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Allan Downes


Oldddudders
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Vey sad, lovely bloke. When I was first starting out in 'proper' modelling he took the time at a York show (in the De Grey Rooms no less) to explain how I could dry soil in the family oven by spreading it thinly on a couple of baking trays to burn off all the organic bits before using it as scenic scatter. He beautifully completely avoided eye contact with my mother who was standing behind me going white.

Edited by Wheatley
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I was saddened to hear of Allan's passing. Although buildings haven't really featured much in my modelling, his work was always inspirational. His praise of one of the items on London Road is the best pat on the back I have ever received.

 

RIP

 

Jol

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Very sorry to hear about Allan Downes.  I spent many happy hours in the 70's following his guidance in making buildings.  He also had a very quirky writing style as I recall....I'll need to dust off my back copies and re-read them.

 

RIP

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  • 2 weeks later...

Many fellow modellers here commenting on Allan's modelling articles in 1970s. I also remember them well.  My (then new) wife would hear me chuckling whilst reading the Railway Modeller.  It was always the same; My wife: "What are you laughing at?"  Me: "Allan Downes!" 

Within his own amazing thread here, I was always impressed that although Allan (with Iain) displayed some fantastic work, yet he was always more than ready to give very high praise to the works of others.  It was lovely to still be able to see his skills forty years or more on and to still laugh at his ever-present humour - and I'm sure that Allan absolutely loved being teased about a certain wood dye...

 

My condolences to his family.

 

Steve.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The first model railway exhibition i attended as a layout owner / operator was as a 7 year old at the Instron model club show around 1972 in Sands village hall High Wycombe.

 

Allan was there, in fact at that time of my life he seemed to be everywhere, Lane End show put on by Stan Mills, Instron's big show by Booker Airport, Wycombe show, the Maidenhead show, ( i think) but pretty much, to my mind, everywhere.

 

His house at the time was on the edge of Lane End Village, and only about 5 miles from my parents so sometimes my late father , who died earlier this year, would take me up to Allan's, for a visit to see his latest models.

And as a boy of that age, it was like walking onto a tiny accurate village, simply magical.

 

Allan would spend time showing me modelling techniques, how he painted, weathered, dry brushed etc.

Telling me about this 'Downes Glaze' range and basically showing me how to adapt my N gauge printed paper on plastic blocks Graham Farish buildings to look better.

 

It's fair to say Allan was my inspiration in the modelling world, his house would have quaysides, villages, bridges, cathedrals, castles, ruins, in fact you name it he had made it. Where my dad was the inspiration for trains, Allan was my insoiration for scenery and buildings. No one was or will be, better.

 

The man was a genius, pure and simple. He'd turn up at the Stoke Mandeville model show, and lay out his wares on a table, and start playing his guitar.

Always had a nice word of encouragement, and a great guy all round.

 

Cheers mate, rest easy.

Dave

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Having been in Australia for most of many years, my memories of Allan are from his published articles... starting with the “In Search of Realism” series in the Railway Modeller in the 70s- who remembers the wool and flock thatched roof method? One of the first enhancements I ever made to a kit built building.

 

Much more recently I had conversations with him in these fora. Always a gentleman, always an inspiration and always with an enourmous sense of fun. A reminder to us all to enjoy our hobby.

 

Thanks for it all Allan, all the best.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So sad to hear of Allan's passing the modelling world will be the poorer for it.

 

Back in 2013 we exchanged a couple of PM's, it was I who was the mischievous SOAB. who forced Allan to republish his legendry modelling faux pas, "The Windmill". I felt I needed to redress the balance and tell him how I really appreciated his modelling and what he meant to me.

 

I reproduce our exchange below, it says it all about how I view Allan, and the warmth and generosity of his reply, not that I merit it, shows what a smashing guy he was. Allan's own words of his intention when writing for the modelling press, might well stand as his epitaph.

 

 

Dear Allan.

