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Season’s greetings


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December 21, 2017 · 12:07 pm

Coals to Newcastle

Over recent years Hornby have come in for a fair amount of flak for their wagon models and indeed, it’s  not so long since I was passing judgement here on their unfortunate Blue Spot fish van.  Now whilst they arguably still have a fair way to go in restoring confidence (not least with retailers in my view, though this isn’t the place to open that particular can of worms),  I do believe in  giving credit where it’s due by saying that the various models now emerging from the pipeline seem to have shaken off the silliest aspects of the much maligned ‘design clever’ phase.


Broadside of the new model. This is the side that correctly doesn’t have any brakegear apart from the hand lever; I haven’t seen any forumites complaining theirs has bits missing, yet…

Announced just before Christmas and now, unexpectedly soon, in the shops, their LNER 21 ton coal hopper is an example which may just be passing under the radar with such high profile loco introductions as the K1, D16 and Black Motor attracting interest.  But I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this little model is an example of Margate at its modern best.

For some years of course, Hornby have been churning out the old 1970s Airfix model of much the same wagon.  Whilst not bad for its time, the main shortcoming with this was its combination of the riveted body with the push braked chassis that also saw use on their 20/21T PO mineral wagon and 20t tanker.  The all-new model really is in a class apart from that; the body retains the commendable fineness but the chassis is spot on, replicating the distinctive single sided clap brakegear complete with catch bars, tall handbrake lever and hopper operating handles.

Probably the first thing I picked up on visually was evidence of the usual Hornby ‘prettifying’ –  the form of shiny buffer heads and gleaming white footstep – but it’s all good raw material and a suitably weathered example should look the DBs.  One other concern was that of weight, the lack of which could be  a problem with the old Airfix model as the design of the wagon means there aren’t a lot of places to hide it. The new one isn’t super heavy, but it’s not a featherweight either, and there looks to be room for more weight in the hopper chutes if it were desired.


End detail of the new model.  It appears to be based on the earliest builds, as later ones had an additional horizontal end handrail, bracketed out from the angled portion.  When you’re used to seeing those later wagons with their cat’s cradle of handrails, the end here looks quite bare.  Adding the extra bits would be a simple job, I think.

And of course, the price is an inevitable discussion topic. 15 quid at RRP, and findable for up to a quid less than that. One of the most criticised aspects of Hornby is their pricing policy, and a couple of years ago they were charging more than that for that old Airfix one; inherited tooling with its investment costs more than written off…

But anyway. For those who are keen to point out how shockingly expensive RTR is getting these days and we should all get back to kitbuilding, I don’t necessarily disagree, but I suggest you find a better example with which to promote your argument. The equivalent kit is £9.00; so if you place a value on your time, paying yourself at minimum wage means that to break even, you have to build and paint it in an hour.  Good luck with that 😉

Not that I’m saying the RTR one is the answer to everything of course. A properly representative BR period hopper train would have many other variants in it – not least the welded body ones – and for which the range provided by Parkside provides pretty well.   As to Hornby moving on to other variants, the only mention I’ve seen of the possibility was a passing one in Rail Express Modeller, based apparently on a conversation with Hornby. And for completeness here I should say that the Hornby Dublo and Wrenn ranges included a rendition of the BR welded wagon. It wasn’t without charm, but was quite overscale in width.

As to the prototype, it’s probably fairly well known that the 21 tonner originated as a steel version of the wooden vehicles favoured by the North Eastern Railway. The LNER bought in many thousands from the trade and the design was adopted for large scale construction by BR, together coming to represent a large part of the national fleet.  I’ve never carried out any really in-depth research on them but I would make a guesstimate of there eventually being at least 35, 000 by the time construction of the BR derivatives ceased in the late ’50s.  I know of no particular restriction on the LNER designs portrayed by this model, so contrary to what you may see written elsewhere, they could turn up in a hopper train anywhere that such things worked and indeed, there’s ample photographic evidence of such.


Closeup of the axleguard and brake lever detail on the new model; this is clickable for larger sizes and I suggest you do so.  The axleboxes are also very slightly angled (top sloping inward), which is correct.  That repair data panel is spurious on this livery, belonging to a later period, but is easily removed or painted over.

