Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quality die-cast coffin nails

Look at these. Aren't they lovely. A couple of ready to use die-cast cars fresh from the model shop. Neither cost very much, certainly less than a whitemetal kit for the same vehicle would be.

Sadly, to me they represent another nail in the coffin of railway modelling. It's yet another part of the layout that the "modeller" doesn't have to build. No skill is required other than remembering your PIN.

I know I sound like a real curmudgeon writing this. And yes I remember being a beginner who hated hearing how easy it building a chassis from cast iron you make yourself etc. while I struggled to get a plastic wagon to run. And I know there will be a crowd of people crying, "But I don't have time to spend making and painting kits.".

But this is a craft based hobby. If you don't get to make anything, is there a point ?

For many people the essence of model railways is playing with the train set. Turning a knob and seeing a locomotive move. Do you need to build a model for this though ? There are plenty of computer based simulators that give you the same experience in a lot less space. You can have an infinite number of layouts as well without filling your house. The models will be perfect too and if they aren't then you can download an even better one or edit the one you have.

The rest of us like making things. There is a learning curve to this which is a good or bad thing depending on your point of view. Good if you want the satisfaction that comes with achievement. Bad when you simply can't make your hands do what you want. But when the ready to use items are better than anything even a reasonably competent modeller can produce, how surprising is it that the easy option is so appealing ? Why bother trying when you are bound to fail in the early days ?

I'm not saying that all good RTR is bad. I'm also not stupid enough to think the genie can go back in the bottle and we can return to the happy days of the 80's when there was acceptable RTR but still plenty you could do with it. That's gone and I wonder if this glut of goodies will be worse for us than we think.

If we don't make models does the hobby become a stereotype ? Outsides characterise model railways as grown men playing with toys. If they realise that most simply visit (in real life or virtually) a specialist toy shop and buy the bits we don't even have the excuse that there is skill involved in the creation of the scenes. I know I like to point out the carpentry, metalwork, electronics, painting etc. involved in my models. When you bought the lot what is left ? How long before you buy the whole layout off the shelf ?

Note: There is work to do on the cars. The ladder should be on a roof rack and the wheels are too wide on the Mini. Both need spraying with satin or matt varnish to make them look less toy-like.

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