Sunday, June 20, 2010
You probably haven't noticed, but there is some football going on at the moment. This gives me an idea.
There are a lot of model railway clichés. The bus on top of the hump back bridge for example, a bête noire of the 3mm Society Magazine editor. Every church has a wedding while around the corner a gravedigger surveys a hole. All of this takes place at the height of summer yet the passengers waiting on the platforms are wearing raincoats. Actually, that last one is more a symptom of British weather than anything else, so I suppose we can let it off.
Even the period the layouts represent doesn't very that much. At present the 1950/60 transition is the favourite, presumably as it allows for diesel and steam to run beside each other. The liveries are nice green ones too. As younger (in a relative sense, not actually young) modellers join the fray, we move forward to the early rail blue period of the 1970's.
Obviously there are weirdos like me who want to model things well before living memory but we aren't that common. Wartime layouts are starting to prove popular too, mainly because you get to make up a load of Airfix tanks. Or at least you think you do until a little prototype research shows that it's the soft-skin vehicles that predominated.
But, how about a break from all this. Why not model a very specific time ?
At present, on my drive home I see lots of cars with little England flags stuck to them. This will happen for around 2 weeks until they are dumped unceremoniously out of the World Cup by the Germans. Or Argentinians. Or Lithuanian Plumbers 11. Whatever happens, these flags along with those decorating houses and pubs, mark a particular point in time.
Therefore, why not model it ? OK, building a lot of limp (the car's aren't moving remember) flags won't be that exciting but at least the bigger ones will be relatively easy. Who know, if I'm wrong and our boys triumph, what a great way to mark and remember the event. People viewing the finished model will get a warm glow of nostalgia and recall how they enjoyed the “campaign”.
It's not just the current cup that can have this treatment. I'm sure alongside the big hair and tight shorts of the 1970's players, there were equally obvious shows of patriotism. Maybe the giant screen TV's didn't exist but surely people did something ?
If the beautiful game doesn't appeal, how about other major events ? What about a Coronation ? Or Silver Jubilee ? Both say streets full of bunting and shop windows specially decorated. Some towns produced special decorated trams for the occasion so I'd guess that the Parks & Gardens staff were busy at the same time. Royal Weddings generate plenty of decoration and doing this ties your model to a date in a way that's easy for non-enthusiasts to understand.
Looking bigger, Christmas layouts done properly are very uncommon. I don't mean raiding a cake decorating shop for plastic reindeer and spraying fake snow everywhere. I'm thinking about strings of unlit lights across roads and on the front of buildings. Notices and adverts mentioning festive stuff. Perhaps a Salvation Army band in the street and people trying to flog hats and mistletoe getting in peoples way. At the very least it's a good excuse to run some extra trains as passenger numbers are up. On top of this, the PW gangs will be getting ready to make use of the festive shut-down.
Of course this does introduce some interesting problems. Bunting, the traditional flags on a rope sort, won't be simple to make in 4mm scale requiring some dull time sticking little bits of paper to thread I suspect. The results should be pretty though. Those flags on cars could be made with a bit of wire and then some PVA to represent the furled material. Put a dot at the top and as it runs down I bet the shape won't be too far off. If you must have fluttery ones then take a look at the real thing - that material is going to be gossamer thin if it's scale. An etched flag (go on, someone make them) with a coat of paint is going to be chubby by comparison.
Whatever, this sort of thing ought to throw the dingy browns and greys of our models into sharp relief – a bit like real life really.