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A stroll through Railway Modellers past


eldomtom2
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Having recently purchased a digital subscription to Railway Modeller, I thought it would be interesting to go through the entire archive (at least for the first few decades), discussing the articles and hopefully spurring discussion on the history of the hobby.

 

Vol.1 No.1

Oct-Nov 1949

 

Price: 1/6

 

Published by Ian Allan Ltd.

 

Editor: G. H. Lake

 

The Editorial is provided by G. P. Keen, Chairman of the Model Railway Club. He hopes that the new magazine will provide the hobby with "strong foundations". By these he means encouraging realistic operation (a bugbear that is still strong in the present day) and providing scale drawings of rolling stock.

 

The first article is Part One of The Irish International Railway and Tramway System by Mr. and Mrs. Cyril L. Fry. This was back in the days when model railways were Railways - having "railway" in the name of one's layout is rare enough these days, but no-one now (and I expect few then) would go to the bother of making a crest for their model railway and getting it approved by the Heraldic Department of Dublin Castle! The actual layout itself is an impressive O gauge effort intending to be a "museum" of Irish railway history - though one does wonder what the London Underground station in it is doing!

 

Next is an article from "Ixion" on Steam Locomotives in Miniature. This is a fairly generic overview of building miniature locomotives for the time, and as I know little on the subject I shall refrain from commenting further. The primary point of interest to me is at the end there is an invitation for readers to say whether or not they would be interested in a series of articles about building the then-brand new 1500 Class in miniature - a reminder of how long RM has been in print.

 

H. Chase, Chairman of the Birmingham Model Railway Club then writes on Joining A Club. The arguments he presents for joining a club are much the same as the ones you'd find today.

 

The first in a series of Ten Minute Model articles covers building a loading gauge with brass rail and brass strip, which can supposedly be achieved with the expense of just a few pence. Notably the scale is not mentioned despite precise figures being given.

 

Another first, this time from a much more long lived series, are Scale Drawings for an LNWR invalid saloon. The accompanying blurb notes that it is especially appropriate for a first attempt as "you have a good excuse for leaving it at the end of a siding should it run badly when completed".

 

Finishing the trilogy of hopeful recurring sections is Pre-Grouping Railways No. 1: GER. This is a selection of photographs of various GER buildings, presented without context (not even the location) except a caption stating the blindingly obvious.

 

Next is Model RailROADing by Reg Perrin. This is another article where there isn't much to say about it, it's just a brief overview of American railroads and the NMRA.

 

However the next article makes up for the somewhat boring nature of the rest of the issue, as it is Building a Railway for a Film, by Bill Treb of Allan Brett Cannon Ltd. This covers the construction of a model railway for the 1949 film Obsession, starring Bret Newton. Does anyone have this film? It would be interesting to see video of the layout, as anything more beyond the film and the photographs in the article will not turn up, as the layout was destroyed after filming.

 

For the final "proper" article, "Terence Cuneo writes some anecdotes on his Gauge One Garden Railway". This is fairly dull, as are most descriptions of people enjoying themselves.

 

Finally there is the section especially interesting to the present-day reader, News and Reviews of the Trade. About half this is devoted to trying to sell the reader on Trix Twin, to such an extent that one wonders if Ian Allan had shares in them. In other news, Leeds Model Company releases an O gauge trainset for £12 10s, Peco releases flat-bottom OO track, and A. W. Hambling & Co release their range of BILTEEZI card kits.

Edited by eldomtom2
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10 hours ago, eldomtom2 said:

 

 

Published by Ian Allen Ltd.

 

 Its Ian Allan Ltd with an A. Ian Allen is someone completely different.

Andrew

 

 

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3 hours ago, Nearholmer said:

Eldomtom2

 

You might be interested in this old thread, dating from before on-line access to the "Collected Works":

 

 

I am aware of it. This is intended to be something a bit different, gradually working through the back issues in chronological order.

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I think that a few years on he figures in ‘Personality Parade’, so when we get there, we may learn more.

