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Maurice Hopper

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    My main interest is the modelling of the London and South Western Railway. As my work in 1/64th Scale this is a long term scratch building project for a layout set in west Dorset called Mellstock Intrinseca.

    I am also interested in the building of micro layouts for taken to exhibitions by public transport. These started with St Juliot, which attended a number of exhibitions in the UK and also took a trip to Utrecht on Eurostar.

    I am presently not exhibiting.

    As I no longer have a car, all my exhibition work is focused on such small layouts, which are now designed to fit a certain plastic box companies wrapping paper box. This allows safe carriage of two boards 700mm x 200mm in plan and 140mm high, the box being small enough to fit the overhead racks on trains.

    This is rather limiting in 1/64th Scale, so some other smaller scales are followed. These plans include work in P4, P87, 2mmFS and 3mm. The P4 project, called Lambeth Walk, is a Southern Region third rail layout set in south London. This will attend its first exhibition in the summer of 2016 at Exeter.

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  1. I have not looked at this for a while, so here is a collective response. Again many thanks for the comments made on what is hardly a mainstream modelling topic. Westernviscount and Regularity Jealousy... Envy? or perhaps more unpleasantly - Greed. Dava I like the Good Office. I have just recently come across a series of tiny layouts made by someone in Japan that display modelling skills but are not really big enough to operate. They really caught my eye ... see below for more of the 'Japanese connection'. .... and Jerry Firstly, thank you for publishing the article in MRJ and to make it quite clear to others, it was edited by me at your request. Perhaps my comments here were ungracious. A case of who writes the history!! Secondly, I am encouraged by your response in relation to the MRJ’s publishing policy. Thirdly, we may have to differ here. Plastics, single use or longterm use, are mostly a ‘by-product’ of the petrochemical industry. This industry is based on raw materials that increasingly would be best left in the ground if the global economy is going to be able to control the rise in temperatures over the next two decades to a level that is sustainable for future generations. That we have, over the last 130 years or so, developed an addictive dependence on fuels and other products, including plastics, of the ‘fractionating column’ is no reason not to start carrying out an analysis of how such materials should be used. There are uses of plastics that are extremely valuable, for example in the medical world, but there are many uses that are much less so. Perhaps a true analysis of prioritising our use of these products over the next few decades needs to be part of the process of ‘fossil fuel energy cold turkey’. Cardboard, is a product of a carbon capturing cycle - tree growth - and therefore seems to have a more sustainable longterm future. (As for Guy Watson and has carbon budgets; I realised some ten years or more ago that he had a very successful and cleverly marketed business that was probably beginning to miss the point. To be overtaken by a Riverford artic on the A30, taking veg-boxes from Devon to ‘the market’, suggested to me that he had lost the ‘local’ element in his environmentally aware business plan. His products may be organic, but his distribution is not necessarily green. But no doubt it would have been too difficult to set up market gardens closer to his markets, as a result of the tyranny of the land price market that puts land for food production beyond the means of food growers as it is inflated by housing developers. The economic distribution of land-use is something this country has never really got to grips with and is a great failing of my own geographic academic discipline, which has always trailed behind history in understanding our culture.) Additional comment…. We are discussing concepts at very different scales. The amount of materials used, even across the whole railway modelling community, is a very small part of total global material consumption. If we are making ‘head of a pin’ analysis, it is only at the level of reducing individual consumption that we, as individuals, can begin to make a difference. (There are a few countries that are moving towards a more collective view. The Dutch P.M., Mark Rutte, has just announced a reduction of the national speed limit from 110 to 100kph to reduce exhaust gases…. And the NS, a 95%+ electrified railway has been running on green, renewable, non-fossil fuel electricity for over 2 years.) I will, as in the way of “Ikigai - The Japanese secret to a long and happy life”, continue to view my modelling and indeed the rest of my life through a changing prism, with a questioning of purpose in both the use of materials and the nature of activities. I need (and this is a very personal comment) to build ‘resilience’ about what I am doing and get rid of the things that make me fragile. If that includes some aspect(s) of modelling then so be it. The aged proponents of Ikigai are able to live an environmentally balanced existence, through gardening - including growing their own food, social activity across all age groups, physical exercise and meditation. Not a bad way to live, especially as many of them contribute to the cluster centenarians living in northern Okinawa. Probably enough said on this.... at least by me!