Should anyone wish to delve deeper into the type, please be aware that despite their relatively lesser numbers, they’re even more involved than the 16T mineral.  An article in the much missed  Model Railway Constructor by Nick Campling, Jim Johnson and Alan Cook mentions no less than 38 variations – of just the LNER wagons – having been identified.  And study of the BR builds is not exactly assisted by the incorrect allocation of diagram numbers to a significant number of batches.  To simplify things though and for ease of recognition, there are the following broad types of construction:

1.  LNER builds with riveted bodies, single side clasp brakes and tall hand brake lever

2.  LNER builds with welded bodies, single side clasp brakes and tall hand brake lever

3.  LNER builds on underframes similar to above but with Continental-spec fittings

4.  BR builds of type 1

5.  BR builds of type 2

6.  A ‘pure’ BR welded design (theoretically diagram 1/146) with more conventional 4-shoe push brakegear.  This later developed into vac piped and vac braked builds, and exhibited variation in end stanchions

7.  BR riveted design (diagram 1/145), the body of which was effectively a version of 1/146 but capable of being turned out by wagon builders that weren’t set up for welding. Again  these had  push brakes

From around 1970 BR embarked on a programme of rebodying coal-class wagons. Any of the above variants could form the donor wagon, leading to the survival of some quite old underframes into the 1980s.

A note as to batches 2 and 5: whilst it’s sometimes said these were early rebodies, I believe they were welded from new  (even the E-prefixed ones, which were built by the trade anyway).  As evidence, I’d cite the consistent numbering of the ones on, for instance, Paul Bartlett’s website, together with many being built by Cravens, and also that there seem to be just too many of them for any other explanation.


Filed under Hoppers, Iron ore, Mineral wagons, Uncategorized, Wagon kits

Expo time

This weekend brings ExpoEM North and for the second year, I have the pleasure of being amongst the range of demonstrators there, along with my good friends Brian Sunman and Ken Gibbons.  Anyone who’s been to an Expo will know the unique atmosphere they have, and we’re very much looking forward to being there and seeing what else Derek Evans has lined up.  Demoing is probably less tiring than showing a layout, but that said, it can be even more difficult to see the rest of the show!

The overall theme of our little bit will be BR period modelling, and Ken will be taking an eclectic mix of projects which echo back to the spirit of Modelling the British Rail Era. Steam, diesel and very probably electric, from the ’60s to the ’90s all have a chance of making an appearance.  Brian’s main focus will be on buildings for our under-construction Waverley route layout, but he will also have with him some of the Carflats that he’s been working on for the same project. This pic isn’t my best effort and the wagon needs some finishing work, but it should show the effectiveness of what is essentially a simple conversion – based on an LMS Period 1 coach underframe as so many of the prototypes were:


I shall be presiding over my usual random mix of modified RTR and kitbuilds, and will also be taking my paintbox.  One particular project I’ll be giving a coat of looking at is my small fleet of grain wagons based on the Trix/Lilliput model.


The methods we use are not specific to any particular prototype or period, but that said, we recognise it’s a finescale show and will obviously slant things that way.  We all have some experience in regauging locos and stock so if you’re curious about easy steps into EM, ask away. And the same goes for anything that’s on show, or even that isn’t.  We’re there to talk, and don’t be put off if we look ‘busy’ or already have somebody at the table – it’s usually a case of the more the merrier 🙂

More details on ExpoEM North can be found on the Society’s own website.

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Filed under Brakevans, Heritage diesels, Mineral wagons, Off the beaten track, Scottish railways, Uncategorized, Wagon kits, Wagon loads, Wagon weathering

Modellers United

Further to last week’s post (now deleted), the forum is up and running after a successful domain change and should be locatable on the revised link below:

Apologies for the inconvenience, and thanks for bearing with us.  We’ve been pleased to see an influx of new members over the last week; if hands on modelling, talking techniques and discussing aspects of the real railway sound like a refreshing alternative, do drop by 🙂

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Hessle Model Railway Group Open Day

This Saturday, 5 October marks the above group’s second event of its type at the Hessle Town Hall (easily found for locals or visitors).  This sort of small event is assuming a higher profile in the hobby of late, offering an enjoyable few hours without the major effort involved in the traditional larger show,  and the Hessle event, organised by local modeller Sean Hutchinson (known around the ‘Net as ‘The Penguin of Doom’) promises a selection of local history and transport-themed layouts and displays.

My own involvment will be two-fold, one being as co-operator with Ken Gibbons and Brian Sunman on Brian’s Edinburgh-based Peffermill Road layout which is featured elsewhere on the blog, and I have also put together a small presentation  which I’ve somewhat  pretentiously sold to Sean as a ‘layout concept display’ …  like most modellers, I have various layout schemes rattling around my head and this particular figment is the Stoneferry Tramway, a pure fiction but based on the notion that a light railway, along the lines of the Clydeside Tramway in Glasgow, could have grown to serve the various industries along the east and possibly also the west sides of the River Hull.  Other inspirations include Ipswich and Swansea docks and the Trafford Park system in Manchester, and the display will feature images of some of the locations and buildings that would give the projected layout its workaday waterside feel.

