This week saw Hornby announce their 2015 range of models. As usual it's been a cause of much frothing on-line with modellers busy reviewing each and every model, even if they haven't progressed much beyond a set of CAD drawings.
The men from Margate aren't alone - all the manufacturers like to warn us about future products so we can start saving our pennies. The announcements are also reviewed by the hordes every time a prototype or early test shot appears. Over at Albion Yard, Paul has commented on some issues with DJModels 02 test shots (Calmly and sensibly, there's plenty of loony tunes out there but I'm not linking to that. Besides, he's bought me beer in the past). Even I've spotted problems with the same firms J94 and it's injector attached to a fictitious paving slab.
Now, the idea behind a lot of the more measured criticism is that the manufacturers will take notice and refine the finished product. Personally, I rather they didn't because a lot of these are easy fixes for modellers.
As an example, look at the Hornby J50 prototype above. It will have nice wire handrails and a separately fitted smokebox dart. I think this is a great pity.
For my money, how about a body that is scale, a good quality chassis and then some moulded on bits.
This way the cost will be kept down (not enough for the Internet loonies but still down a bit), the loco would fit in the "Railroad" range and even some train sets.
Oh there would be cries of anguish. Everyone knows it a HUMAN RIGHT to have separately fitted handrails on a toy train after all.
But - if you want to upgrade, you could. Nothing very difficult here and at the end of the day, your model would look better than one untouched.
I'll suggest (and yes, I am being deliberately controversial) that high quality RTR is robbing modellers of the chance to do some modelling. The top end stuff is so good that only the best modellers can hope to match it. So, people don't fiddle with it and since there is no easy way to get started with modifying a model they don't take that first step.
We've even reached the stage where people are paying to have real coal added to the bunkers or tenders. The simplest improvement you can possibly make to a model steam engine and yet it's a service bought in "In case I make a mess of it. It's just easier this way."
Still, the genie is out of the bottle. It's too late to go back and I guess we'll have to work out other ways to persuade people to get modelling. In the meantime, I don't need a J50 and if I did, there is a 3mm scale one on the shelf. And I'll always think it is better than the Hornby one 'cos I made it myself.