  2. Dave and David, It was with a degree of trepidation that I opened my blog this morning, wondering how this post would have gone down, especially so after the rejection of the original, robust text by the MRJ. One suspects even the MRJ has to look over it shoulder to see what the advertisers opinion of such a piece would be, let alone the assumed opinions of it readers. (Rather amusing that the reply panel I am typing in has below it an advert for 30% off Hornby locos ... while stocks last. Do they know something we don't?) I very much appreciate your comments and the time and thought used in making them. I especially like the concept that 'hand work' modellers have been usurped by the increased availability of commercial productions and that these have degraded the observational element of the process. This has much wider applications (far outside railway modelling) for the autonomy of the individual, often swept along in the rush to consume. Perhaps there should be another R in the three Rs - Resistance!! Resistance, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Dave remarks about the 'display diesel depot' layouts, to show off high levels of consumption and questions if this is just jealousy. It is interesting how the word jealousy is used as a means abuse about those who think there is another way to enjoyment beyond simple conversion of wealth into material consumption. I have an older relative who spends a great deal of time 'flying the world', but while I would love to see some of the places to which he travels, I do not feel the aged should be 'burning up' the atmosphere! This is not jealousy, even though I could not afford such a hobby, but it is laced around with a certain degree of sadness about the lack of awareness of his actions.... although I belief he is well aware, but is driven to the course of actions by another!! David, if only we could recycle time! It is really good to find there are others out there who are thinking of cutting there cloth to be more suitable to the time available... whatever that is! And you remind me that it is the process and the quality of the outcome that is important. We need to hold on to our creativity while paying due regard to the impact of the process. Again thank you both for these comments. They are quite enough to justify my making the blog post. .... and the MRJ missed out on some interesting correspondence. Kind regards Maurice
  3. I have recently been honoured by having an article entitled “Slow Modelling - an alternative way forward” published in the Model Railway Journal (No. 274, page 276). This described some of the recent changes in my modelling practice and the relationship between modelling and wellbeing, but it did not really get to some of the underlying problems. The original, first draft, of the article included what might be seen as more contentious comments about the natural of railway modelling as we are confronted with a radically changing world. I have posted some of the originally text here. I hope this makes sense without the article as published. The original pieces of text are in italics. I am sorry this is a rather longer post than usual! Firstly, some addition comments on the relationship with models having used the article to outline the importance of scratch-building that gives a strong degree of connectedness with models made. “For many modellers of my age the desire for connectedness is not new. This connectedness often focuses on a nostalgia for the dying days of steam and is supported with a wider range of very high standard ready-to-run models of a then ever before. However, ironically these models have little connection with the audience and are produced by people for whom they are culturally alien. The ‘craftsmanship’ may have been done on a computer or even directly scanned from the original, but the owner of such an item has no real relationship with the model. Technology has produced a model ‘for us’, but it is not a model made ‘by us’ or ‘from us’. Technology has reproduced a piece of the past and presented it to us in the ‘now’, to support our connectedness with the past. “The act of purchasing and possession, of ownership, is more abstract than the act of making something. We surround ourselves with artefacts that are produced remotely, often of materials that are not sustainable and in working conditions that might be considered as less than desirable. Indeed, there might be a similarity between our knowledge of the model railway factories and what was always said (but often untrue) about city children, that they did not know where milk came from. However, for many of us the desire for instant gratification far outweighs less assured and more distant rewards to be found in scratch building. What really counts is the process; the process of working materials into the artefact by way of taking our hands and brain cells for a walk. In so doing one changes the relationship between oneself, the materials and the process to make something that is ‘of you’ and not just ‘of your list’. (Or should that be ‘off your list’?)” The canopy at Axminster. I have always liked these fairly bold canopies found on many of the old LSWR stations west of Salisbury, often in association with a station buildings designed by Tite. Laser cut LSWR station canopy in 1/64th scale. Of course there is no commercial model version of the canopy in any scale let alone 1/64th. So I went for a little laser cutting project for this. It could have included the roof flats and the skylight surrounds, but