Widen your horizons…

There are those who do not look far beyond their own shores and they are called, well, idiots I suppose.
There are those who do not even look as far as their own shores. They are called complete idiots.
I know people who won’t look at a layout unless it follows their prototype theme, and is in their scale/gauge. Suggest that they look at a model of an overseas railway, and they will tell you that they are not interested in (and I quote) “that foreign muck”.

As I said, complete idiots.

I won’t condemn them (they can do that well enough themselves) and I won’t pity them, either (suggests I might like them). Sometimes I feel like Gregory House, except that I do actually like the 1% who seem to think, and fervently wish the other 99% would do the same.

Here in the UK, some like to proudly think of ourselves as the inventors of “finescale” railway modelling – I mean, look at P4, etc. Well, apart from the pioneering work conducted by Ian Pusey in developing the S Scale standards – work which fed into the MRSG and the development of P4 – I suspect that is complete rubbish. Good ideas are good ideas, and they happen all over the place and often independently at around the same time. (A possibly Marxist view of history, but I don’t think so. In this case, people simply began to have enough leisure time to investigate railway modelling as opposed to toy trains. Oh, that is a Marxist view.) We also tend to take the view that Americans know all there is to know about scenic modelling: ground to ceiling mountains, etc. Again, this is complete rubbish: for a start, Trevor Marshall is a Canadian! Even if we ignore the work of such people as Barry Norman and Gordon Gravett, what about the work of New Zealanders like Peter Ross? What about the masterpieces produced in Europe? It’s not all out of the box Fleischmann train-sets over there, you know.

In this vein, I would like to draw your attention to a link I have already put up in a side bar (or at the bottom, if you are viewing on a tablet. Or at least, on my tablet) by mentioning it here: if you are the kind of person that likes Trevor Marshall’s work, then you will love Mike Cougill’s astounding modelling in Proto:48. Ignore the fact that it is 1:48 scale. Ignore the fact that the ties (sleepers and timbers) are closer together than UK practice. Ignore the fact that it follows American practice. Ignore the fact that it is set in the back of beyond (also known as Ohio). Just concentrate on the fact that without any rolling stock in place, it looks real, thus:

Then read his website on how to achieve this, and buy his book on detailing track. His service is great, and the book is really useful. And no, I don’t get commission. Sadly.

Good modelling is good modelling, no matter what scale, what prototype.
You might also want to look at Pierre Oliver’s website, too, for more of this:

If you want to, then why not?

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11 thoughts on “Widen your horizons…

    1. Dunks Post author

      No problems, Mike.
      I like your modelling, and you have an interesting point of view. Always have time for a thinker, even if I disagree. (In your case, I don’t.)

  1. Trevor

    Hi Simon: Thanks for the kind words about my layout and web site – much appreciated. I’m a fan of Mike Cougill’s modelling and his thoughts about what the hobby COULD be as well. And as you know from reading my blog, Pierre Oliver is my go-to guy for building resin freight car kits. While I have done kits in the past, I find it’s more rewarding to have him build my freight cars while I do structures or other projects. I’m even working on a few structures for Pierre. Cheers! – Trevor

  2. Jamie Wood

    Good modelling is good modelling sure, but when one knows nothing whatsoever of the prototype portrayed, it’s rather hard (in my experience) to tell what is accurate, representative, and what is not.

    Then again, perhaps ignorance is bliss and the lack of knowledge may allow me to overlook glaring anachronisms etc, if beautifully detailed? I don’t know.

    1. Dunks Post author

      To add to my other response, what I am driving at here is the potential to learn about new techniques by looking beyond one’s own comfort zone. The limitations of the somewhat parochial views of some of my acquaintances have been demonstrated more than once, when I have used a technique gleaned from, say, Canada, the USA or New Zealand, and the reaction has been, “How did you know about that way of doing things?”

      As I said, if I don’t know about the prototype, then I have no option other than to rely on the integrity of the modeller, but if I do have such knowledge and something is wrong, then it completely destroys the representation for me.

      Go to any UK model railway exhibition and you are very likely to see a Bachmann Derby type 2 Sulzer (classes 24 and 25) in one or all of three scales, N gauge (via Graham Farish), 4mm scale, and 0 gauge (Brassworks). They all have a poorly shaped front end, which does not capture the essence of the real thing. There are alternatives in each scale – but they do involve some time and effort. Re-wheeling the locos to run on 2mm finescale, EM/P4 or S7 is (to me, at least) a pointless exercise as no matter how fine the wheels may be, the model is still badly proportioned. The information on the real thing and indeed, on how to improve the models, is out there in books, magazines and also on the Web, yet the opportunity to improve is rarely taken, and at such times I wonder if the owners have really grasped the point of finescale, which I would summarise as making the model look like the real thing, with shape, proportion, colour, and texture (including fine detail and track standards) being the most important parts – in that order!

      Realism for me is defined by asking the following question: “Does it look real?”

      1. Jamie Wood

        I agree entirely about technique Simon, but can’t follow about the realism aspect. It’s the well-executed as opposed the well-modelled.

        I can see how a model is beautifully executed despite no knowledge of the subject portrayed, but I can’t judge realism with any degree of confidence.

        Reliance on the integrity of the modeller is interesting. Perhaps I’m less trusting, or perhaps I’m looking for something different than you do in the model before me?

        1. Dunks Post author

          Interesting points, Jamie. Apart from anything else, they enable insight into another person’s point of view – always fascinating, and not a little liberating.

          Well-executed does a lot for me. I am aware that rolling stock got bigger over time in most of the world, so shape and proportion become important – I also know enough about North American railroads to say that’s a 40′ boxcar built to the 1937 AAR specifications, and that it has Canadian style footsteps fitted to the bottom of the ladders, but I only found out about this latter point after I saw the photo. But the shape, proportion, colour and texture are believable, so unless I find out about some glaring error, then it doesn’t matter if I rely on the integrity of the builder. If he has taken so much care over it, I am inclined to trust him.

          Incidentally, the DX goods is wrong. Not for some DX goods, indeed it is very accurate for some, but it is wrong for the particular prototype. The information became available just after the model was past an important stage of construction… Mind you, you would need some very specialised knowledge to know that!

  3. Dunks Post author

    I leave prototypical fidelity to the integrity of the modeller, which does not mean that I expect 100% accuracy. It depends on any claims made by the modeller, really, which modify the expectations. Pempoul is not a model of a real place, and actually has an incorrect track gauge (which Gordon admits to being a shortcut he is prepared to tolerate), but it still looks like photos of the real thing.
    That’s good enough for me, on both counts.

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