The precise location hasn’t been set, nor has the track layout or configuration. It had originally been conceived as a micro-layout to have been built earlier this year but although once again real life has gone and got in the way of my plans (as it does), the ultimate outcome will be a tad bigger and more satisfying.  The period chosen would be the 1960s, which would allow a variety of traffics (though obviously not fish…), to be worked by diesel shunters and possibly the odd bit of steam also.


The 1930s aerial image above shows what had become something of a ‘holy grail’ for myself and my good friend Kevin Tong; it’s visible at bottom left and is the LNER’s  Stoneferry Goods station, served by a short branch which left the Hornsea line at Chamberlain Road and curved round to eventually cross Stoneferry Road in the vicinity of what’s now B&Q.  If you look just the other side of the main road in the picture, there are some wagons visible on the site of what’s now one of two filling stations that flank the dual carriageway here.  Looking to the top right, the then-new Clough Road can be seen stretching out towards Beverley Road.

The image shown is here by kind permission of ‘Britain from Above’ and can be found at   The site is well worth joining if this sort of thing fascinates you and coverage is steadily expanding.


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Armchair modelling

It’s that time of year, when furniture gets ‘dug out’ for the holiday season.  I expect most people have had the experience of finding money, pens and other impedimenta down their settees; this is what was down ours:


As well as the obligatory quid or so’s worth of small change, of course.  But at current Romford rates, the wheelset is probably worth more…

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News from the Land of Green Ginger

Yes, I know.  Months since I last posted, and all I can come up with is something only tenuously railway-connected.  But that’s life, of which a hobby is only part; I’ve been on holiday, enjoyed the tail end of what laughingly passed for summer here, and been to two shows in two consecutive weekends.  All of which links in nicely now with the notion that modellers are generally not unknown to enjoy a nice beer or three.

The above is a pump clip from Caledonian’s Flying Scotsman premium ale, brewed to assist with the restoration of said loco.  This one suffered a slight accident when the actual clippy bit broke, and rather than chuck it in the bin, it was very kindly put aside for us by the landlord of one of our  favoured hostelries in Hull’s Old Town.  It’s nice when people think of you like that, and we’re very appreciative.  As to the liquid itself, we can’t speak highly enough of it – Caledonian do seem to be one of those outfits that can’t brew a bad beer, and a brewery tour is on the ‘to do’ list.

Again tangentially related, there are even blogs about pump clips – I found whilst checking out the enticingly named Kitty Brewster.  And on the subject of railway-themed beer names, you could also be unlucky enough to encounter Junction Brewery’s Trainspotter

In other news, I’ve added two very worthwhile blogs to the links bar, those of Chris Nevard and Phil Parker.  Both gentlemen are far more prolific than I, and I hope you enjoy the reads.

Also below is an image of one of Ken Gibbons’ more recent creations, Llangerran.  Now that his North Devon micro Stone has moved on to a new owner, Llangerran is set to fulfil its potential and having already done shows at Expo EM, Rochdale and Thirsk, is booked in for the York show next Easter.

The shot below should show a flavour of what the layout is about, being essential a revisiting of his New Quay micro that featured in Santona’s Modelling the British Rail Era.  Although still a ‘bitsa ‘ station, this is a full length layout and has a surprising amount of shunting potential for what is a relatively simple trackplan.  Again it draws inspiration from the lines to the west of Carmarthen, being situated on a route to a coastal terminus at Saint Davids (a name that will need no introduction to those who recall the work of Mac Pryke in the 1970s).

Here, one of the indigenous class 37s is busy shunting the MOD siding, with one of the last gasps of domestic coal in evidence to the right:

I would have liked to have featured Llangerran as a full page with the other layouts, but the images we have of it are simply not of sufficient quality; in setting up this blog, I’ve never had any pretensions to be an ace behind the lens, but I do have some standards!  Anyway for now, our sincere apologies until that state of affairs is rectified.

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Spring shows

A couple of recent shows, at Nottingham and York, have provided some enjoyable and varied opportunities for playing trains.

Cully sallies south

First up, Culreoch’s second trip back south of the border, in the capable hands of its new owner Jamie Wood and co-operator Dave Franks (of Lanarkshire Models & Supplies note).   It was pleasing to be able to give them an hour or so off on the Sunday, and also to make reacquaintance with the layout, which looks well and now has the benefit of some lovely 1960s stock, marshalled into authentic and thoughtful formations.