that would be over the top (sorry about that!), so it was just the valance that was laser cut. This seemed important as the repeats of the up and downs and the curves would be very hard to achieve with the necessary level of consistency when working by hand. Secondly, for a great deal longer than many, part of the function of being a geography teacher, I have been aware of what has been going on in the global environment. This awareness, which developed from the 1970 onwards (Yes, the early evidence was there as long ago as that!) has lead to an examination of how to proceed in what will most likely be the last decade (hopefully two) of my life. This paragraph raises wider issues about the nature railway modelling, nested as it is at one end of the spectrum in the toy industry and at the other in model making. “For some years I have been increasingly concerned about the human fascination for injection moulded petroleum based plastic and the way this fascination, or perhaps I should say addiction, is passed on through contents of the average child’s brightly coloured toy box. (Although I hear that Lego are going over to bioplastic.) It is also a concerning to look at the environmental impact of modelling as with so many other products. This is not just about the materials used, but the whole pyramid that imports of finished models stand on, dodge chemical industries, industrial pollution, international shipping (a very dirty industry), packaging, production energy, etc. It’s no good saying that we do not need reduce our carbon-foot print while China continues to pollute. We exported our (the UK’s and our individual) carbon-foot print industries to China, a shedding of responsibility that seldom seems to be mentioned in the media. But then the media does little to improve the understanding of economics, trade and the environment.” While it is easy to write such words, it is not so easy to act upon them. It is all too easy to hypocritical in comments on this topic… to offer “do as I say” advice rather “do as I do”. Actions speak louder than words. “Indeed the last year has seen some fast action with the introduction of a far reaching rationalisation programme applied to my modelling projects. Dr Beeching would have been proud to see those with a low return (measured in fun, creativity or challenge) being cut back and the rapid disposal of redundant equipment would have gladden his heart. There are siren voices warning against such quick and decisive action... while others greet me with what are you selling today! With just a few final items on eBay and some esoteric bits being offered to more specialist markets the clearance is nearly done. Interesting that one of my eBay customers was someone who helped operate my Cornish opus - St Juliot, at RailWells some years ago. “But as I type these last words, I hear the bang of the carriers van door and by the time I get to the front door there is a parcel with my next set of laser cut plywood baseboard components! These are made to my design, but the cutting out would now be beyond the capabilities of my recently refurbished workshop, which is now more of a studio. Indeed, I would have designed them differently if they were not to be laser cut. I can still take short cuts and perhaps I have to settle for being ‘selectively concerned’ about the impact of my modelling. The reality is that we are drawn into modern production systems and that resistance can only be limited… whatever the scale! at sixty nine I may need to take some short cuts to produce even the smallest of projects. The fact that these boards are circular with a width of 100mm and a centreline radius of 571.5mm, automatically limits the size of one’s project.” There is, of course, a paradox or contradiction here. What to do with the ‘stuff’ one already has and would really like to keep? My collection of German (German by both prototype and manufacture) 1/160 scale (N Gauge) has nowhere to run. It was purchased for sentimental reasons and I would like to make a little layout, using one of these test tracks and some extension materials remaining from previous projects. As mentioned above, this design was originally made for a friend but was developed with a view to marketing these simple and rather useful items. However, this idea has not been followed through, partly as it only encourages further modelling developments. Klein Holtzapffell This layout developed out of the idea of a circular test track base to carry a circle of Peco Number 4 set. With the rolling stock from the original Holzapfel layout to hand, felt the need to have somewhere to see it run. This circular formate has the great constraint of size limitation, so greatly reducing the potential amount of material required to complete a layout. The missing, forth board between the tunnels will carry a simple fiddle yard with four fixed roads in the middle and two 'traverser points' at each end. ‘Arkade Tunnel’ Made on baseboard already laser cut, using extruded polystyrene off-cuts already purchased. The tunnel mouth by Faller has been recycled from the original Holzapfel. The only new purchase seen here has been the Faller foam ‘arkade’, which was a cheat to get the retaining wall built quickly. Now called the Kapelle Arkade, the chapel has been recycled from the previous layout, while the walls are finished off with some copping stones cut from art-board card off-cuts, as are the cable throughs. The white Plastikard is not the most appropriate material for the inner retaining walls of the little