Motivation Monday, Mindheim’s Musing

I don’t need to mention the current (October 22), cost of living rises in the UK to anyone. If you’re awake you’ll be all too aware of the impact of Brexit, Ukraine etc etc on national and world economic and geopolitical history. I use the word history rather than events, because these are going to be ‘history’ and we’re living it right here and now.

This past week we’ve seen another new product announcement, a three way collaboration between Locomotion, Rails of Sheffield and Heljan. Almost immediately there were the usual calls of its duplicating a kit, its way too expensive, and others probably. after reading those two threads I was already rapidly losing interest. Taking the duplication first, pretty much every Uk RTR locomotive or piece of rolling stock, across the scales duplicates a kit, so we’re not breaking new ground there. Locomotion in particular commissions models of items in their museum collection, an excellent way of bringing further revenue into the organisation, and certainly raises their profile amongst the modelling community where I imagine the bulk of their sales actually occur.

Then we look at the pricing, just over £200. I’m not finding this an excessive price for a limited edition model. If we look at big players and then the smaller manufacturers, this isn’t an excessive price gouge by any stretch of the imagination. For example the base level price of the very promising Cavalex class 56 is going to be around the £190 price point, the RRP for the Bachmann class 37 is £240, just picking two contemporary examples from the recent releases or ‘to come’ categories.

How does this connect to Lance Mindheim’s piece on a one turnout layout then? Well certainly in the Uk the hobby is quite loco centric, and there’s quite the emphasis, if you believe the commentators, that the cost of a locomotive and stock for it to pull, is making this a rich man’s hobby. I’m not going try and make any argument that £220 is cheap, it isn’t.There’s always the cost of other hobbies thrown into the argument too, quite often golf. Probably not the best example, as no one mentions the cost of the vehicle you ‘need’. Why have I added a car? Well when was the last time you saw a dude dragging his bag of golf bats and umbrella down the high street on his way to the gig, or manhandling them onto the bus? So golf, is never the best example for comparison. Music? if you want to get an acoustic guitar from new, for something nice you’re going to be north of £100 to start, and then you can go on the inter web and read just how bad whatever axe you’ve bought is and how much better a far more expensive instrument is. Still at least you can get it on the bus, and play it without needing a couple of hundred acres of grass to go with it. Remember the £100 glass ceiling for locomotives, where did that go? Cycling, fishing, watching football etc etc whatever you compare to railway and railroad modelling, its not hard to find new stuff that’s way more expensive than trains. Conversely, like the railway hobby, it’s quite easy to not have to pay out third world economy sized sums to get satisfaction and enjoyment.

What’s the point of this ramble? Well Lance makes a good point about the benefits of a one turnout layout. And there’s a simple parallel to the cost conundrum, if you have a one turnout layout there’s a big cost saving. It’s ok, you can stop rolling your eyes at the back of the class, I know its not that simple, and Lance is perhaps fortunate in that his chosen prototype allows him to make that point. When you look at Lance’s layout it’s clear that there’s much more thought in the concept than is immediately apparent at first glance. Compared to UK prototypes North American railroads and equipment are larger, and operations and signalling much different. Whereas there’s still contemporary single freight car loads switched into industries in North America, there’s way way fewer in the UK, in fact I can’t actually think of one at the moment. There is of course a wagon repair facility that might considered, perhaps that may become the ‘contemporary’ modellers GWR BLT where a section is chosen with just one point, and presented to show just that area. I’d be interested in seeing that, especially how on/off scene joins were managed to give an engaging presentation.

Going back a few years of course would allow for us UK modellers an opportunity to choose an industry and model it with one point, and perhaps a catch point to protect the running line. Reading Lance’s blog its apparent that the mindset is very different too. The area of this one point layout is roughly 12ft / 2 metres in length and 6 inches depth.

