John's Jottings

146. From London to the Coast - August 2018

Posted on August 3, 2018 at 6:45 AM

We’d been discussing the Rumford show. One exhibitor was a fanatical builder. He was there with his latest creation. He completes at least one layout every year, sometimes two. Beautiful they are. The thing is, they’re pretty much all the same. Each is inspired by the SECR. They all have a similar track plan with, as near as damn it, identical buildings. He doesn’t change scale, or period, or season. The only things that are really different are the positions of the trees and buildings, and each station’s fictitious name.

“Can’t think why he does it,” Peter commented. “Tedious. So very boring.”

“If he carries on like this, and joins them all together with a few lengths of plain track, he’ll have built an entire line from London to the coast,” Adrian added with a smile. “Epic outcome, but all so unimaginative.”

“That’s about seventy miles scale miles,” Graham announced. “The model would be about a real mile long. Some model railway.” We all laughed at the idea. Where would you put a mile long model?

“I know another chap,” Ken chipped in. “He’s equally productive. He changes his scale, region and period every time. There’s no coherence in his choice of subject at all, other than each is different from anything he’s ever done before. Over the years he’s worked in N, 3 mil, H0, 00, P4, S and O-gauge, and both standard and narrow-gauges. They’ve been in every era from the 1820s to the present day. He’s even had a couple of futuristic, science-fiction, fantasy lines for good measure. Whatever he does, he throws himself whole-heartedly into each new project and sees it through to completion. He must have masses of bits left over. I wonder what he does with them all?”

“The SECR chap is a bit like an artist friend of mine,” Felicity added. “Really, he only paints one picture, again and again - a pool surrounded by trees. He even keeps a logbook in which he notes the mix of pigments he has used for each bit so that he can replicate the colours exactly. The only significant variation is in where the foreground bush is placed. They sell consistently, so the concept must keep pleasing the public.

“Now, another artist I know is always trying out new subjects and techniques,” she went on. “She couldn’t replicate a picture even if she tried. And her work sells as well. Though it must be said, some are snapped up as soon as they go on exhibition, while other pieces hang around for years.”

“Perhaps it’s because some people are averse to taking risks,” the chairman mused. “Most folk work well within their comfort zones. What they produce is pleasing but unexciting. Others are far more adventurous. Sometimes this results in a duff layout, but at other times it is breathtaking in its originality, ingenuity, artistry and entertainment value. It’s all a matter of personality and ambition.

“Nobody should be forced to be original or inventive,” he cautioned. “It’s not a crime to be timid, no matter how frustrating it is to those who are prepared to take risks as they expand the boundaries of what can be modelled, and develop novel techniques to achieve greater realism and reliability. But likewise, neither should the cautious hold back the endeavours of the audacious. It is, after all, a hobby, not a matter of survival.” And we all agreed with that.

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