Much has already been written about the sad passing of Iain Rice, and I feel I ought to jot a few words down on the subject, as, just like many other modellers, his work inspired me. Maybe not the life-changing effects of some
, but certainly life-improving.
You might expect me to wax-lyrical about his layout design books, what with my love of little layouts, but in truth, while I enjoyed them a lot, they didn't really inspire me.
No, it was his practical books and articles that really got me going. I've always said that Detailing and Improving Ready To Run Wagons is one of the best books ever written about model railways. The follow up on kits was just as interesting, and his Wild Swan published books on etched locos, chassis and most importantly, model building using Wills kits that will always have a place on my bookshelf. Plastic Structure Kits: Making the Most of the Wills Scenic Series was updated and re-released, and I went out and bought it again. It's a terrific read that will never date.
The thing is, Rice could write brillaintly. There were times when he really needed an editor to polish the results a little (the loco detailing follow-up to the wagon books for example) but he spoke to the modeller in terms that were not only understandable, but actually made you feel that you too could do what he was writing about. Not for Rice, any form of elitism. This was a man at a workbench who explained how he made things and made you want to do them too.
He was also an excellent artist. Pencil sketches abound in all the books, adding both information and decoration to the pages. I wish I could draw that well, it's a skill that he made look easy, but isn't.
Rice had the advantage of being the right person at the right time in our hobby. Look back to the first issue of MRJ and he builds an 02 diesel. The model incorporates a flexi-chassis, which he admitted is a bit of a bodge, but it's a bodge that works and others could follow. Nowadays, the mainstream mags would be willing to cover this (assuming we ignore the forthcoming RTR model) and MRJ wouldn't countenance the slightly scruffy, but very achievable results.
He is very much (in my mind) associated with the prime of finescale railway modelling. Etching was coming in big time, but we could still use a bit of bent wire and some slightly "impressionistic" approaches.
MORILL, or at least the early period of that magazine was also a Rice product. Much missed, in truth, a lot of the content is now irrelevant to the modern modeller, but I always loved it and still have a complete set. Ignoring the usefulness of the content, it's still a very enjoyable read. Rice was a man very firmly in the hobby. He built layouts and took them on the exhibition circuit. You felt that you could be Iain Rice by reading his words. That is a skill.
I only met Iain a couple of times, and never really to talk to. Sadly, both were when Parkinsons had started to take its toll on him. I'd like to have enjoyed a chat about small layouts and modelling in general. The hobby has lost an important figure, but we are lucky we can still read his contributions. The ancient Egyptians considered you didn't really die until everyone had forgotten you. I think we will remember Iain Rice for a very long time to come.