Shelfie 2

That’s quite the footprint for some of us in the Uk, that’s about the footprint of Shelfie 3 or two of Shelfie 2 end to end, so in visual context Shelfie 2 above is roughly half Lance’s footprint. Where I think Lance’s design and concept works is in the simplicity of the use of his space. Whereas Shelfie 2 above is over compromised for what its meant to portray. The courage of Lance’s design is the use of space, arguably, it’s very brave to use all that space for modelling so much ‘nothing’. `that’s where it really scores on the visual appeal and realism though.

Shelfie 2

Shelfie 2 above isn’t really what you’d see in real life, its a pastiche. Don’t get me wrong its a nice layout, I learned a lot from it, it works well and people enjoy operating it and seeing it, but the compromises are its negative aspects. Fitting it into Lance’s footprint it’d ‘work’ better especially in the visual elements. and may be better served with a fraction more depth in the baseboard. The other option of course would be to change scale, and make sure you don’t fall into the smaller scale, same footprint, fill it with crap, trap.

Costwise however Shelfie is relatively economic, it only needs one engine in steam, so the exhibition complement is three locomotives, one operational and two spares. Because its freight and coal the only stock required is about fifteen wagons and two brake vans, they pretty much fill the layout if deployed at once. The layout infrastructure, track, point motors, lighting, baseboards would be much the same for a longer version but it might still not have that capture that Lances layout does. The one point layout in both Lance’s example and transferring it to a UK scene has a definite cost benefit. Assuming a disciplined use of modelling funds then only a few locomotives are required and a handful of freight cars or wagons are needed. That’s where arguably you can ‘afford’ the nice models especially if you’re established in the hobby in some format. Sell old stuff and replace with fewer better examples if you’re not minded, or skilled enough to upgrade existing items.

For me there’s two significant elements to this cost question and I feel that a layout design like the example Lance shows, gives us a neat answer. Prices of new high fidelity models isn’t going to come down, and the space fairy isn’t going to turn up with vast tracts of free land either. So if a modeller really wants to have examples of the latest items and run them on a layout, perhaps the thought process of layout design needs to be added to the wallet. Choose a prototype section which you can model using minimum equipment and do it realistically. Key to the example from Lance for me is the effort that has been put into the scenic aspects of the layout. I can imagine operating this layout with its one point, as the appearance would engage me too, taking away the ‘need’ to have much more going on. Almost like slow tv, you take the time to engage with the models rather than watching them flash by and then running the next one past a minute or two later. The capture of the prototype atmosphere is another element too, disused or open space from removed tracks, with that that sort of detail you can use the ‘space’, this is why three turnout inglenook designs rarely light any fires for me. For me the traditional small footprint shunting puzzle inglenook doesn’t work, they are too compromised to engage me, and to a degree Shelfie 2 has similar issues. Note to self, think harder about ‘space’.

Perhaps then the ideal is no compromise! If you want to get the high fidelity stock and motive power, do so. but make it viable by an uncompromising approach to modelling a restricted ‘location’ and a one point layout can offer this. It’d be a brave choice though, Lance’s scene is believable as it replicates real life and operations, and utilises uses the footprint plausibly. I can imagine many easily saying it’s a literal waste of ‘space’.

Finding a contemporary UK scene would be far more difficult, though a few TEA’s and a fuels siding spring to mind, or a couple of the KFA/PFB’s and a handful of vans in an MOD setting. However going back twenty years or so and more, the opportunities for these types of simple operation are far greater to mix simplicity and top quality RTR products.

So, who’s up for taking the brave pill?

This entry was posted in accurascale, america, americana, Bachmann, baseboards, blog, Branch Line, British Rail, Cameo, Cameo layout, canada, DC, DCC, dcc sound, Exhibition, finescale, freelance, fremo module, gouge, Hattons, heljan, ho scale, hobbies, Hobby, Hornby, ikea, Industrial, inglenook, Inspiration, Layout, layout design, man cave, man-cave, model, Model Railroad, Model Railway, Modelling, monday motivation, motivation monday, n gauge, Narrow Gauge, O Gauge, o scale, OO, OO Gauge, OO9, peco, peco bullhead, Peco TT, railroad, railway, Rapido Trains, Ratio, realism, research, scale modelling, shelf layout, shelfie, skill, toy train, train set, TT, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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