 

Hi it's Iainp here, I hope you don't mind me intruding but I've got my serious head on for once. I am a returnee to railway modelling only getting back into it five years ago, my last modelling before this was back in 1976 (009 freelance, very). All my memories of Allan Downes therefore dated from the early 1970's, and coming across an article describing Harlem Steel my initial reaction was one of surprise and pleasure that you were still around. I also noted with delight your model pipework used Yorkshire fittings, realising that your modelling style hadn't changed much in the intervening years either!

 

What I wasn't prepared for was the revelations on RMweb about what you'd been upto in the intervening years. I didn't know you'd turned professional and the images on the threads you and the upstart Robinson published simply blew my mind. The quality of your modelling is quite simply superb. The cathedral was impressive, but it's the quality of your townscapes that moved me. The castle and town are just sublime. When you lookback over your "Body of Work" Allan you can be justly proud of what you have achieved so far. You are an artist who has truly mastered his medium.

 

When I was a teenager and avidly read the Railway Modeller it seemed to me that all other modellers inhabited a world of pin chucks, scribers, reamers, engineering blue and lathes.

You were not like that. For someone like myself who's total toolkit amounted to little more than a Stanley knife a steel rule, three swiss files, school geometry set, hand drill and a soldering iron large enough to weld together the plates on the Graf Spee, you were manner from heaven.

 

Your articles Allan have proved an inspiration to myself and a generation of modellers. This I think has been your greatest achievement .

 

Thankyou.

 

Iain Popplewell.

 

PS. You owe me a lifetime debt of gratitude for not mentioning " the Windmill" in the I can do better than you thread. You'd have been sunk.

 

PPS. My model gallery has some pictures of my layout, very much a work in progress, and it would give me great pleasure to think that Allan Downes once viewed it.

 

 

 

Allan's Reply.

 

Hi Iain.

 

What an absolutely lovely PM, it was an honour to receive it, an honour to read it, and an honour that it should have been written by such a gentleman as yourself- a great honour indeed.

 

When I started to write articles for the model press, I didn't want to come over as some unapproachable know it all, as many were and no doubt still are, but to keep my feet firmly on the ground and my head out of the clouds and relate to the average modeller, not just the "elite" few who used to make it abundantly clear that as much as you might struggle you are never going to match their standard- so don't even try- hence my windmill!!

 

When I built something that I was proud of, I let the whole world know, I also let the whole world know when I built a load of crap as well with just as much enthusiasm- and they loved it !

 

Over the years Iain,  I have been asked many times at exhibitions what do I think of other peoples layouts and I used to say- "If you're happy with it , then that's all that matters"

 

My best regards and once again a pleasure to have known you.

 

Allan.

Edited by Iain Popplewell
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So sad to hear of Allan's passing the modelling world will be the poorer for it.

 

Back in 2013 we exchanged a couple of PM's, it was I who was the mischievous SOAB. who forced Allan to republish his legendry modelling faux pas, "The Windmill". I felt I needed to redress the balance and tell him how I really appreciated his modelling and what he meant to me.

 

I reproduce our exchange below, it says it all about how I view Allan, and the warmth and generosity of his reply, not that I merit it, shows what a smashing guy he was. Allan's own words of his intention when writing for the modelling press, might well stand as his epitaph.

 

 

Dear Allan.

 

Hi it's Iainp here, I hope you don't mind me intruding but I've got my serious head on for once. I am a returnee to railway modelling only getting back into it five years ago, my last modelling before this was back in 1976 (009 freelance, very). All my memories of Allan Downes therefore dated from the early 1970's, and coming across an article describing Harlem Steel my initial reaction was one of surprise and pleasure that you were still around. I also noted with delight your model pipework used Yorkshire fittings, realising that your modelling style hadn't changed much in the intervening years either!

 

What I wasn't prepared for was the revelations on RMweb about what you'd been upto in the intervening years. I didn't know you'd turned professional and the images on the threads you and the upstart Robinson published simply blew my mind. The quality of your modelling is quite simply superb. The cathedral was impressive, but it's the quality of your townscapes that moved me. The castle and town are just sublime. When you lookback over your "Body of Work" Allan you can be justly proud of what you have achieved so far. You are an artist who has truly mastered his medium.

