MRJ issue 259 is out, and features a lengthy letter from no less than Iain Rice in response to Tony Wright’s somewhat immature jibe at P4. Personally I think Tony was rather rude, having been invited to write for the leading finescale magazine, to then proceed to trash his hosts, but more importantly, I am not sure that it was worth dignifying with such a thoughtful and lengthy reply.
There are a lot of words in Iain’s letter, but essentially it boils down to the following, which can be applied to any general standard compared to “Proto:N”.
00 started out as toy trains for kids, and had to be robust enough to cope with uneven floors and carpets, as well as fitting onto table tops. Even after refinement, commercial 00 still has a lot of slop available to cope with less than perfect track and supporting structures, and will go around curves that are much tighter (in scale terms) than the real thing could, and therefore you can fit more layout into a given space. Mechanically, it is designed to be robust, requiring little maintenance and to simply ignore minor irregularities in the track.
P4 is different. It started out with the scale of 4mm to one foot, and asked the simple (!) question of how close could one take the model to (scaled down) prototype tolerances. As such, it requires greater precision in manufacturing so that it can accommodate irregularities in the track and supporting structures – which also need to be made to finer tolerances – and (depending on how well engineered things are) possibly more maintenance. Any layout based on a real mainline location will also need a lot more space, as although some physical forces scale down differently to others there is still a limit to what is an acceptable minimum radius.
Iain also mentions a private layout, but overlooks “Heckmondwyke” with a 42” minimum radius, and also the “Irish P4” layout Adavoyle, which apart from being an unusual subject, demonstrated that properly designed and made, Proto standards not only work, but work in such a way that the trains ran through the station (at speed) with just the right amount of movement, something which is not achievable in 00. And that the work involved to get to this level of reliability is not that great, either.
That is a shame, as simply pointing out that either Tony hadn’t seen either of these layouts, or had simply chosen to ignore their existence, means that Tony’s point was simply wrong, as well as being irrelevant.
Ultimately, this is simply yet another example of someone who has chosen not to follow a particular path inferring that those who do are somehow wrong. Psychoanalysts call this reaction formation (the tendency of a repressed wish or feeling to be expressed at a conscious level in a contrasting form), but to the rest of us, it is simply inverted snobbery or anti-elitism, possibly from someone who feels that they could have maybe done better.
The hobby is better without such childishness.
What I particularly liked about Heckmondwyke was that it was, to use a sporting analogy a “Total Model Railway” It wasn’t special because it was P4, but because all aspects were equally well modelled.Sadly I think that is also why it divided opinion at the time. Iain, it could be argued, combined the finescale mentality with a little more fun and disproved the argument that finescale layouts have to be sterile. And true confession time, I got my first chance to see St Merryn in the flesh the other day and whilst I found myself admiring individual aspects it still didn’t excite me.
Those who think Proto:scales don’t work had better look away when the Fremo:87 gang put their modules up! This is serious modular model railroading that operates nicely. Of course, they’re German so it doesn’t count.