under-bridge, but it was to hand from the scrap box. This will be hidden when the stone retaining walls are put in place once the bridge design has been finalised…. Stone arch or girder? But this questioning is only part of a series of actions:- This is the left hand end of St Juliot in 1/64th scale. The track is the most resent offering for bullhead track from the S Scale Society, with the centre line being the through road. The van has a resin cast body; the bicycle is a Southwark Bridge etch and the basket on the platform is a piece of white-metal produced for 7mm. Apart from those items, everything was scratch built or hand made mostly with off-cuts and recycled card. The trees and the grass pose a bit of a problem but care has been taken to keep the waste (overspill) materials from these operation in the waste bin rather than being washed down the sink. These sorts of micro fibres are able to escape the waste water treatment plants and end up in the marine environment…. Along with the fibres from fleeces and other recycled ‘plastic’ clothing!! The whole layout has been passed on several times and is now probably being recycled into some other configuration. Draft plans for Mellstock Intrinseca. The boards and some track are made for my one large project. However, since this picture was taken the thing has been scale back a little more to give a much greater sense of space and to reduce the the amount of materials required for the project to be completed. But it is all scratch building, so should keep me busy for a while….. Conclusion While some will no doubt thick my words here are rather extreme, I am of the view that some modellers (perhaps I should call them ‘glazed box openers’) are rather more extreme. I recently came across a layout which included multi-storey fiddle yards with capacity for 140 sets of coaching stock. Whatever is the point? They probably require more space to store the empty boxes than most people have for layouts. However, such extremes become more balance when one starts to to live by the creed of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The most important of which is Reduce… Such an alternative approach has also caused me to think carefully about the role of exhibiting. Having switched from exhibiting layouts transported by road, I proved to my satisfaction that it was possible to take layouts to exhibitions by public transport. I have now got to the stage where I feel exhibitions are just a means of encouraging dissatisfaction and of the initiation of new plans and further consumption. While the quality of finish of a scratch built model may not compare with the very best of the those resource consuming mass produced items, the benefits to the modeller of producing something of your own with your own hands far outweigh the short-term adrenalin rush of buying a glazed box or receiving an order from a bespoke model supplier. Increasingly, it is also of benefit in much wider, if very small, way in the future management of our environment and our resources. Is railway modelling very high on the list of human activities that can be sustained in a future society concern with these issues and a world with a more equal sharing of resources? I rest my case!
  4. Just relaying some track. Extensions are not in vogue these days. Reducing is more my style. Unfortunately, a little too much reduction on one of these as they are back on the bench for some adjustment before I screw them down! Remembered the old B Lowke triangular track gauge is perhaps not the best tool to rely on without checking. Also quite difficult to get to all parts of a point compared with modern roller gauges.
  5. Yes, Shaker Chairs in the first instance..... Having completed my last Shaker Chair project.... (It is not a true Shaker as it has square lower back legs for reasons too complicated to explain here!), I moved on to rebuilding some rather disappointingly short lived, plastic based, garden railway (16mm NG) points. These had become rather twisted and out of gauge. The rails were removed and reused with the remaining stock of white metal chairs, brass pins and screws, some fairly old (measured in decades) and some relatively new teak and mahogany sleepers made from workshop off-cuts. Mine you the comment of disappointingly short lived has to be seen against some of the garden railway track I use being well into its sixties if not seventies...... Indeed there are a couple of lengths that are older than I am... So the bench became a dirty bench again... but it is useful working on newspaper as one can use it to mark out the batten positions, sleeper spaces and numbers. That the whole assembly is bigger than one of the baseboards for my scheduled rebuild of Holtzappfel in 1/160 FiNe, will come as a bit of a shock in a week or two when work starts on the smaller opus. ..... And, as it is a nice day the track has been set out ready for testing this afternoon....
  6. Late spring would hide mistakes.... but late winter would allow a more satisfying detailed model of the van! We (including me) will have to wait and see!
  7. Venturing out (with layouts) is not really on my agenda these days. It will probably get some further coverage here as work progresses. The shape grow out of having some circular 16.5 gauge test track baseboards laser cut. It was realised that these had potential for supporting a complete layout at 2mm.... and I look forward to setting it up so it can be operated from the middle ... probably on a swivel chair so one can easily follow the trains around!!
