Author Archives: Simon

About Simon

Work out what you want, then get on with it. Easy to say: harder to do!

Lydham Heath at Ludlow, September 3rd

I am taking Lydham Heath to the small show put on near Ludlow on the first Saturday of September, the venue is the Mascall Centre in Lower Gladeford, SY8 1RZ. The show is open from 10 till 4.

As I have an impending house move and need to consider downsizing, then Lydham Heath is available for sale, complete with two locos, a coach, and a handful of wagons (representing the stock which came with the layout when I bought it) plus a couple of 3D printed bodies: one for another coach and one for a wooden bodied van. Seriously interested parties are invited to contact me, and could even leave the exhibition with an S scale layout of their own!

If you are the kind of person who thinks a layout built by a leading railway modeller renowned for his expertise in modelling scenery but actually a really good all-round modeller (Barry Norman), with stock built by him and another great modeller (Tankie and the brake van were built by Laurie Griffin) should exchange hands for a handful of beer tokens, then probably best not to enquire after the price…

Authenticity and “Finescale Renegades”

Saw this on a forum, from a modeller whose work I do admire:

Finescale 00 used to be a thing. For some of us it still is. It’s a state of mind as well as a set of measurements.

I always thought that a finescale version of 00 was EM, given that “finescale”* is a state of mind about getting things closer to the prototype, and a track gauge that is 96.7% of the prototype measurement is closer than one which is  87.7%. I mean, would you accept such a measurement error as big as 97% in any other respect of the prototype, leave alone 88%? I say this not to start a gauge war, but to make the point about the degree of error involved in modelling the track – the one thing that above all else differentiates this hobby from other modelling disciplines. Those who advocate narrowing the gauge to 16.2mm only exacerbate the issue…

”Finescale 00” is an attempt to make the best of a bad job without having to re-wheel steam locos. Given the profile of modern RTR wheels, some diesels and most rolling stock can be regauged to EM by moving the wheels out (and older stock probably needs it replacing with something concentric anyway!) so it boils down to steam locos and track. Since you have to build your own track for this standard, that leaves the locos, and if there are kit-built locos, which can be built to other standards, it just boils down to RTR steam. That and the fact that when you started out, you chose this standard and now have an awful lot of model railway, and getting it changed is not going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong: I realise that we all have choices to make over these things, and I am all for improving the running by tightening up the tolerances (i.e. “flangeways”, flanges and B2B) of any set of integrated track and wheel standards, but I can’t see how something so far off scale dimensions can be called “finescale”, and given the definition of finescale as a mindset about getting closer to scale, and the measurement error in the track gauge, well, how is 00 ever going to be finescale? Finer, yes. But finescale? I think not. YMMV, of course; that’s my personal view.

* See “Proprietary to Scale”, C J Freezer, Railway Modeller, January 1974, for this – indeed the only to my knowledge – definition of “fine scale”, where he makes the point that “scale model” was first applied to differentiate away from “toy trains” and meant (in his words) “authentic”. I think realistic might have been a better choice: “like the real thing”. His point was that unless you accepted this definition, then “fine scale” was meaningless, but (in précis) actually means “even less like a toy”. This was down to Greenly, who advocated a larger scale than that used for the track to accommodate the crude wheel standards in use for tinplate trains. Because modelling railways is about more than individual models, most people prefer to start with something already made, and ”improve it” rather than starting wholly from scratch and enjoying the journey, and ”purchasing” is frequently used to mean ”modelling”.

If you define “finescale” as “improving the running of 00 without changing the gauge, but otherwise working to EM standards”, then that works, but how could that definition be applied to, say, military modelling?


I have tried to leave a comment on a friend’s blog, but Google (who own Blogger) appears to want none of it, unless I allow them more access to my on-line activity than I wish to (you can have it, guys, but if you value it so much, pay me for it!). On another blog, a friend is finding that the ”improvements” to WordPress (which i am using here) are not so much ”feature-laden” as ”feature-heavy” to the point of toppling over. He was happy with Blogger, until Google started messing around with it, so he moved to WordPress, and now they have given him more complexity which he didn’t want and taken away the simplicity he craved and originally had, all without asking him because, hey, more is more, yes? No, less is more. More is less…

Anyway,I was struck by the simplicity and vital importance of this remark:
“I know you can’t go cheap with turnouts”

So true, also for benchwork. Especially so if in staging under the rest of the layout!

Virtually everything else on a layout can be upgrade over time as money (if that is what is needed) is an issue, but poor benchwork from lack of investment in a few simple tools and by buying poor materials, and poor track work, from poor quality workmanship or buying poor quality ready made components (bearing in mind the improvements over time in such things as wheel manufacturing) will only result in regret. Anything else can be replaced: equipment, scenics, structures, control systems, even wiring.

Money invested wisely now is sound investment in the future happiness of the hobby!

(Actually, I generally think that other than as temporary stand-ins for basic scenics and placeholders for structures, where hardshell+zip and cardboard boxes will suffice, respectively, buying anything that is sub-standard is a complete waste of money: fewer models of high quality is a better place to start!)

Let it be,



I do not normally comment on model railway magazines: very few maintain consistently good output, but the latest issue of Model Railway Journal, number 284, contains a very nice piece of writing with lovely pictures by John Duffy concerning his 0 gauge layout, “Rosehearty”. Aside from the delightful and much neglected prototype railway (the Great North of Scotland Railway) as subject, the author goes to considerable effort to explain why he built the layout – something which the guest editor, Barry Norman, is always keen to explore.

You can see some photos on John’s thread on RMWeb, but to me the message was, understand why, and you will get much, much closer to personal satisfaction.

It’s a model. Deal with it.

When I look at a painting, the last thing I want to see is an exact re-location of real life: I want something of the artist to show through, and to be able to try to understand what the artist is showing me. I am happy to accept that this is a painting. I don’t expect it not to be. When I look at a good photograph, I know that what I am shown is dependent on the viewpoint (literally) of the photographer and the lenses used, and that is part of the appreciation. I don’t attend live music expecting to hear what was recorded in the studio, and I know that the play is an artifice.

When I look at an individual model, I personally look for a fairly authentic replication of the real thing, to within a certain (hopefully specified) tolerance of real dimensions, with believable colour rendition and clean workmanship. When I look at a layout, however, precise replication of the real place can be problematic, and sometimes frankly boring, so I look more for the interpretation of the scene, the composition of the model, and the consistency of the craft used: items like track clearances stand out to me, but I can cope with (say) 1:8 turnouts in place of 1:10, as they often look sharper in real life due to seeing track from just a few feet above ground level.

My models use electricity to run them, not steam. I have to manually couple and couple them, and I don’t tighten the shackles on screw-links. I could use auto couplers, but the real thing didn’t – even knuckle couplers need lining up manually – except on some multiple unit stock, which I don’t model.I can’t do anything about the periodicity of loose couplings swinging, as that is down to their length and has nothing to do with mass, and so on.

In short, it’s a model. I know that. I don’t mind that. I just want it to be vaguely recognisable as something prototypical and which reflects the effort that went into its creation to make it as un “toy-like” as possible.

And yes, when I see train set track nailed to a piece of plywood, which has been painted grey to represent ballast, playing host to unmodified ready to run trains, rushing past plastic train set buildings and through dyed sawdust fields, I generally take the view that not much effort went into creating it, and pass by before I start to feel insulted.