Thursday, November 15, 2018

Garden Rail December 2018

It's funny how themes develop when putting a magazine together. Purely by chance, I found myself with a couple of articles where the writers talk about garden railways for youngsters. One of these is a layout that is possibly the simplest we've ever featured, but has an interesting story to tell - and one that a lot of people (I suspect) will relate to.

We've also got a WW1 theme with a piece on modelling interesting rolling stock as well as a review of Accucrafts Hunslet.

And of course, it's Christmas and I've always wanted to do a gift guide. A few e-mails to regular contributors and I had a list Santa will be delighted to receive. To illustrate this, of course, I needed a suitable image. Which is why, despite being off cakes at the moment, I bought 2 boxes of mince pies.

Two, because my first attempt didn't look right when the magazine came back from the designer. Boxes, because it seems you can't just buy a single mince pie. The bigger problem is, I don't like them very much!

More details on RMweb. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Stone warehouse, Port St Mary

Port St Mary warehouse

"Hooray, a real warehouse on a Wednesday", I hear you cry. 

 It's true, this stone building is the first for a while, but finding genuine warehouses isn't easy. I really need to get out and bag a few before they all disappear. 

Anyway, this one is from Port St Mary on the Isle of Man and taken about 3 years ago. Apart from that, I know nothing about it. 

The stone is pretty common Manx stuff, and the rendered extension does nothing for the aesthetics of the structure. It would be pretty easy to model though and at least the colours blend nicely together. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Now THAT'S what I call a superstructure

In search of ideas for Mohan, I spent an hour or so trawling the web looking at small, modern, tugboats. Eventually, I found the BRatt design by Robert Allan Ltd. I like the look of it and the hull I have isn't so far away from the prototype I can't live with the discrepancy, so I let it influence my efforts.

I made a few changes as I only had photos to work from at the time - and of course, my hull is a different shape. The result looks OK. Once in place I felt it needed to move forward slightly, but that's easy enough with cereal packet card and masking tape.

Next, it was time for plastic:

I'm keeping things simple with 1mm sheet cut out as neatly as I can manage and glued with MEK pack. This is the stage I really enjoy, noodling around with plastic watching the model come together. Not following a plan helps now as I get to say if it looks tight, it is right.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Superstructure design. Hmmm.

The "kit" is supplied with a plan for everything apart from the hull, leaving the modeller to cut up some plastic sheet and build the thing themselves. Maybe the plastic was included, but if it was, I've lost it. No worries, there's plenty more in stock.

Before committing myself to good materials though, I mocked the parts up in cornflake packet card.

I'm glad I did. The drawings didn't look promising, but rendered in 3D, I'd say this was from the 5-year-old with crayons school of design. It looks awful to my eyes, and not just mine either. Trawling through old photos from model boat shows, I found a couple of these kits made up.

There are some similarities, but not many. Even 14-year-old Olly decided he could do a better job, and did.

So, back to the drawing board for this one.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thoughts on the Great Model Railway Challenge TV show

With the first series of Channel 5's Great Model Railway Challenge over and done with, I thought it worth a blog post to lay down some of my thoughts. Feel free to disagree in the comments section.

It's not about model railways

People who say this really mean “It's not MY version of model railways” and usually “And that means it shouldn't be allowed!”

I disagree. Railway modelling is a wide-ranging hobby with far too many facets to list. Everyone does it their own particular way and to their own standard. To me, this is a strength of the hobby.

There is a tendency, for lots of reasons, for people to feel threatened by anyone doing something slightly different from them. This isn't just a model railway thing, religion and politics both have the same problems, the difference is, we don't generally resort to violence against those who don't follow “the true path”.

Railway modelling isn't a competitive sport for me, but others do enjoy entering competitions, even if only those at their local show.

All the layouts are rubbish

No, they aren't. I see a lot of models built by so-called “average modellers” on-line. It's important for me to understand where most people are when writing articles. For a huge number of modellers, a GMRC quality layout is something they will aspire to, but there's nothing wrong with that.

24 hours, the time allotted for building, isn't long. Even allowing for a bit of pre-building and there being 6 people in a team, some of the progress made is astonishing. The format demands a broad-brush effect rather than fiddling with all the tiny details, but whatever they produce has to look good on camera. You can't see rivets, you can see landscapes.