 

When I was a teenager and avidly read the Railway Modeller it seemed to me that all other modellers inhabited a world of pin chucks, scribers, reamers, engineering blue and lathes.

You were not like that. For someone like myself who's total toolkit amounted to little more than a Stanley knife a steel rule, three swiss files, school geometry set, hand drill and a soldering iron large enough to weld together the plates on the Graf Spee, you were manner from heaven.

 

Your articles Allan have proved an inspiration to myself and a generation of modellers. This I think has been your greatest achievement .

 

Thankyou.

 

Iain Popplewell.

 

PS. You owe me a lifetime debt of gratitude for not mentioning " the Windmill" in the I can do better than you thread. You'd have been sunk.

 

PPS. My model gallery has some pictures of my layout, very much a work in progress, and it would give me great pleasure to think that Allan Downes once viewed it.

 

 

 

Allan's Reply.

 

Hi Iain.

 

What an absolutely lovely PM, it was an honour to receive it, an honour to read it, and an honour that it should have been written by such a gentleman as yourself- a great honour indeed.

 

When I started to write articles for the model press, I didn't want to come over as some unapproachable know it all, as many were and no doubt still are, but to keep my feet firmly on the ground and my head out of the clouds and relate to the average modeller, not just the "elite" few who used to make it abundantly clear that as much as you might struggle you are never going to match their standard- so don't even try- hence my windmill!!

 

When I built something that I was proud of, I let the whole world know, I also let the whole world know when I built a load of crap as well with just as much enthusiasm- and they loved it !

 

Over the years Iain, I have been asked many times at exhibitions what do I think of other peoples layouts and I used to say- "If you're happy with it , then that's all that matters"

 

My best regards and once again a pleasure to have known you.

 

Allan.

What a fantastic post, and although I never corresponded with Allan it sums up my memories of the 70’s
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  • 3 weeks later...
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I have been re-reading all of this, and I must say I do get a feeling that Allan had no idea of the impact he has had on many of us that read and devoured his early articles through the 1970s, and were motivated by them to expand their modelling interests and crack on with modelling scenic stuff from card etc. I mean, when I was 14, my attempts to modify and repaint RTR locos were dire, but thanks to Allan, my scratch built structures amazed both myself and my relatives! I'm sure that it was this kind of success that proved to me that 'even I could do it', and fired my enthusiasm to keep at it and improve my skills in other areas.

 

I would be wholeheartedly behind any kind of Allan Downes tribute as mentioned above. I keep dreaming of the never published volume on architectural modelling I always wished Allan would produce, and maybe, who knows, it might be possible for the right person or people to draw together the best of the existing published materials to create a permanent and lasting memorial to the skills and legacy of this great man. So long as that light-hearted, honest and self deprecating spirit of experimentation is preserved, it would be worthy of a place on any modeller's bookshelf.

Edited by Dick Turpin
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I was saddened to hear of Allan’s Death from his son on Facebook. Having returned from an absence on RMWeb I sure do miss our conversations and his encouraging messages. What a thoroughly lovely guy, his models and advice will stay with me for years to come. Rest in peace Allan, I do hope they have some great model shops in the beyond! 

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  • 1 year later...

I've just been going through some old Railway Modellers and came across a letter by an A.C.B Downes in 1960 May.

 

Would it be Allan by any chance? The author was aged 10 at the time and lived in Preston.

 

Sorry if it's a dumb question, but I've never met Allan (only read some of his articles) and have no idea if this is his age group.

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i remember helping out at the York show, around 1978, when setting up in The De-Grey Rooms, Allan asked me to help him unload his van.  He placed a large model of a steel / chemical works into my arms, which I was to carry up the stairs to the exhibition hall - not heavy, but I wouldn't have liked to have dropped it!  He was either very trusting or not too bothered - he certainly played down his talents.  He spend some of the weekend photographing some of the more rickety ancient buildings.

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