John's Jottings

147. The Trainless Railway - September 2018

Posted on September 1, 2018 at 5:20 AM

While at the Catfield show, we got into conversation with a chap who claims to have an extensive model railway. He showed us photographs of it. In fact, it is a model of a whole town with a short length of double track down in the valley. All the buildings are from the same company’s cardboard kits. This makes for a scene where the architectural styles, building materials and colourings are uniform. Some are built as intended, but most have been modified or cross-kitted. The builder loves this aspect of his hobby. And all credit to him, the modifications he’s make are ingenious. The town now extends over many square yards: it occupies nearly the whole of his supposed railway room. The odd thing is that no train ever runs along the tracks. There’s not even one standing in the station.

“I couldn’t get the trains to stay on the tracks,” he explained, “so I’m modelling the period of time between trains. After all, it’s not supposed to be an intensively used route.”

While discussing this layout back in our clubroom, Peter informed us with great authority “That’s never a model railway.”

“Why not?” Graham asked. “As long as there’s some railed track, then surely it qualifies?”

“But a railway runs trains,” Paul chipped in, eager to support Peter. “That one didn’t. So it can’t be a model railway. It’s just a big static diorama.”

“So what about that modelling competition,” Felicity enquired. “You remember - the one to create a scene on a base of 144 square inches? Does that count as railway modelling?”

“Then there was the competition that one club held for its juniors, where they had to create a shed and its surroundings?” Fred added. “When finished, each was ready-to-plant on the entrant’s own model railway.”

“They’re more apprentice pieces,” Paul countered. “A grotty shed on its own is never a model of a railway.”

“So what about a model of a locomotive, entered in a competition?” Graham asked. “The exhibit just sits in a glass case. The only time it moves is when it’s being lifted from its carrying case. Is that railway modelling?”

Perhaps such competition entries should be put on a test track and made to complete ten circuits at low speed, and then another ten at high speeds, then backed through points and shunted,” Jim suggested. “That would sort out those that really are railway models from those that just look good.”

“If one is being fastidious, shouldn’t a model of a railway include everything that appertains to a real railway, plus the surroundings through which it runs?” our chairman wondered. “Locomotives, items of rolling stock, track, fences, walls, bridges, signals, signal boxes, stations, trees, houses, shops and factories all go to make the entire model. Any one item on its own is model, but not a model railway. It’s rather like the human body. It consists of many organs, but it needs all of them working together for the body be considered alive.

“But then the pragmatic answer could be that any item that could be used on a model railway is itself a railway model,” the chairman went on. “What do you think?” The discussion went on for quite some time. We hadn’t reached a consensus by packing-up time.

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