Sunday, March 03, 2013
The rise of the chequebook enthusiast
This week I cancelled my subscription to VW Camper & Commercial magazine. I've been with it since issue 1, when it was a quarterly mag you couldn't get in the shops, to the current monthly issues I could pick up in Smiths.
It's not the exclusivity that has pushed me away, it's the content. There's nothing wrong with it really. Lots of nice pictures of VeeDubs and a few event reports. If you like that sort of thing then great. What I don't like is the content of the articles.
Basically, what happens is someone buys a camper, probably importing it from the USA. They then hand it over to a company who restore or customise it. Another company will do the interior. There will be some problems which were solved by an engineering guru from yet another firm.
Compare this to Practical Classics. Each article involves the writer battling with rust and recalcitrant mechanical parts. While something like painting might be contracted out, although it often isn't, the bulk of the work is done by the owner. The end result is a triumph (other car makes are available) of their labours.
Guess which mag I read right through quickly and which sat around unopened for a couple of days.
The same sort of thing is happening with model railways (see, I said I'd get there). Less and less people make anything, preferring to buy locos, rolling stock, buildings, road vehicles, and anything else straight from the shop. It's happening in all the popular scales but especially in OO.
The worst place fro it though is in the finescale end of the hobby. People who can afford to employ the best model makers in the country are popping up and writing layout articles. Once P4 and EM modelling involved some kit building and effort. Now you just swap the wheels out of your freshly boxed RTR and plonk it on the track. If you have big money, you order a beautifully made model from someone else.
We even had someone who had done this try and enter the loco in a club modelling competition years ago!
Of course there's nothing wrong with a bit of chequebook modelling I'm told. People say that if they could afford to spend the cash they would and use the time freed up to work on the bits they enjoy. Truth is, I suspect, what they mean is if they had the money, a complete model railway would be built and installed in their purpose built room.
The thing is, once that happens, surely you'd play with it for a couple of weeks. Perhaps show it off to your friends, and then what?
Shut the door and go and do something else I suspect.
My take on all this? Simple - you get out of a hobby what you put in.
You can be a VW owner who doesn't know where the fuel pump is and shouts abuse at fellow owners unlucky enough to break down (outside Stanford Hall about 6 years ago since you ask) because you can't comprehend that a 40 year old car isn't as reliable as a modern one. You probably sell your bus every year looking for a new shiny toy.
Likewise, you can treat a model railway like a flat screen TV. You buy it, press all the buttons to make the noises and light come on and then go and buy another one.
Or you can work on the car or layout yourself. Maybe it won't be as good as the one a professional can build for you, but it has one important element. It's Yours. There is a little bit of You in there and you can justifiably be proud of something far greater than just writing a cheque.