Thursday, 1 March 2018

Slow Modelling

The end of February marks the traditional visit of the extended Bron Hebog team to Model Rail Scotland at the SEC in Glasgow.

On a couple of occasions over the years we have even been invited to exhibit there ourselves with Dduallt and other standard gauge layouts.

There's no doubting that the standard of layouts on show in Glasgow is night and day compared to what was once the case, I suspect spurred on by many of the visiting layouts from over the border, and it's evident that there is now a lot of very high quality modelling going on in some of the clubs in Scotland.

As I wandered around the show what struck me was how quiet and empty a lot of the layouts were.

In many cases you could see over into the fiddle yards behind the operating team where there were sidings stuffed with what looked like some very interesting trains, but you'd be waiting a very long time to see any of them come past you because there was very little moving out front, and what was running was generally running rather slowly.

Now, of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

It is a tribute to the great strides the manufacturers have made in how ready to run locomotives perform, and to the quality of the construction of the layout and the track by the people who've built them.

It's not a good look to have trains chasing around a break-neck speed, either.

However it was disappointing that on some of the biggest layouts, where the standards of modelling were most impressive and consistent,  which depicted a section of main line,  there seemed to be very few trains running at what you might consider to be main line speeds. Everything was proceeding as if running under a signal check.

Most of the layouts where this was a 'thing' seemed to have something in common, and I think I have a theory why.

Not only were they DCC, they also had sound.

Although I've never had a go on one of these it seems to be that the most interesting sounds are made when they're running slowly, and it occurred to me that perhaps this is why this trend has developed?

Is this a problem? What's so bad about operating layouts realistically, you might ask?

Well I think we're maybe in danger of forgetting who we're exhibiting for - the people on the other side of the barrier - who've paid a rather large wedge of cash to get into a show such as this one and who would rather like to see the conveyor belt of your interesting models moving a little faster in front of them.

Because at a busy show, where you have to fight to get into a position where you can even see the most popular layouts, you don't want to be hanging around watching nothing much happening - well I don't anyway.

After a couple of hours your feet begin to ache, your back gets sore, and if you're like me you begin to get a little impatient.

It would be lovely in a comfy chair with a glass of something nice in your hand to sit in front of one of these layouts for hours at a time and see everything slowly processing past you, but that's not what the experience of being an exhibition is for most of us punters.

Once upon a time we used to help our friend operate his OO main line layout New Mills. It had two levels of continuous run tracks and we did out utmost to try to ensure that there was something running on at least one of them at all times.

Some might say that it was too busy, that a service level like that is not realistic, but it always kept the crowds entertained and was a popular exhibit.

It was also in the age before DCC and all its trickery. Coincidence?

On another note, getting back to Narrow Gauge matters and descending from my soap box, the main thing I'd gone to the show for was to get my first look at the new Bachmann 009 Baldwin tanks which I understand are due to arrive on these shores very soon.

We have a 590 on order and we're very much looking forward to running the first Baldwin to Beddgelert for around 80 years.


  1. G'day Rob, from downunder,
    I'm on your side, and as a manufacturer of model railway stuff for over 30yrs now, I've attended a lot of exhibitions as a trader, rather than a modeller. As you say, back then pre DCC,trains were run at realistic speeds, and many of the kids would always ask if they could go faster, and at exhibitions it's about pleasing the punters whether it's prototypical or not. As you say, they fork out good money to attend and see action rather than standing around being bored by static scenery, no matter how good it is.

  2. Well said Rob. Tha punters are what float the shows. Without them, there wouldn't be shows.
    Keep something moving all the time, only needs to be one train. When one departs the yard, the next should be staging to be ready to leave.

  3. talking about this last week and more recent DCC controls allow for better recall of locos with hot buttons for up to 6 locos, thus by setting up just show locos it is one touch selection and having an up line and down line handset with second handsets with differing hot selections a quick change possible - equally short cut to sounds now possible so fiddle yards no longer need sound like Eastfield on a cold winter morning. So yes you are right and DCC has recongised this but not sure how older controllers can be configured .. great modelling on the stock snd layout himself doing a grand job in the cold - but he is used to it with FR working parties.