I don’t often do badges, not when I’m theoretically a punter anyway, but it’s good to know they were there.  Rather than another layout shot, I’ll provide a loco portrait to showcase  one of Jamie’s own lovely Black Fives, although Dave had brought one or two of his own exquisite creations, including another Five, a 4F and a very nice kitbuilt Fairburn tank.   Good use was also made of Jamie’s Standard 4 tank, recreating the image of ‘the Mad McCann’ at Creetown which will be known to Port Road afficionadoes!

Bomber jacket required

During March I also took an opportunity mooted for some time of training on the Hull MRS ‘Stealth Bomber’, so named because of its unusual shape and the ‘cockpit’ arrangement of one of the operating positions.  This was something very different for me; I’ve obviously been used to being around the creations of our narrow gauge section since joining the club as a teenager, but have never operated them at a show.  The ‘Bomber’ or to give it its correct name, ‘Crumley and Little Wickhill’, is a very well thought out layout in all aspects, and with the standard of scenery, a real pleasure to operate.

The above shot is courtesy of Steve Flint and the Railway Modeller, and is of the intermediate station Little Wickhill.  In the near distance, a goods train is dropping down the hill to the crossing point, and hidden to the right is a further incline down into Crumley.  A siding runs past the abandoned tipdock to the right and also serves a cattle dock, and is probably my favourite spot on a very atmospheric layout.

Last train from Bonchester Bridge

Finally, a farewell to Brian Sunman’s second exhibition layout Bonchester Bridge, a North British terminus station located in the Borders of Scotland, about equidistant from Jedburgh and Hawick.  The layout is now over twenty years old and featured in the first volume of British Railway Modelling, although because of the pre-digital nature of the available images, I’ve not been able to feature it here before.

Having once been retired, ‘Bonny’ has over the last few years made reprise appearances at a few shows.  The time comes though to move on, other projects come to assume prominence, and the layout will shortly be in the hands of a new owner.

We had to have a wee dram of course to see the old girl off, and pictured above are some of the people who have been associated with her in some way or other over the years.  Left to right, they are Ken Gibbons (who, most importantly, provided the Scotch), Steve Flint  (editor RM), Brian himself, your scribe, Mal Scrimshaw (taller), York Show acting manager, and Paul Windle.  Not shown, being behind the camera, is Paul Derrick; the three last-named gents  being instrumental in the construction of the ‘Bomber’.

Brian originally ran the layout with early 1960s steam power, including a B1, V3 and N2, but in recent years a slight shift to the later ’60s made sense, using the proprietary diesels with superior mechanisms that had been easily converted to EM for use on Peffermill Road.  

The pic above shows a class 26 clearing the last few wagons from the yard, in just the way that must have happened on so many branches like this in the 1960s and ’70s.  And now, with mention of Spring and the inspiration glands recharged, it must be time to at least think about doing some modelling!


Filed under Scottish railways, Uncategorized

2012 and all that

Hello there, and welcome to Windcutter’s first New Year.

Given the time of year, I suppose some initial comment might be appropriate on the now-established Hornby Christmas period announcements.  As I’ve said, I don’t want Windcutter to be excessively political, nor do I want it to promote RTR frothfrests, but there is even less than usual to actually get excited about now the news is out.   All quite understandable of course in the current climate, but it does have to be said that this year the much-criticised embargo has reached new heights of farce whilst increasing the froth : substance ratio beyond any reasonable limits.    No completely new freight stock is not entirely a surprise; I’m getting an inkling now that the backpedalling last year over prices with the brake and the tippler has made Hornby think that they can’t really compete with Bachmann, in the field of traditional wagons at least.

That said, I’m pleased enough about the Thompson suburbans, something I have to say I didn’t see coming as they fulfil such a similar role to the Gresleys which are just hitting the shops.  In my mind, they hit that same spot as the Hawksworths, in that they’re not so much an LNER coach as a BR (ER) one, something that can be used past the usually accepted ‘transition’ era, into the mid-1960s and even in some cases with diesels.  Parcels stock is always popular with BR modellers, so the SR bogie brake will no doubt go down well (once the price has settled to more modest levels), and the O1 2-8-0 is just a bit too tempting to me given its association with East Midlands iron ore trains!  There’s no point me putting up the whole list of releases, it’s available easily enough elsewhere including the now ‘legal’ copies of the magazine that wanted to be first with the news.

As for Windcutter, having updated Traditions in Decline, the basic ‘page’ structure is now complete, unless I have any other bright ideas of course.  One thing that’s still missing is a rundown on weathering roofs, which has to be slotted into the More on Techniques page – that’ll have to wait for those days of decent weather and lighting, I’m afraid.  I noticed the other day that some of the page headers have defaulted for some reason to the ‘running theme’ of the 47 and Mk2 coach; I’m not sure why this is, but unless I stumble across the right buttons, it’ll probably stay that way for the forseeable!