  8. After a very early start we arrived at the RailEx just as the back of the queue was clearing. This unexpected visit was stimulated by the offer a lift in the fourth seat of a very comfortable car. As always, it was an impressive exhibition, and it was rather nice to be able to wander around with no responsibility for operating a layout. Having made a comment to several people during the course of the day about the curve on the front of one of the 'Cameo Competition' runners-up, I thought I ought to put me mind to seeing if I could do better! The layout in question included a reverse curve between the over bridge and the hole in the sky. While the curve across the front of the layout was a gentle estimated c 7metre radius, after the bridge the line sudden took an approximate 2-3metre radius turn to the right, for no apparent geographical reason in the scenic context, to bring it more parallel with the low level lines in the fiddle yard. Such a combination of curves is, to say the least unusual in the prototype and would have looked better if the geometry of the bridge and/or the fiddle yard had been slightly altered to make a straighter or more gently curved run-off. So, if the purpose of going to exhibitions is to be inspired to make progress in one's own modelling, it worked. How would I tackle the setting out of a curve. While thinking about this on the return journey I decided it was time to make some progress with the track on my new, circular, FiNe 1/160 Klein Holtzapffel. While being circular this layout does no offer opportunities for a reverse curve, there is an interesting link between two curved points at one end of the station. The two points are based on Peco track templates (why draw them out when it is easy to print them off), but to avoid the look of set-track and to provide enough space for the platform between the running lines there is a short curve that has the potential to ruin the flow of the track. I found the full-size track plans and mounted them on a piece of laminated chipboard. To check the curve would look right I taped down some rail through the points following the template curves and and carefully marking out the rail position in the 'transition' section between them. This is not a true transition curve and I have no idea of its radius.... But it looks right both with just the rail and when rolling stock is placed on it. Viewing and photographing from several angles suggested where adjustments need to be made. Having thought I had got it right on Monday evening, an early viewing on Tuesday morning showed ten sleepers needed to be moved slightly as the rails moved off centre. The final picture shows the adjustment with a new centre line and the sleeper ends moved up to 1mm from the original marks. At least in this picture the loco is running right line (trains run on the right in Germany). It is good to be challenged into sorting this out as a response to making a critique of another fellows work. It is also good that this little project can run with a minimal amount of material already in stock. I find it interesting after some years of exhibiting smaller, public transport travelling, layouts that there seems to be a greater interest in such things at least in terms of size. I am not sure that in a changing world there can be any sound justification for large, resource consuming layouts ... just because it is possible either technically or financially. In the great scheme of things, as seen through a mind set with concern about the climatic future, model railways are probably not even on the list, let alone the really important list. Now to set about making three crossings (one for the other end of the loop) that will work in these curves..... but that will happen another day as there are young spinach, corn and beans to be planted out from the greenhouse and some work to be done replacing some track at the station end of the garden railway after improving the access to the soft fruit garden with recycled paving slabs and bricks. We still have last year's blackcurrants in the freezer and this year is already looking good! .... and the rhubarb needs weeding again!!
  9. In July 2015 I posted a picture of my cut-short garden railway. It showed the original cutting devoid of track, but left like so may closed railways, to the passing of time and the advance of nature! The post received a comment that the space for the line curving away had a certain attraction. The relaid track in the 'station' looked in good order, although ballasting was not complete. Today the scene shows signs of both neglect and new works. The neglect (and relatively poor design of plastic points) has caused the lead point to go out of gauge, needing to be removed and replaced with some plain track to allow testing of visiting steam engines. The stud of the siding has been ballasted over to prevent derailed stock from falling onto the exposed rail ends and damaging paint work. When the track was rationalised, all the spare points were scrapped so I will have to make a new point sometime. The rockery has been neglected and allowed to become overgrown with weeds.... yes, in this garden wild strawberries are weeds. The Juniper Compresses has suffered very badly this winter due to extremely cold east winds. (All part of the climate change.) The new works are non-railway, it having been decided to improve accessibility to the highly productive soft fruit patch that replaced the circular line. (We are still eating last years blackcurrants and the new crop is already showing signs of setting, with trusses of bright green fruit evident.) This means the old right of way looks more like a road building site with bare earth awaiting some recycled paving slabs. The buffer stops will be cut short, dare I say to increase the size of the concourse, so feet on the way to get fruit are away from train waiting for a run! The surrounding vegetation has grown into well sharped bushes, but there needs to be some trimming back ... but it is too late to do this this spring!
