My attention was just now drawn to an interesting new website that’s appeared. The website is called Model Railway Critique, and may be found at http://modelrailwaycritique.webs.com/. It seems to have drawn a certain amount of hostility already. I wondered why this could be. The remit of the website is to offer commentary on model railways. In theory, this is no bad thing. After all, we have critics for painting, gaming, writing and music (among others), why should our particular hue of the creative spectrum be immune?
(note to self: use “hue of the creative spectrum” more often)
Then I visited the site, and… well, perhaps I should just quote the front page.
Hello and welcome to this new website. We represent a group, within the model railway hobby, who believe in maintaining only the highest standards. Standards which we perceive to be driving the hobby forward. Unfortunately, we often see shoddy workmanship, sub-standard layouts, and poor reflection of the real life situations which we are trying to replicate in model form for the viewing pleasure of the general public.
Over the next few weeks we will be giving comment on various layouts and recommending which ones are worth looking at and which are not.
Hopefully this guide will help when it comes to deciding whether a particular model railway exhibition is worth going to.
My first reaction was to shout, “Oh really, and I bet you can fit a really good layout up at the top of your IVORY TOWER!!!”
This upset the neighbours somewhat.
The problem I have here is that the tone is condescending and frankly pompous. There’s no indication of who this group they represent is, and why we should give a damn what they think. Are they professional modellers? Regular contributors to the magazines? Veteran exhibitors? I’d like some sort of credentials. Some names at least. Some indication that there’s more than one person running it.
It also seems to be a rather subjective view of what the hobby should be. I don’t want to say the words “rivet counter”, but now I have, I might as well apply it to this website. Don’t get me wrong, I find it annoying to see half a hall taken up with a layout that’s only 20% finished, but who’s to say what a layout to “the highest standards” should consist of?
Speaking personally, I like to see a wide range of layouts at a show. Finescale is great if you like that sort of thing, but frankly there’s only so many times I can watch a beautifully made locomotive crawl painfully slowly up to a wagon while a gentleman reaches in with a shunter’s pole to couple the two together before I grab said shunter’s pole and stab myself through the temple with it.
I’d like to see a few layouts where it looks like the builders actually enjoyed themselves. I want to see unconventional scenic techniques. I want to see new and interesting settings. I’d like the occasional layout that’s fun, or one that’s deliberately unprototypical. I’d like a couple of museum-type layouts with Hornby tinplate trains chasing their own tails at breakneck speeds. I’d like something for the kids.
Of course, some might say that these kinds of layouts make them want to take the shunter’s pole/temple route I mentioned above (although please don’t do it in front of the kids’ layout, it’s hard enough attracting young people into the hobby). That’s okay. Some might call me a philistine for not appreciating their hand-built track and scratchbuilt 0-6-0s. And you know what? That’s okay too. You look at the finescale stuff, I’ll look at the quirky stuff. We’ll all have a good time and a sandwich at the end.
A model railway exhibition should be a balance. With the exception of the really big ones, most shows tend to attract a predominantly local audience. It’s the job of the organisers to ensure that they attract as broad a range of enthusiasts as possible – these things don’t pay for themselves.
Furthermore, driving the standards forward is great in its way. But for me, one of the things that got me back into modelling was looking at layouts and saying, “You know what? I could do that.” If I’d seen nothing but finescale, I’d probably have run home crying to momma and never looked at a wagon again. Elitism is a harmful force in any hobby, particularly a minority one like this.
So frankly, I don’t think I’ll be consulting this website before “deciding whether a particular model railway exhibition is worth going to.” I’ll go out as I please, and damn your impudence.
[P.S. Having laid into Model Railway Critique, some might ask what exactly qualifies me to go on such a rant. So I’ll tell you. Nothing at all. You can take or leave my opinions.]