Bonnie Dundee

Bonnie Dundee

Monday, 19 May 2014

Standards or Quality

What do we mean by modelling standards? It can be a set of pre-determined measurements that are designed to work together, for example each modelling scale and gauge will come with a set of "standards" such as 00 having a track gauge of 16.50mm and P4 having the same at 18.83mm. P4 also includes wheel profile and check rail gauge etc that all work together to form a track and wheel standard that is designed to allow consistent operation. The other common usage of standards is a reflection of the overall modelling, what I would suggest is better described as quality. For example if paying a compliment it may be overheard as someone describing the modeller as working to a very high standard. Probably where the modeller in question has used a level of skill that gives them a consistency of product of a high quality. Confused? You should be.

The Scalefour Society forum is going through one of its regular but unedifying debates over standards and quality and this has gotten me thinking about such matters. This raises a number of questions for me. The first question is about why people get so positional about such topics, the second is why it would seem that certain individuals cannot pass comment or give advice without giving their opinion in the form of criticism, the third is how many people does this put off from either joining the Society or from contributing to its forum and finally there is the substantive question of what defines quality?

The question of quality, certainly within the 4mm world must take account of the availability of some very good offerings from the RTR manufacturers and this is where things can start to get decidedly tricky. Does making a nice looking model from an already nice looking model constitute modelling to a high standard? This is where the high quality and high standard seem to part company and I am going to suggest why I think that is the case. Railway modelling is almost unique in that there is a blend of disciplines required to construct a layout (and I choose that deliberately rather than a single model). At one end of the spectrum is engineering, requiring the use of measuring thingies and gauges and tools like lathes, with all there mysterious attachments etc; then at the other end of the spectrum there is art, requiring no measuring thingies but lots of creative juices. For the engineers the use of RTR seems a bit like cheating and for the artist its much more like creating sculpture using mixed materials.

Is the use of RTR stock dropping the quality of P4 modelling?
Perhaps it depends if you emphasise the engineering or the artistic approach .

The problem as I see it is that the consideration of quality alone does not compare like with like. We have all seen a model of a single element, a vehicle or a building that in itself is jaw-droopingly impressive. On the other hand we have also seen layouts that whilst the individual elements are not to that level of quality, but overall create an equally impressive image. A lot depends of course of what we are trying to achieve. As I have discussed in these rambling before I believe the project along with time availability and budget will effectively determine how it is produced. Now if two builders produced work, one in 00 to a very high quality finish and another built in P4 that didn't achieve such high quality, which layout is better? It probably depends if you are looking at the layout using the engineering end of the telescope or the artistic end.


  1. As someone that is most definitely an artist, and not an engineer, you have good points, well made. It's not a matter of one or the other being "right" but a tolerance of taking what you like out of the hobby, and not forgetting that it is only a hobby!

    Excellent modelling comes in all scales and gauges...

  2. Totally agree. Our hobby is a broad church of interests, subjects and abilities and is all the better for that.

  3. I think of myself as more of an artist but with an interest in engineering. I believe its entirely subjective and what works for you is your own business. The most important thing for me (and this is the artist bit) is that all the elements should be done to a similar overall standard so that they combine into a homogenous entity, looking like they belong together. Even my engineering approach is artistic and it focuses on slow, smooth running equipment that moves as near correctly as possible. Nothing jars with me more than a good looking finescale layout where the trains move as if the operators are actually conducting carrier air operations!

  4. That thing that jars for me is not getting everything weathered to some extent or other. One element standing out, really does spoil the illusion. Mmmm - operation, now there is a topic for a blog entry!


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