Friday, May 04, 2018
Book review: The Model-railway men by Ray Pope
£0.15 (in 1970)
Ray Pope, who teaches at a high school, in Wiltshire, used to run a toy shop with a model railway department and has his own layout at home.
With this in mind, he wrote a book for children.
The story revolves around Mark, a young boy, who discovers that some of the people on his model railway in the attic are alive. For educational reasons, all the men are named after famous engineers.
I was reminded a little of The Borrowers, another tale of micro people living amongst us. In that book, they didn't try to educate a young lad on the finer points of running a railway - sometimes even when he really doesn't want to care.
Mark is lucky in that the little people gradually improve his railway, and are entertainingly sniffy about some typical model railway compromises such as sharp pointwork at the bottom of gradients, locos running at faster than scale speeds and operations that are designed for fun rather than efficiency.
My one niggle was the sense of scale. First indications of the presence of people is a pullover found on the platform. In OO, this would be miniscule! Later on, the womenfolk are delighted to be given access to scraps of material for making new clothes. Surely this would be far too coarse for them to sew?
Published in 1970, this is an interesting period piece. It's a very conventional middle-class family for the time. Of course mum has a bag full of material scraps and doesn't go to work.
Some of the chapters reminded me of my childhood - such as setting up a buzzer system with the cable going down the outside of the house and in through a window.
Interesting book, that could still be read to a toy-train man youngster today without seeming too dated. And who hasn't wondered what would happen if our miniature people came alive?
Update: The book has been re-released and is available from the Talyllyn shop.