 

Returning to the OP’s intent, RM No.1 is actually very like other first editions of model railway mags: setting out its stall; address from a prominent supporter; a substantial “bank” article; fingers obviously crossed. I have the first of MR&L, MRN, MRC,  MRJ etc., and the formula is pretty much fixed.

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17 hours ago, eldomtom2 said:

The first article is Part One of The Irish International Railway and Tramway System by Mr. and Mrs. Cyril L. Fry.

I can’t remember if this was in a later RM, or an earlier MRN article, but Cyril Fry has always stuck in my mind for his (absolutely serious) recommendation that one way to gain extra room for your model railway is to replace your live-in house maid with a “daily”, which he had done.  Different times… 

 

Richard

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16 minutes ago, Nearholmer said:

Returning to the OP’s intent, RM No.1 is actually very like other first editions of model railway mags: setting out its stall;

In later years often pretentiously dressed up as a “statement of modelling philosophy”.  
 

R
 

 

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2 hours ago, RichardT said:

I can’t remember if this was in a later RM, or an earlier MRN article, but Cyril Fry has always stuck in my mind for his (absolutely serious) recommendation that one way to gain extra room for your model railway is to replace your live-in house maid with a “daily”, which he had done.  Different times… 

 

Richard

That was indeed RM  1 - I suppose one can hardly expect poverty from someone with an O gauge layout of that size!

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4 hours ago, RichardT said:

I can’t remember if this was in a later RM, or an earlier MRN article, but Cyril Fry has always stuck in my mind for his (absolutely serious) recommendation that one way to gain extra room for your model railway is to replace your live-in house maid with a “daily”, which he had done.  Different times… 

 

1 hour ago, eldomtom2 said:

That was indeed RM  1 - I suppose one can hardly expect poverty from someone with an O gauge layout of that size!

 

Returning to the present day, some people appear to question whether certain well known RTR model train manufacturers actually expect it from the average enthusiast.

 

Some cynics might wonder if this could end in tiers. I could not possibly comment ... .

 

 

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22 hours ago, Nearholmer said:

 

I've often wondered whether he was the Reginald Perrin, of Sunshine Desserts. We shall probably never know.

I didn't get where I am today by not knowing if he was the Reggie Perrin of Sunshine Desserts

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On 15/02/2022 at 22:37, eldomtom2 said:

Does anyone have this film? It would be interesting to see video of the layout, as anything more beyond the film and the photographs in the article will not turn up, as the layout was destroyed after filming.

 

The film is available on Youtube - search for "Obsession 1949 Youtube" on Google and it will appear. It is an interesting watch - apparently the US TV detective in Colombo based his character on the Brett Newton depiction. 

 

RM handed out a copy of the first issue with their February print subscriber issue this year, although that is not of much use to you. For those interested, teh print subscription also gives access to the digital archive.

 

 

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Vol.1 No.2

Dec 1949-Jan 1950

 

Price: 1/6

 

Published by Ian Allan Ltd.

 

Editor: G. H. Lake

 

This issue's editorial exhorts us to Live and Let Live. Gauge and scale wars have been an ever-present part of the hobby, and were probably even more so in the days when RTR stock was just beginning to be able to claim to be actual models of real-life prototypes.

 

The Ten Minute Model this issue is an 0-gauge lineside phone box made from wood and card, aimed at addressing the problem of "most layouts [being] rather stark and bare [due to] lineside accessories [being] missing".

 

"Excelsior" then issues A Plea for Performance. In his view an increased emphasis on detail, brought about by an influx of specifically *locomotive* builders into the hobby, has led to a degradation in locomotive performance as builders and contest judges focus on other matters - whether or not this was actually the case I couldn't say. There is also a lot of technical discussion as to what in his view makes for a good model locomotive motor.

 

The "Sunholme" Model Railway, by C. M. Shoults, B.sc., is the first layout in the issue and a fairly standard 0-gauge garden railway of the time.

