…and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and confirm it.
Or so the saying goes.
Yes, there is a lot of drivel posted on line (including by me), but two really pointless posts have iced the cake for me recently. I will paraphrase and not provide links.
In response to a fairly asinine piece of on-line purchasing pretending to be modelling, someone posted a photo of a small model diesel loco he had just bought, which was of an outline foreign to him, with a request for suggestions of what he might convert it to, as he had no idea and most of its features reflected railway practice developed after his preferred modelling era. To date he has received fewer than 2 responses, and it said: “I know nothing about this. Looking forward to seeing how this develops.”
In response to a short video showing recent developments on a layout, which included a train running, there was a response which said: “That reminds me of a layout that was in a magazine that ceased printing* 30+ years ago, and I can’t remember the name of the layout.”
We have in front of us a wonderful way to share information, happiness, warmth, sorrow, anguish and humour. But how on earth do posts such as that help with understanding the human condition?
* Yes. The magazine folded. **
** I did say some of the drivel was mine.
In 1980, the scientist and author Isaac Asimov memorably commented on ignorance:
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.
Well, I am fairly sure that this isn’t restricted to the USA: my language skills are not sufficient for me to be able to comment on other cultures, but it seems fairly widespread in the anglophone world, and very much so in our hobby. This does not just apply to knowledge of the prototype – although that in itself is a big problem (witness the number of times you will see layouts praised on forums [fora?]for being “operationally challenging”, when the prototype wants exactly the opposite) – but also to skills. I am all for encouraging people to post their efforts as they start to learn the craft, and there to be positive encouragement, but surely that also includes advice on how to redress such basics as learning to cut in a straight line, and how to make sure basic assemblies are square, rather than offering uncritical praise? We aren’t at pre-school: most of us are adults, and if not adults yet, then anyone reading this blog is possessed of enough self-awareness to realise that the drive to be better is a sign of a healthy human being.
Let me re-phrase the quote:
There is a cult of mediocrity in the hobby, and there has always been. The strain of anti-finescale has been a constant thread winding its way through our media and clubs, nurtured by the false notion that “fun” means that my “near enough is good enough” is just as good as your desire for accuracy.
It appears that in an attempt to overcome erratic running over points and crossings, Hoy of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway experimented with the Druitt Halpin thermal storage device, the steam equivalent of a capacitor…
In responding to a comment on Mike Cougill’s latest thought-inspiring post, I made reference to one of my own. (I also found some typos!) Re-reading what I wrote, an extra “contrary wise” thought came to me, and it’s worth highlighting here (in bold) as the downside to accepting ready-made objects straight from the box, warts and all:
As René pointed out, “Marty is right: don’t sweat the details, unless that’s your thing, in which case, don’t expect anyone else to notice.”
I would add that if you don’t sweat the details, hope nobody else will notice!
A lot of people seem to lay claim to the “less is more” concept: I see it frequently posted on the web along the lines of, “John Smith explains his ‘less is more’ concept” or even “I explain my ‘less is more’ concept”.
Anyway, I came across this wonderful quote from Seneca the Younger (5BCE-65CE):
It is quality rather than quantity that matters.
I have written before about “love of subject”, and indeed mention it in the “about” sidebar entitled “Finescale With Feeling”. I think it provides a “grounding” for the modeller, and this shows in the results. That said, I wish I had done as good a job as Ken Karlewicz has in his YouTube video:
Our hobby needs more like this.
Thanks due to Trevor Marshall for introducing this to me.
Addendum: this layout is featured in the 2019 issue of Model Railroad Planning.
We like to think that S scale, or what became S scale, was first conceived of in 1896 by Edward Bowness, with his model completed in 1898.
This appears not to be the case, as the following from Locomotive Engineering, Dec. 1893, Vol. 6, No. 12, clearly demonstrates – and look at the fine (scale) flanges! No toy trains here, and live steam to boot.
The accompanying text states:
The Very Smallest Locomotive
We have several times within the last few years given illustrations of extremely small locomotives that were complete in all parts, but that shown in the annexed engraving is the very smallest working locomotive that we have heard about. It was built by a jeweler, and is the property of Mr. W. E. Gallant, Chicago. This elaborate toy is built to run on a track 7/8 inch wide and has a total length of 9 ½ inches with tender included. The cylinders are ½ x 3/8, the driving wheels are 15/16-inch diameter. The boiler is ¾ x 3 inches. The total weight of engine and tender is 9 ½ ounces. Gold, brass, steel, and nickel are the materials of which the engine is made and the pilot is of wood. It is a real working model and spins along in good shape with its own steam, a spirit lamp providing the required heat.
I wonder what happened to this – it is now at least 125 years old?