My visit to TINGS and the various forum discussions that followed provoked a certain amount of thought. The NGF threads on the exhibition really just showed that everyone is different, and different people like different things. So some people disliked the large N-Club modular layouts; others really liked it.
Perhaps one common thread that came out was the large number of ’roundy-roundy’ layouts, basically consisting of a through station with storage loops behind. Of course, that description covers a wide range of layouts, including the accurate scale representation of Melton Mowbray (North), and the scratch-built diesels and electrics on Burshaw North Western. And of course the magnificent (and enormous) ‘Fencehouses’ in 2mm finescale is basically a continuous run. However, they do seem to get a bit ‘samey’ after a while.
There are, however, good reasons for modelling this sort of layout in ‘N’ gauge.
- Shunting is more difficult (though very much possible) than in the larger gauges. It’s easier to keep one’s sanity through a two-day show with a continuous layout.
- ‘N’ gauge gives the chance to run longer trains through the countryside. Again this is probably best expressed in a continuous layout.
Also, maybe the layouts tend to look the same due to the relative lack of RTR and kits in ‘N’ gauge. We have been really well looked after by the trade, but it is undoubtedly easiest to model green diesels, blue diesels, or the modern railway. You have to be something special to model pre-grouping steam. Here the larger scales win out – there are many kits available, and scratch-building, although it seems to be getting rarer, is perhaps easier and commoner. (Although some 2mm modellers claim that 2mm is easier than 7mm, as you can leave off most of the detail in the smaller scale.)
I then picked up a copy of October’s Railway Modeller. Tucked near the back was the ‘Comment’ column, by John Rodway. A couple of quotes from his article follow, though I’d recommend the whole thing.
There was always [in the 1970’s] anticipation on the way to such an event [exhibition], and so much to take in while studying the exhibits. On the way back home I would ponder on which ideas were applicable to my own project? How many improvements could I include and what innovations might I incorporate?
He goes on to comment that in that era, the standard of the layouts and of the models were often much lower than today, without the wide range of accurate RTR models available. He then states….
Using just bought-in items, anyone is now able to assemble a very passable layout without recourse to craft skills honed over decades and a burgeoning box of expensive tools.
Interestingly, ‘Wenlock’ at TINGS was a GWR branch line terminal built on exactly that premise. But it received lots of favourable comment because it was a small terminal with shunting, and was different from many other layouts. Rodway continues….
But has this resulted in models of railways becoming more uniform? Are they now becoming formulaic? In its extreme form, do visitors to a show see models of the same loco running on several layouts, pulling exactly the same wagons, and carrying identical loads past repeated copies of stations houses and shops? Is the grass invariable in its shades and textures?
The million dollar question…..
But does this sameness suggest that railway modelling has become a mature technology.
By ‘mature technology’ I mean that for any particular situation, there are a number of tried-and-tested solutions between which the practitioner has only to decide between the most appropriate for his/her particular project.
And my view of TINGS (and others too, I think) is summed up by….
Over the past few years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find layouts that stimulate my wow-factor. Perhaps I’ve seen so many layouts and read so many articles that my threshold for wow-inducement has got too high? Or conversely, has innovation and improvement flat-lined?
Perhaps this is why I often buy Model Railway Journal? He concludes…..
I urge every modeller to strive hard to include and perfect at least one unique feature on every layout he/she builds.
How can we continue to be innovative in ‘N’ gauge without resorting to ‘jokey’ or ‘gimmicky’ layouts. (I’m afraid that I’ll walk straight past models of railways on other planets, clever as they may be!) I have more thoughts on this, but will leave it here for today.