Friday 13 December 2013


In my role of armchair modeller, I tend to spend quite a bit of time reading model railway magazines and blogs on model railway topics. They all pretty much give an opinion or two on some aspect of the hobby or on life in general. For example, you can see some of the blog sites in my blog roll that I will often refer to, even if the updates are as slow as my own! What amazes me, however, is how worked up some people can be in their derision of people's modelling preferences and their modelling efforts, and in some cases, the person as well. Model railroading is supposed to be fun, is it not?

Recently, I was going through the blog of US modeller Lance Mindheim. Lance had his layout featured in the December 2013 issue of Model Railroader. The layout is a great example of taking inspiration from the prototype (Miami, Florida, in this case) and building a really nice model railroad. The composition and scenic elements of the layout are superb. There really should be no doubt that Lance is darn good modeller with a quality model railroad. And, as an aside, I hear Lance is to be a guest speaker next Easter at the New Zealand Model Railway Convention in Hamilton, New Zealand (home of the Chiefs rugby union team).

In Lance's blog entry for 30th November 2013, entitled "Live by the sword, die by the sword", Lance has compiled a number of derogatory comments from a UK forum about his layout and his layout article in Model Railroader. It seems that there are some people who don't like the dimensions of Lance's layouts. Building layouts using a standard 6' by 1' baseboard size irks some people. Other comments are critical of Lance's views about model railroading, particularly his expression about "modelling the ordinary". One US commentator didn't like the fact that an image of Lance's layout in Model Railroader had been digitally enhanced with the addition of a photo backdrop instead of showing the basement plumbing!

Lance shrugs off these comments and so he should. Lance is a very good modeller; one who thinks seriously about his modelling while at the same time enjoying the hobby as well. One of the greatest ironies from the criticisms is the fact that the UK model railroad magazines regularly feature micro-layouts which gives pause for thought for those who don't like shunty-plank designs!

The other interesting observation from these criticisms is the comment about Lance's personal views that he expresses sometimes in his model railroad blog and in his other blogs. Personally, I don't know why this is a problem when millions of bloggers around the world are just airing their opinion on pretty much everything. Blogs, by their very nature, are opinion pieces. I could go on, but I don't want to offend anyone with a lecture on the impact of social media on contemporary society...

Whatever ones opinion and whatever the way one chooses to express it, the model railway hobby includes people with umpteen different views on everything from layout planning to scenic detail and operational preferences. Note that I am talking about opinion, not fact. HO scale is 3.5mm to the foot - that's a fact without too much argument. Opinions about a layout in HO scale is another matter. The variety in what modellers do in HO scale (and other scales) is enormous and something we should cherish no matter what our own selective interests may be.

Variety and newness can help instigate our own thinking, whether it emanates from some feature we dislike on a layout or something we find fresh and appealing. Sometimes something that didn't interest us last year is now of immense importance as it now coincides with some modelling work we are doing now, rather than previously when we had just a passing interest. Newness can thus mean relevance at a certain point in time.

People are in the hobby for a range of different reasons and with a range of different skill sets. Individual preferences will abound but we are all part of our common hobby. Like humanity itself, essentially we are all the same. Where we differ in our preferences and approaches in doing things, we should take the opportunity to enhance our knowledge rather than simply deride those who take a different path to our own. It would be a boring hobby and a boring Australia if it were any other way.

That said, may you all have a safe and enjoyable festive season and New Year.