 

Then there is a brief news article titled Historic Model Locomotives. This is not actually about model locomotives of historic interest, to quote the lead paragraph:

Quote

As a result of discussions between the Railway Executiive and representatives of the principal Societies interested in the preservation of historic locomotives, it was agreed that having regard to the difficulties of cost and maintenance which are involved in the preservation of actual locomotives in any numbers, examination should proceed of an alternative proposal for establishing a collection of models and/or drawings to portray the principal types which mark important stages in the development of the locomotive.

Of course this "alternative proposal" thankfully did not occur.

 

"Truscaler" tackles the topic of EM- or OO- gauge? He comes out firmly in favour of EM, claiming that it has "all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of 00-gauge, and [that] the sacrifice of a little space is well worth the appearance gained".

 

Theodore Horn writes Charles Dickens, or Sidelights on the History of a Model, a tribute to his much-loved and heavily-rebuilt Basset-Lowke Charles Dickens, originally obtained as a child in the late 1900s and still running over forty years later.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Cyril L. Fry continue their articles on their layout, The Irish International Railway and Tramway System, in Part Two. This time the focus is on describing the layout in detail, complete with a two-page plan.

 

H. Chase writes on Parallelograms and Points. This is a very technical article that I think is about current pickup.

 

The Pre-Grouping Railways series returns with No. 2: Midland Railway by G. H. Lake. The deficiencies in the previous article evidently did not go unnoticed by the readership, and so the locations of the GER photos are included in this article, along with the Midland photos having their locations in the captions. The dubious usefulness of having a single photo per building was also apparently questioned, as the author responds to requests for building measurements being provided as well by stating that this would reduce the number of photographs that could be provided in an issue, and that size can be worked out by comparison to other objects.

 

Bill Treb provides some tips on Working to a Time Table. This is of course not anything particularly special - most interesting to the modern eye is the suggestion that an express train complete a full circuit of the layout for each station it would pass through non-stop in real life:

Quote

As you run round count off the actual stations as you pass your own platforms, thus on a train from Paddington first Westbourne Park, second Acton, third Ealing Broadway, and so on until you reach your first booked stop at say Swindon.

I doubt any article on realistic operation today would assume (or even cater for) roundy-roundy operation.

 

News and Reviews of the Trade this issue focuses entirely on describing Hornby Dublo - "several items received for review unavoidably held over until next issue", apparently.

 

Finally there is the Editor's Page. This does not appear in either the preceding or succeeding issue, and appears to have been produced to respond to various comments about the first issue, though it also contains a paragraph praising Bassett-Lowke on reaching their Golden Jubilee. Chief among the issues was apparently the lack of content about OO gauge. The "Live and Let Live" editoral was apparently "based on some of the criticisms received", and as the editor comments that a great many of the letter-writers take railway modelling perhaps a bit too seriously, one can get some idea of the tone of the letters!

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8 hours ago, eldomtom2 said:

I doubt any article on realistic operation would assume (or even cater for) roundy-roundy operation.


Very probably not, thereby somehow forbidding it as “unrealistic”, while happily accepting that shuffling trains up and dow the length of an ironing board is realistic.

 

Strange the way that conventions change for no obvious reason.

 

Mr Lake didn’t last long as editor, and the points you’ve identified might be a clue as to why: maybe he didn’t have the art of thinking like his readers, in the way that CJF clearly did.

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1 hour ago, Nearholmer said:


Very probably not, thereby somehow forbidding it as “unrealistic”, while happily accepting that shuffling trains up and dow the length of an ironing board is realistic.

 

Strange the way that conventions change for no obvious reason.

 

Mr Lake didn’t last long as editor, and the points you’ve identified might be a clue as to why: maybe he didn’t have the art of thinking like his readers, in the way that CJF clearly did.

One of CJF's gifts, I think, was to make his readers think the way he thought they should think!

