rolling stock kits, plus a lot of other stuff was whitemetal. Easy to work and cheap and simple to cast in a cottage industry workshop. Then during the 1980s this fell from favour with the advent of etched brass which was jumped on with glee with the finescale boys as the way forward, often with a religious fervour not to mention a slightly down the nose attitude. The smart money (and I'm thinking Roger Chivers and London Road Models) took the best from w/m and brass or nickel silver using the properties for each and used the weight of the whitemetal and the delicate nature of the sheet material to improve the breed. The traditional makers such as SE Finecast had to play catch up. To an extent we are at this juncture again.

The desire for RTR perfection is really a separate subject and is not really any different from  any other consumer product such as TVs, that is, constantly evolving due to consumer demand. Actual modelling is another thing. It's a pastime.


The model railway 3D print products are in essence no different from the whitemetal products of yore. We all know there is some excellent stuff out there... and there is a lot of absolute crap produced by well-meaning but unskilled amateurs. When building Unnycoome a decade ago we struggled to find decent, proper 2mm castings amongst all the mis-labeled and badly made whitemetal items that were passed off as top quality and scale. My point here is that 3D printing is just a new way to make crap parts and in 20 years time people will be rummaging around on club stands picking out secondhand 3D parts that failed the quality test. The good will stand the test of time. This is positive and not the end of the world. Glossing over the environmental aspect, the parts are plastic and not nasty lead-based things. 

The fire pit

Phil's point about not being able to compete is not new. I've being saying for 20 years plus that I can't reach the standard of the RTR stuff, and to be honest this has probably been the case since the Palitoy ranges of the early 1980s... So what? This may be more to do with Phil living in 'the bubble' and mixing with top talents, not to mention the fire-pit of criticism that is RMweb with everyone ripping every new product to bits and demanding more and more detail, but t's not the real world and not where the vast majority of modellers live.

A positive future

What are the positives? Well I'll give an example. Two good friends of mine have recently collaborated lightly on a project to scratch build an O gauge Q1 in cardboard (yes you read that right) and the result is fantastic, standing up to any etched brass kit. The collaboration occurred with the Boxpok wheels that the Q1 ran on. 3D print overlays were drawn and made ensuring a fine and consistent finish which which saved time. As far as I can see, the modellers will model and the buyers will buy and the 3D print will just gradually replace the lost wax castings and misshapen whitemetal blobs. The only real difference is the screen design which is a lot less dangerous than ladling molten metal around.

Saturday 13 August 2022

Saturday Ramble


Yes, a flurry of activity.

To say that I'd learnt nothing in the last couple of years pushing commas around would be inaccurate. That's not really applicable here and there has been a posting drop off of late as explained earlier. The return in the last few days has thrown up questions as always: why do I do this? More to the point why do people read it? And yet they do... or, you are. An unscientific survey a while back found that I was getting roughly the same hit rate as some of the big boys. A lot of this is down to this page being included on the links of some of the major modelling types and my thanks to them for that, but the views must be largely returning readers. What am I getting from it?

The answer is that I don't really know. Ego? Of course; anyone that writes and denies that is a fool and a liar, but it's more than that. Continuing something that I started over a decade ago? A platform for opinions? To a certain extent there is a certain amount of navel gazing (as here) but it is more about entertainment for me and the reader with a touch of hints 'n' tips thrown into the mix. I know this as I have had more than a fair few people chat to me at a show and say something like  'I always read the blog.' or 'I love the Saturday Rambles.' I conclude then that this is entertainment pure and simple.

Revenue: some would say a dirty word, and yet, a fair days work and all that.  There have been periods of advertising on here with little effect as the number of 'clicks' needed are greater than are generated by you the reader, and of course the system is swayed disproportionately in favour of the platform host, not the content creator. However I may try this again. The Buy-me-a coffee' route may be worth examining though. I notice that Mr. Nevard does this (link to your right) but haven't enquired to the results. Basically you drop me a couple of quid via a third party as a thanks for the entertainment... it's  a digital tip-jar-on-the-piano. I like this idea, but would you?

Onward though and there may well be significantly more happening here partly due to some not unrelated changes to life in general.

Thursday 11 August 2022

The best freelance model railway?

Most of the books that have passed in front of me in recent times have been for professional review. However I bought this book when I realised that it had appeared. Disappointed? More on that in a mo. 

Long term appreciation

I fist tripped over Phillip Harvey’s Amberdale in MRJ and was immediately struck by the atmosphere despite the use of Peco code 100 track in what was, and still is, a rather elitist finescale publication. Built in an 11’ square room in fully cased display scenes and is by the author’s definition ‘freelance’ although the influence of the GWR and LSWR is clear, with a nod to the NER. To my knowledge it has only appeared in two articles in MRJ (though may be in RM in the future). The book is mainly photographic, and this shows the author's leaning toward two personal influences: John Ahearn’s Madder Valley for the overall style and Pendon Museum for many of the scenic techniques. Much is made of selective compression and in some cases forced perspective. The period represented is the late 19th century meaning trains are short and this adds to the ability to make the scenes appear much larger than they really are.

A design problem

The downside of the text is that there is little in the way of explanation of construction techniques, though to the trained eye much is fairly easy to guess at. There is no descriptive body text until page 123 excepting short social history paragraphs supporting captioned photos, the author preferring to explain the why, more than the how. 

The disappointment is the size of the photos which could have easily been reproduced at two per page instead of up to five tiny images per page. I’m guessing that this is partly due to a self-publish angle and the desire to include every detail of the layout rather than select certain broader aspects of interest. An A4 format with 30% fewer, but larger images would have improved matters considerably and shown the considerable detail off to advantage. Including every horse drawn vehicle, however well-built, seems a trifle wasteful.

If this design niggle can be put to one side, this is an incredibly inspiring volume for all railway modellers and if you have a liking for Ahearn-ian style traditional modelling it's definitely worth picking up as it's surely a contender for the title of best freelance model railway.

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Modelling the Welsh narrow gauge

What was weird about putting the update post up was that it gave me a slight lift from my malaise and got me thinking about what I want to do here. It would be oh so easy to delete the whole thing and start again, but there has been so much  put up here since 2009 which often acts as a reference and answers questions that arise locally suggesting that it would be churlish to do so. 

On another tack entirely it was time to review the book situation. There are four as you may have noticed. All about as far from David Jenkinson in style as you could get, and written very much as an extension of this page. In other words if you like this, then you'll like the books. The first (NGMISS) appears to be at reprinting, but is available as an e-book, the middle two are ticking along nicely. The most recent got passed over by some of the major reviewers and this may have had in impact, though it's hard to tell. Although it is aimed at the classic Welsh 009 modeller, it works well as a general 009 guide as well. So if someone is just beginning it will work very well as an easy-read entry point. Waterstones are a little slow on ordering, but Amazon are quicker and a tad cheaper if you have no issues with sticking more money into Jeff Bezos' pocket. Link below.

Incidentally, if you are desperate for a paper copy of Narrow Gauge Modelling in Small Scales I have one copy left here. Ping me.