A number of recent blogs and articles have had me thinking not only about time, but also about place. There are two aspects to this – can the location of your model railway be identified before a train arrives – and secondly why model this location anyway.
It seems that we have got much better at location. When I was modelling as a kid, one was grateful to be able to model a train that was of the correct region and period without too much scratchbuilding. You would also try and get railway buildings and signals correct, but beyond that, it didn’t seem to matter too much.
There were, of course, plenty of pioneers whose layout gave a consistent picture of location – even without going to the wonderful lengths of the Pendon layouts. But it seems to me that we have all raised our standards. We are much more aware of the correct architecture for a region, the road vehicles that would be in period, the local industries, geology and land forms. In larger scales one might even consider local crops, plants and trees.
All this builds into a recognisable picture of a place, without a train in sight.
And the second question is, ‘why build this model in the first place?’ Reading the modelling magazines, people come up with all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, an unusual prototype captures the imagination. A photograph or book inspires a model. But most often, I guess, one is attracted by the railways you knew in years past.
For my part, my interest in the Southern Railway comes from my ancestors Somerset heritage, and being brought up in the south-east commuter belt. Railways ought to have lots of EMUs, and run on brick viaducts. I like non-passenger rolling stock, be it full brake coaches, parcels stock or horse boxes. Why? Train journeys in my teenage years were spent looking for old vehicles, and most of these were venerable vans and full brake coaches parked on sidings under the viaducts.
My American interest perhaps was a pragmatic choice, as the models looked and ran so much better than the UK ones of the time. Why Lehigh Valley? It seemed (and still seems) a Class 1 railroad of manageable proportions. I was inspired by a number of photos, and decided that Alco’s were just the best . But my musical interests in rock and blues gave me trans-Atlantic interests. Isle of Wight and Irish narrow gauge? I think I was and still am charmed by both!
I think what I am trying to say is that I need some link with what I build. Some people seem able to build models for building sake alone. I think I need more that that, and I need to draw on this inspiration to keep my interest in my hobby.