  10. Richard, It's a long time since I had any Britain's farm animals..... so long ago I did not know what scale they were!! Maurice
  11. This is a point I have often made about the post nationalisation..... A point even more strongly made by my father, who was rather closer to the centre of things railway in the 1945-65 period. The GWR carried on as if it was still on its own... And it seems to have from the risen from the dead in the recent time with the rebranding of FGW to GWR with the adoption of the history imagery, colours (I still don't think it is the correct green) and logos. Both the SR, for which my father worked from 1925, and the GWR (original) followed the then very advert grade process of having strong public relations and advertising departments. Father who worked with John Elliot (later as assistant to him as the Deputy GM) and just down the corridor form Herbert Walker, also said the SR's departments were based on knowledge and information while the GWR produced a summer holiday fantasy .... as indeed does the GWR (present) advertising campaign! Joined up thinking defeated several pre-Beeching chairman of BR. Regional power was out of control on a number of rather expensive fronts... not least in locomotive building - both steam and diesel. Padding will do it Paddington's way. There may even be an analogy here with other present situations..... but that is not suitable for discussion here! Maurice
  12. Regularity, As a matter of interest what was the BR (S) traffic lost for want of vans? The Weymouth vans were mostly marked with yellow discs with CIRCUIT inscribed on them. Not a feature I remember seeing modelled. Thanks for you appreciation of my post. Maurice
  13. Sometimes a simple, experience can assist in the clarification of thoughts and ideas. While on a recent visit to the northern edge of the Forest of Dean, I came across one of those fine examples of ‘Reuse’ (and indeed ‘Reversion’). The capital ‘Rs’ are a reflection of those increasingly important ‘R’ words: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle*. I made an unexpected discovery: the remains of a B.R. plywood van. After a ridiculously short working lives, many of the B.R. fleet of short wheelbase fitted van bodies ended up being sold as agricultural buildings as the 1955 Modernisation Plan (which did little to modernise the railway, but a lot to take it back to 1945 or earlier, especially in the matter of wagons) was put out to grass with the arrival of the Beeching Report. Some of these purchases from B.R. have been well cared for, still providing useful cover for farming activities. Others have not faired so well with the plywood delaminating and rotting or, in this case due to its hill top location, blown away. The characteristic pressed steel ends and the angle iron framework for the roof and sides remain. The growth of a tree - I think it is a elderberry - just adds a nice touch. Out of the useless comes forth fruit! It is likely that at least some of these vehicles never earned the cost of building them. In the early 1970s, at the extreme end of their revenue earning service, about 70 such vehicles stood all year in the yard at Weymouth so they could to handle about eight weeks of revenue earning with the Channel Island potato and tomato traffic, although most the tomato traffic had already gone to the roads by then. The cost of building and maintaining these short vehicles was inflated by the need for a much higher ratio of the expensive bits - wheels, running gear, brakes and buffers - to the load space found in standard U.I.C.** designs found in Europe, where vans were at least twice if not three times the capacity. Why were they so short? Because that was the size of British railway vans! It always had been. And that was what the infrastructure could carry. This head-in-the-sand view of changing design and technology did much to destroy rail freight in the UK. Even the ‘Palvans’ built to take pallets had a lower capacity than the largest contemporary road vehicle competition. While the 16tons mineral wagon seldom survived like the vans, they illustrate well the point that infrastructure controlled the railway. Beeching wanted the railway to stop using its coal wagons being used as ‘bunkers’. Robens - the boss of the Nation Coal Board - did not wish to pay (c £10m @ 1965) for the improved railway operating efficiency by having to rebuild his pit-head loading areas. Beeching won with his Merry-Go-Round trains. Higher capacity, higher speeds, a hugely reduced wagon fleet and even reduced traction requirements. Excellent; but too late. The technology for MRG had been there in the 1950s but there was no will for it to be introduced. To return to the van, standing floor-less in the field. It could be seen as a metaphor for the poor planning, poor investment and lack of imagination on the post-1945 railway. That the plan is to model this as a diorama rather than as some detail on the corner of large layout is also a metaphor for my changing approach to modelling. In a world of diminishing resources, questions need to be asked about the culture of over-production and over-consumption: and railway modelling should not escape such an interrogation. Better to build or small and meaningful diorama than some all consuming sprawling ‘empire’. As one who has changed my behaviour on a number of occasions over the last 68 years, railway modelling is a residual pastime from a different age. As a non-car owning, vegetarian