I hate all the gimmicks and stupid animations

Animated features have been part of railway modelling for decades. The doyen of them has to be Dave Rowe, most of his layouts were barely model railways but full functioning scenes. People watched them in amazement as vehicles moved along roads, fishermen cast their flies, boats moved in basins and canals and many other delights.

OK, some of the GMRC stuff has been a bit gimmicky, but I bet there are plenty of kids (including big ones) who love this stuff. I'll always be happy to say I love Tri-ang Battlespace models with their operating features. It's just another aspect of the hobby.

The point, of course, is to make entertaining TV. Trains running round in circles might keep us happy, but more movement equals a happy general audience. Modellers can look at the way these things work and ponder if the same techniques could be employed to more realistic effect.

They are making modellers look stupid

No, they aren't. This is a classic case of seeing what you want to see. The production company have creditably not played on any stereotypes. Those taking part in the show have generally been very happy with the way they appear on the screen. 

TV is not real and the guy in the edit suite controls the show. On that basis, don't say anything you'll regret, especially straight to camera and don't annoy the production team. If you do, then they will have their revenge – not that this happened in this case. I always know to keep on the right side of the BRM filming guys just to be safe though!

The people taking part are fat/ugly/weirdos

I've spotted a bit of this on the web. A female judge and team members always brings the misogynists out of the woodwork – well they can go straight back in. If anything, the teams were more mixed and varied than the average group of white, middle-aged, middle-class men that make up the bulk (in all senses of the word) hobby.

The “Scratchbuild challenge” is rubbish

When I saw this on the rulebook, I thought the same. It's interesting that they included a team captain saying this too in the first episode shown too.

However, what the challenge showed was how imaginative modellers can be. Sawn up shoe dust for coal? Genius. Sink plunger into an igloo – I liked that too.

On balance, I can see how it works and why it was included. Will it make it into the second series? Very probably, and the teams will be better prepared.

OK, the themes are stupid. Why can't we have something about historical accuracy?

Because it would be deadly dull to the average viewer. The slightly random themes forced the teams to use their imagination, and generally, this worked a treat. OK, the results were generally not the traditional model railway, but that partly obscured the broad brush approach the limited timescales imposed.

The unusual models also made for visually impressive telly.

It's doing nothing to promote the hobby

And why should it? Railway modelling is not a religion and people not involved in it aren't duty bound to go an preach the word. The GMRC producers had one job – make entertaining TV.

Having said that, it has helped the hobby. I can do no better than quote Graham Muspratt, “I spoke at yesterday’s Wycrail exhibition to a number of families, new to the hobby that had been enthralled by The Great Model Railway Challenge on Channel 5 & came to the show for the first time”

Exhibitors at Spalding and Cardiff shows reported the same thing. Basically, people who would never have considered visiting one of our exhibitions are coming through the door. Maybe it will be their one and only visit, but at least the club putting on the event has gained a few quid from admission prices.

If you want numbers, the Missenden website saw a tenfold rise in visits and at least one booking.

After all that, it's down to people in the hobby to promote the hobby.


From this, you'll guess that I quite liked the series. The obvious comparisons have been with The Great British Bake Off, and you can see the connections. One factor most moaners seem to miss is that Bakeoff was a very different show in the first series to the version we see now. It evolved over time and GMRC will too. The production company have learned a lot and the teams who enter in the future will also know what they are letting themselves in for.

All this came about because someone made an entertaining TV programme. Over a million people watched each episode, giving it a far greater reach than any modelling magazine or even Interweb site. Maybe it's a step to improving the image of railway modelling. Who knows.

An unexpected pleasure was taking part in the RMweb thread. We set out to keep it reasonably upbeat knowing that there was a good chance that the general public would find their way to it and if they discovered a pool of modellers competing to be more offended than each other, that wasn't going to impress anyone. As it happened, very little was needed - in 2000 posts, less than 20 were moderated and mostly for people swearing, hurling abuse at one of the teams in capitals several times and threatening the admins.

Instead, we had team members filling us in on the behind the scenes action and even one of the judges explaining a few points. No-one posted the winners names so everyone could enjoy finding out the results when the show aired.

By the end, a lot of talented railway modellers took a punt on being involved and came up trumps. Good for them, and good for Knickerbocker Glory Productions for doing a superb job.