While many of us may be able to relax and put our feet up over the Christmas period, including yours truly, you certainly seem to earn it in the lead up! I’ve been flat-out over the last few weeks but I’ve managed to make some steady progress on the O-Aust BWH (bogie wheat hopper) I’ve been working on. I can now say that I’ve reached the point where it’s assembled and only needs paint and decals to be completed.
I’m very happy with the result of this project. I found the instructions adequate, the parts had minimal flash to be cleaned up and Peter Krause (O-Aust’s proprietor) was extremely helpful in providing me with parts that were missing from the kit. This was a cheapie I picked up at an exhibition that had been only partly assembled. I’m considering whether to finish the wagon as a wheat or fertilizer hopper. If Peter gets his act into gear and produces the decals for an AFL hopper, I might end up with something a little different running on the layout.
As I’ve done so little modelling recently, and had lots of thinking time in the car as I’ve driven back and forth to work and a wide range of school events, I’ve had to restrict myself to contemplating what might be possible in the train room that is not even an item on a detailed plan yet, let alone a concrete reality. A few weeks ago I went back and re-read a series of articles entitled “The Last Great Project” by recently deceased modeller David Jenkinson that appeared many years ago in the UK magazine Model Railway Journal. These were written in the 1990s and, while I had a strong memory of reading them, I was a little vague about exactly what it was that had inspired me about them. After working my way through these articles it struck me that perhaps I should go back and re-read Linn H. Westcott’s book on John Allen’s Gorre and Daphetid railroad. This was another story of a well known layout, this time from the US, I’d read many years ago and found very influential. Again, I had some strong memories of reading Westcott’s book however, as was the case with the MRJ articles, I couldn’t remember too much about why I had such strong memories of reading it and what I had taken away from it.
What’s left to be said about John Allen? I still read Model Railroader from the US and rarely more than two issues go by without someone writing in it that they were inspired by John Allen’s Gorre and Daphetid. I was 12 when John Allen died and it would be another two decades before I took up the hobby seriously as an adult so I was a bit young to be inspired directly by him. To be brutally frank one of my over-riding memories from my first reading of Westcott’s book about him was that I’d found some of his modelling a bit twee: in the book there’s a photo of a dinosaur unloading a flat car that possibly sums this up. I was far too serious and focussed about my modelling 20 years ago to find this accepatable on a serious layout. I still can’t ever see myself staging such a shot on a layout I built but one thing re-reading the book has made me realize is how much of a pompous boof-head I must have been in my 30’s! 🙂 Perhaps it’s because I’m getting closer to the age John Allen was when he died that’s altered my perspective to this, but I think it does pay sometimes to lighten up a bit. It’s only a hobby for Heaven’s sake! 🙂 However aside from getting this reality check I know deep in the back of my brain that I took a great deal away from reading Westcott’s book that first time and I think now I’m in a better position to judge what it was, especially when I can do this in close proximity to another source of inspiration in the form of David Jenkinson’s articles. Along the way it’s helped me clarify what I might take into the next great project of my own from these two giants of our hobby.
I think what I admire most about both of these men is not so much the prototype approach they took or the quality of their work, although without a doubt both of them were outstanding modellers, but rather it was their approach to thinking about their layouts and the way they planned things out that I feel has stayed with me most strongly over the years. In fact it comes as a bit of a shock just how much of what I had thought were my own original thinking appears in these two sources of inspiration. So I’m not as clever or original as I thought I was 🙂 There was John Allen laying in wiring for a structure that didn’t get installed for years or Jenkinson’s detailed and in-depth research into the types of track and infrastructure that existed on the line he was being inspired by. They both had a deep and abiding love of the railways they wanted to reproduce but they were also “doers” and not just talkers, although by the sound of it both of them loved to talk! So maybe I take after both of them a bit after all 🙂
In the end very few of the details of either of these great mens’ modelling will end up on the layout I come to build one day. However that’s not why I was inspired by them in the first place, nor why I bothered to re-read the writing about some of their work. I think what I got most inspiration from was the deep knowledge they had about the prototypes that inspired them and the serious approach they took to planning and implementing their plans.
A good sense of humour is a bonus but perhaps you need to be a little older to appreciate some jokes.