The Devil is in the detail

As I sort of semi-observed in my last post, we seem to be in something of a golden age as OO modellers. Such is the range and quality of accessories available for our hobby that it’s within the ability of even a beginner to produce the sort of layout that at one time would have been considered a prizewinner.
One rather unexpected consequence of this is that there are people complaining that models are too detailed. The arguments are:
1. Models are now so fragile that even taking them out of the box is hard work.

2. The detail is so superb that people are afraid to modify their models in case they ruin their pride and joy.

3. They’re really expensive.

I suspect this is a case of the manufacturers being “damned if they do, damned if they don’t.” If they start producing less detailed models now, they’ll be condemned for being behind the times. Obviously, the people complaining are in a minority, and I very much doubt that Hornby, Bachmann et al will start taking steps back now.

The question I’d raise, though, is how much detail do you actually need? Obviously what you want to do with your own models is your own choice, and far be it from me to tell you otherwise. But there are two points I’d like to make.

Firstly, there’s the question of whether such detail is necessary. As has been observed elsewhere, beyond a certain point the detail becomes invisible. The pride of my fleet is a Hornby Clan Line. The detail is fantastic, no doubt about it, but at high speed, from a distance, I can’t even see half that detail. Allan Downes has admitted that he often uses his imagination when it comes to complex subjects, because what is important is creating an overall impression. That’s what I aim for myself.

Secondly, there’s the Sore Thumb Problem, which is a term I’ve just invented which has nothing to do with accidents involving pliers. That is, if you have one superbly detailed model, it will stand out like a sore thumb unless everything is to the same level. So if you’ve got your lovely locomotive, you’ll need similarly lovely rolling stock. What about the buildings? It’s no good having a fantastic train if you’re still using a rubbishy old 1970s Hornby station. Okay, what about the track? Looks a little clean, doesn’t it? And so forth.

There are plenty who’ll disagree with me, and hey – I have no objection to the manufacturers continuing along the super-detail path. But it’s not really for me. I’m clearly not the only one who thinks this, my evidence being the Hornby Railroad range. Initially marketed as something of a “kiddie” range, I’ll be honest, I expected it to go the way of Playtrains or the Stationmaster range (two earlier attempts to sell starter sets to children, the Stationmaster range being exceptionally garish). Except that this time, it wasn’t just for kids. As well as the predictable 0-4-0s and the long-overdue-for-retirement 0-6-0s, there was an A3 and a Class 47. The next year brought A4s, the 9F and the Class 37 – perfectly good models, but superseded by better ones. This year will see the Deltic and the Black 5 added to the range. As well as this, some of the more toylike stock from the Hornby and former Lima range is now offered, plus the now-slightly-dated Gresley, Stanier and Pullman stock that until recently sat proudly in the main range.

Last year, the Railroad version of Evening Star was even nominated for a “Best Locomotive” award. Bachmann’s response is not recorded. Opinion on modelling forums seems to be favourable. Evidently, quite a lot of people are happy to settle with a pretty good model rather than pay fifty pounds more for an excellent model. I think Hornby have been pretty shrewd with this, because it means they now cater for both the pro- and anti-super detail markets. I for one would like to see more additions to the range – how about the old Schools, Castles, Duchesses or B12s? And aren’t the Kings getting a bit long in the tooth? And hey, do you still have the tooling for the Lima J50, because if so [400 other suggestions cut for the sake of sanity]

This year's Hornby Black 5

This year's Hornby Black 5


This year's other Hornby Black 5. See if you can guess which one is the super-detailed one! (Clue: It's exactly the one you think it is)

This year's other Hornby Black 5. See if you can guess which one is the super-detailed one! (Clue: It's exactly the one you think it is)





2 responses to “The Devil is in the detail

  1. As long as prices for UK outline models don’t go as far as their European HO counterparts, I’ll be happy.

    As a proud owner of a Railroad 9F, I can see no point in shelling out £50+ more for what is the same thing with more plastic crap.

    • I understand the main reason the European models are so expensive, at least in Germany, is that the companies are reluctant to outsource. The reason we can afford models of this quality at this price is because our models are made in China.

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