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I wonder whether it was partly an age thing. I don’t know how old Mr Lake was, but CJF was, I think, still in his 20s when he took the job on, so in the same age group as the guys who formed the ‘boom generation’ for the hobby, building layouts of their own and for their sons, while mostly living in small houses and flats (and even caravans).

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23 hours ago, Derekl said:

 

The film is available on Youtube - search for "Obsession 1949 Youtube" on Google and it will appear. It is an interesting watch - apparently the US TV detective in Colombo based his character on the Brett Newton 

 

 

 

 

Brilliant film just watched it on utube so thanks for the info, yes large 3 rail O gauge layout featured in the film plus a discussion about Royal Scot tenders, did anyone spot a very young Stanley Baker policeman plus another Sam Kidd brief appearance. Film itself quite gripping 

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Very interesting too, the amount of articles on smaller pregrouping companies. The GNOSR, the Highland, Hull and Barnsley. I suppose in the 1950, it was not that far back to these companies, and besides, modern image - meh, Standard class steam locos all look the same. 

And the covers "gorgeous pouting Miss Pretty dress " . Not salacious in anyway though. 

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On 16/02/2022 at 16:20, RichardT said:

I can’t remember if this was in a later RM, or an earlier MRN article, but Cyril Fry has always stuck in my mind for his (absolutely serious) recommendation that one way to gain extra room for your model railway is to replace your live-in house maid with a “daily”, which he had done.  Different times… 

 

Richard

When visiting Dublin you can always go and see his collection:

https://www.modelrailwaymuseum.ie/cyril-fry/

 

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30 minutes ago, BR Blue said:

When visiting Dublin you can always go and see his collection:

https://www.modelrailwaymuseum.ie/cyril-fry/

That’s very interesting - added to my “to-do” list!  I hadn’t t realised that he was only 67 when he died.  “The Casino” seems an odd name for a railway museum - is there an allusion I’m not getting?

 

Richard

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13 hours ago, Nearholmer said:

I wonder whether it was partly an age thing. I don’t know how old Mr Lake was, but CJF was, I think, still in his 20s when he took the job on, so in the same age group as the guys who formed the ‘boom generation’ for the hobby, building layouts of their own and for their sons, while mostly living in small houses and flats (and even caravans).

Didn't Mr Lake not want a full-time job as editor, because that was the time RM went to monthly publication or at least,  that's what Mr Pritchard had as a goal for RM.

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It always seems to be Freezer's Modeller that stirs the memory; it seemed to encapsulate the modelling zeitgeist in a way that MRC and MRN didn't manage to do. Was part of it the way it showcased Railway Of The Month as very much the headline feature?

 

I think I only ever bought one copy of Model Railway News and can't remember much about it. It must have had its devotees at the time, but I don't remember anyone ever recalling it on RMWeb.

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16 hours ago, Nearholmer said:

 

Mr Lake didn’t last long as editor, and the points you’ve identified might be a clue as to why: maybe he didn’t have the art of thinking like his readers, in the way that CJF clearly did.

The reasons he gave (in No.4 May 1950) was "partly by the changing to monthly publication and partly for health reasons. I find that the sudden increase of work together with former commitments a little too much," He wished the magazine every success in the future. Cyril Freezer's appointment was announced in no. 5 but with no other editorial comment and Cyril Freezer took over for no. 6 so it doesn't appear that he was appointed until after Lake had left. The move to monthly publication didn't actually happen until the first issue under Peco's ownership in November 1951.

There is something slightly odd about Lake's departure as he announced it in no. 4 in a quarter page box on page 1 but that was followed on page 2 by a full "Editor's Page" where he talks, rather boringly,  about the range of the hobby and the early decisions for a new modeller to make. There is no hint of imminent departure and it does look as if the decision was a sudden one. Whether he resigned or was dismissed by Ian Allan and the leaving statment was to allow him a diginified departure we'll probably never know but, in his first editorial, Cyril Freezer makes no mention at all of his predecessor and so far as I can tell Lake's name was never mentioned again in RM, certainly not while it was owned by Ian Allan. 

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