Monday, August 06, 2018

Allan Downes RIP

Finished BoxI was sad over the last few days to learn of the death of Allan Downes - one of the most memorable railway modellers from my early days in the hobby.

I vividly remembered pouring over photos of his latest projects in copies of the Railway Modeller. His style appealed to me as there was lots of getting on with the job and very little worrying about the finer details.

If it looked right, it was right.

His model of a large cityscape was the one that really sticks in my mind. As well as tales of hacking through tons of cardboard and wearing out endless Stanley knife blades, we were given an insight into the restaurant owner who had commissioned the work, a man who turned out to be quite a character!

Allan himself was reputed to be a bit a character too. I never met him that I remember (there might have been a short chat over a layout back in the 1980s but I'm not sure) however I do know people who have met him and also come into contact fleetingly via Facebook. If we'd stuck to talking toy trains, I'm sure we would have been fine, but any other subject might have been a bit prickly as we occupied opposite ends of the political spectrum.

This wasn't ever a problem though so I can just enjoy the photos of his work and my own example from his bench - a GWR signal box I acquired part-built.  Certainly, he influenced me in my approach to the hobby, although Chris Nevard is better placed to carry the Downes crown with his similar no-nonsense approach to making model railways.

Both produce superb models that don't require endless nerding over tiny bits and pieces. I'm sure there will be plenty who are wound up over the "inaccuracies" in their models or not using the "proper" techniques, but many of those simply use it as an excuse not to start any modelling.

The rest of us looks at a Downes model and wish we could do something as good, and to his eternal credit, he was always happy to explain how and encourage people to get started and utterly pragmatic about the process of making models. If we could all follow his example, there would be far more modelling done.

Perhaps our motto should "Be more Downes". It would be a fitting tribute to someone whose loss leaves a hole in the model railway world.

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