Wednesday 9 November 2022

Saturday Ramble: Cardboard dreaming

Without a doubt and probably without exception we are both influenced by, and hanker for, a certain period of our lives, often for lifestyle or political reasons, but more often for artistic reasons. The feelgood factor when life was good and full of promise before secondary education knocked any hope or dreams out of most people. This period usually coincides with the teen years and not surprisingly, I'm no different. These years loosely run from 1973-1982: musically starting with Slade and ending in unlikely fashion with Charlie Parker and Art Blakey... not the most logical of routes it has to be said. 

I'd been modelling since about eight, but the railway bit didn't really arrive until a few years later in the mid 1970s. The Modeller was in black and white with small pictures and much more text compression and to my mind contained layouts with far more character than now. Yes, the sheer quality may now be better, and we have since gone full circle with track gauges (does anyone aspire to P4 these days?) but things were more railwaylike: less about photo backdrops and more about representing the running of trains. The plan books were full of track, unlike now where producing plans that have more than two points appears to be a hanging offence. The combination of these factors was quite dizzying to me at the time, and I've reached back more than once; recently with the AoTC which was firmly pinned to 1980s materials. 

What about the real roots though? The ones with the black and white photos, the Gem track and the Superquick buildings? Well, they do still exist;  I'm thinking particularly of Woking club's Thirdly and (though I only recently became aware of the tie up) Millford which I recently sub-edited for RM and may well be in the December issue. The key factors are 1. card and brick paper, and 2. a railwaylike attitude; a model representation of the mainline and not a two-point photoplank.

Here's the question: would it be possibly to get this atmosphere now, from scratch using these period kits, many of which are still available? I got close with Hopwood (below) but this was almost entirely made from Wills and Ratio products, i.e. post 1980s plastic and suffered from being a little squashed to fit the Peco stand at Warley. Doing it again would be easy enough as would letting it breathe a little space-wise. Could I get the atmosphere right though?

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  1. My teenage years were slightly behind yours, though "Don't Blame Me" (the B-side of Merry Christmas) was probably responsible for shaping my subsequent taste in music.
    Yes, the mainstream was very much Superquick etc. and perhaps some scratchbuilding.
    I still keep coming back to the layout that's illustrated somewhere in "Starting in Scale 00", where the exit to the fiddle yard/rest of the system goes off at an angle into a hillside part way along the layout, was it called the Piano Line?
    By a lot of standards not very realistic and yet it still appeals, to me at any rate....character? Absolutely!
    P4...I think it's become "just another gauge" now that you don't have to be so much of an engineer to get into it.
    I've got most of the bits stashed to build a 00 docks layout that will lean heavily on Triang/Hornby, Superquick, and have lots of points. At the moment the idea is a linear layout but part of me would like to have a go at the 6'x4' dock layout in "60 Plans" which I started aged about 13.
    As for getting a layout with the vibe you're talking about, I don't see why not, what would you run on it? Wonderful Wagons, Wills kits on Triang chassis, hmmm...

  2. Actually I am an exception as I don't look back to the past. Instead I think now is the best it's ever been and no doubt next year I'll feel that that is the best it's ever been.

  3. Although I started modelling in my early teens it was mainly Airfix kits of planes although I do remember assembling and painting a large scale lifeguard trumpeter. I also built a farm on a large table, toyed with Scalextric and trains on Triang grey plastic track.
    Later, in my 20s, I started a GWR branchline - which never got finished - and enjoyed putting together Superquick buildings. I even started to design my own range of card buildings based on those around Sussex. This project never got off the ground as I was too busy making commercial ceramic cottages.
    It wasn't until I was thirty, we moved to London, I met Dave Brewer and the Greenwich gang and I discovered the delights of the Tallylyn and narrow gauge and I've never looked back. I sold all my 00 stuff and started modelling narrow gauge
    However, this is a roundabout way of answering the question - would I go back to those early days? I don't think so. I've toyed with using Metcalfe kits - which I think are far superior to Superquick - but it's those raw, cardboard corners that put me off. I've downloaded and built a Scalescenes card warehouse, but it just didn't do it for me. I made a much better job using Wills sheet and home-made corrugated sheet.
    So, in conclusion, I think we have so many wonderful materials at our disposal now I don't see me ever going back to the old ways.
    Sorry for this long ramble, I suppose I ought to writing a new book instead.