Friday, May 03, 2024

Book review: The Ian Allan book of Model Railways


Picture the scene. It's 1960. Sitting around the Christmas tree, Ian opens his present from Bill, Maureen and Hugh to find an inscribed copy of Ian Allan's Model Railway book. Apparently, there has long been a need for a book about the subject that can be understood by younger enthusiasts, and according the author, this is it. 

It's an odd book. The text is light and breezy, but there are technical details to be found. Sometimes it gets very prescriptive - the third of a page warning against the use of hardboard for baseboards is very stern. 

Providing an overview is complicated by this being the era where two and three rail were vying for domiance. Many of the models from one manufacturer were incompatible with those from others. We still have to briefly discuss methods of propulsion, because some will want to use clockwork. 

After a while things settle down, and we look at locations for storing a layout, and have some interesting takes on baseboard construction. Of necessity, this is all a bit brief, although I like the idea of building the model in effectivly an upturned tray. 

Scenery takes up a good number of pages, but you have to pay attention as it's a whistle-stop tour. When it comes to buildings, Builtezee are mentions, as well as Airfix (not forgetting to put the windows inside the model, and add sills to the outside) and some new guys called Superquick. The author is very impressed by these, althoug he seems very impressed with lots of things. 

Wiring only gets three pages, including one full of sketchy diagrams, which seems a bit odd as I can see that this new-fangled two rail stuff would be confusing to many people. It's especially odd, and narrow guage modelling qualifies for five pages!

The other odd thing is that the book doesn't really finish. The text just stops at the end of the NG chapter. No conclusion or wrap-up as you'd expect today. 

I'm not sure how much his present would have helped Ian, but it would certainly have fired some enthusiasm in him, for nothing else then to buy Model RailwayConstructor, thanks to the numerous adverts on the pages!


Christopher Payne said...

Maybe you need to have been (a) the right age at the time, and (b) actually there.

I was 13 years old at Christmas 1960 and was given a copy of this then newly published book. I was impressed, and almost 64 yaers later still occasionally look at my copy with respect and affection.

The alternative in this era would have been - Ernest Carter: The Boys Book of MODEL RAILWAYS (1958) - which in comparison seemed rather stuffy and old school in 1960. I already had a copy of that and found the Mike Bryant tome much more inspiring.


Phil Parker said...

It takes me to a lovely world where all towns enjoy well-stocked model shops. Dropping in and asking for some Lowmac axleboxes with see the owner pull open a drawer and find some, because that's the sort of thing they stock.

There will also be model boat kits, and a few of those new-fangled Airfix and Frog models.

I want a time machine!