who lives in a house with solar panels (electricity generation) and a 33 year old heat pump (hot water production) and who has not flown since my work as an international human rights observer just nearly fifteen years ago, it seems odd that I have been tempted to return to the rather questionable and many ways unsustainable activity of ‘out-of-the-box’ railway modelling. For some years I have been increasingly concerned about the human fascination for injection moulded petroleum based plastic and the way this fascination, or perhaps I should say addiction, is passed on through contents of the average child’s brightly coloured toy box. (Although I hear that Lego are going over to bioplastic.) It is also a concerning to look at the environmental impact of modelling as with so many other products. This is not just about the materials used, but the whole pyramid that imports of finished models stand on, dodgy chemical industries, industrial pollution, international shipping (a very dirty industry), packaging, production energy, etc. It seems, that modern ‘out-of-the-box’ modelling is, a long way from the days of Hornby tinplate, when there were few worries about the future of the environment or resources. When having a ‘consuming’ (both meanings) hobby was unquestioningly a good thing. However, my comments are based on an increasing feeling of cognitive dissonance (that is inconsistent thought, beliefs or attitudes) especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change in relation my railway modelling. To make such a diorama with freedom to use whatever scale, probably 12mm to 1foot, and the most appropriate materials, also make this a metaphor. That this model of a recycled van is expressing a challenge to working within a new set of criteria for an environment that must question waste and inappropriate use of resources, at all scales. This piece also reflects my reduction in the size of modelling projects. Over the last ten years most of my exhibition layouts were reduced to what could be carried by public transport. It also reflects my move towards the arts as a means of expression. Art has a much longer tradition of using metaphor than modelling. Perhaps we need to consider these things more carefully and move beyond playing trains and building ever bigger layouts. In any modelling activity there is always an element of “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”. However, waste can be kept to a minimum and care of finished products can make for a longer life expectancy. Sadly, some recent work of mine has, like this BR fitted van, has been scrapped too early in its life, not for want of good design and careful construction but for want a proper care and storage. And that in a project to recycle a layout… Ironic, or what!! Although the resources wasted in a breaking up a model railway are small compared to the waste of a fleet of poorly conceived wagons, it’s the frame of mind that is important. So the experience of finding a van body in a field has helped me move on with my attitude to modelling. I doubt if others will follow… but that is not the point. One has to move when the time is right for you. There is a wonderful poem by Dorothy Nimmo - ‘The Pottery Lesson’ (a Google search will find it) - about a potter who breaks their pots as soon as they have been made, which ends “Why do you break your pots as soon as you have made them? I can’t answer that question. When you can answer that question you will no longer be broken.” If you have got this far well done! *The three R's - reduce, reuse and recycle - all help to cut down on the amount of waste we throw away. They conserve natural resources, landfill space and energy. Plus, the three R's save land and money communities must use to dispose of waste in landfills. **U.I.C. Union Internationle des Chemins de fer.
  14. Several weeks ago I attended the Exeter Garden Railway Show with a demonstration table, trying to spread the arts of scratch building and low impact modelling in 16mmNG fraternity. The purpose of my display was to produce a cardboard mock-up of a loco body that would eventually be made mostly from scrap and recycled materials, the main source being the high quality tinplate found in Golden Syrup tins. "Out of the strong came forth sweetness." Whether the resulting card body is "sweet" is rather in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps it would look better if it had rounded shoulders on sides of the bonnet.... that were made 'square' on the mock-up for speed of construction. I do have a couple of pieces of brass tube that could be used as a jig for soldering up the fore and aft bonnets, keeping everything nice and square with a good round corner, before cutting the tube out of the space for the cab. As can be seen in the picture above, the model is based on the L&B Rly 'Pilton', with a simple outline drawing produced from the picture but modified during the cardboard cutting stage. Easier to cut card board than tinplate.... and it produces a set of patterns fro cutting around. Despite no further work having been done, it did manage to get its picture taken as part of the proving trails for "does it look right?", before the frost, wind and rain did for the rather lovely red sedums. The brown card that represents the radiator panel proclaims the ethical nature of the products sold by a high street speciality tea shop. All rather appropriate.
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