Something that is outside my control however is the periodic absence of the forum database hosting the original 6WTS weathering thread from 2008.  I’m pleased that this has continued to be something that tyro weatherers have found useful, that was the intention all along.  Its most recent,  prolonged spell of non-availability does rather vindicate my decision to transfer the essence of it onto this site, and  I hope the three weathering pages here are found to be  some substitute for it.  One other enhancement I’m thinking of here is a list of basic weathering colours in several ranges; although I always say that successful results are really not the result of following a ‘recipe’,  I appreciate it can be a bit daunting if you’ve never really looked amongst all those murky dull browns and greys in the paint stands.

All in all though, I’m pleased enough with how it’s all gone; in an age where glib soundbites dominate social media and even more considered pieces within this very hobby can prove to be rather transient, I do hope that I’ve provided something of substance for those who do drop by.  I’d very much like to thank all those who have made it possible and enjoyable, whether helping with material, making comments or just generally being around and supportive.  I’m also pleased to see that a few other independent-minded modellers whose work I respect are treading the same path, and will update the ‘blogroll’ links in due course with those that are most relevant to my own interests and outlook.

The pic above by the way is not a genuine Hogmanay item, but from September 1983.  Those two fine gents were actually welcoming the appropriately named ‘Skirl o’ the Pipes 3′ railtour into Burghead.  Locos are 27036 and 26042.


Filed under Heritage diesels, Scottish railways, Uncategorized

Criticism, choices, fact and opinion

I mentioned elsewhere on the blog that the odd bit of punditry or contention might occasionally bubble to the  surface, and the subject of criticism of RTR models, never too far away on the Interweb, has raised its head quite noticeably in a few places lately.  Now I’ve never had any intention of turning this site into the new Electric Nose;  I don’t like the idea of sitting around taking  passive-aggressive potshots from a platform that gives no right of reply, but I do faintly despair at the excessively apologist tone of some posters on the various forums that I’ve inhabited over the past few years.  I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of individual models here, such things are invariably subjective anyway and the recent examples are not models that I would particularly be buying.  But the principle is still very relevant; it’s just as applicable to things that do interest me and as it underscores my own approach to the critique of any model, it’s going to be something pretty basic to the content of this site.

At its most basic, my view is that if something is wrong on a model, and can be reasonably proven to be wrong by somebody who knows their onions, then it’s wrong, simples. Even an error of 1mm or so, on a model that is quite small to begin with, can alter the proportions sufficiently to be noticeable to a knowing eye.  However, I do think that most folk can accept that  something like this may be wrong for a perfectly good reason.  We’re all human, manufacturers included, we all drop the ball on occasion, and sometimes conscious compromises have to be made between what’s desirable and what’s practical.

Now in terms of cold hard fact, if something is wrong, there’s no amount of mitigation that will make it any less wrong.   But – big but – that doesn’t make it the end of the world as we know it.  As far as I’m concerned, to say that something is wrong is just an observation; it may well be seen as criticism by some but it should still surely be possible to voice it in a factual, unemotional, non-judgmental manner without anybody getting bent out of shape about it.

Focussed discussions on forums about new RTR though are often hindered by several factors. There are often polarised extremes; at one end is inaccurate,  unfair or vague criticism, often based on half-understood hearsay and which helps no-one.  Or, there are folk telling other folk that they’re rivet counters or nitpickers, they should have some perspective and be grateful to the manufacturers.  A common argument is that the gauge (of OO models) is wrong by 2.33mm, therefore any millimetric error elsewhere shouldn’t matter.  Well, there’d be some pretty funny looking models about if that became a rule of thumb.  One particular gem (and I’ve admittedly used it myself) is “well, it looks like a [47/Black Five/whatever] doesn’t it?”  Being more objective though, a model doesn’t actually have to be that good to pass that pretty basic test of authenticity; the Hornby Dublo Deltic ‘looked like a Deltic’ in that it patently wasn’t meant to be anything else, but I don’t see many claiming it to be  an accurate scale model, even by the standards of its time.

Yet another old chestnut is the glib assertion that putting it right by doing some modelling will give us a sense of achievement.  I know that, thank you very much, I’ve been doing it nearly forty years now, but I have quite enough things in my ‘to do’ pile without adding to it with stuff that will absorb yet more hours on unproductive time.  I’m one of those folk  who for most of his adult life has seen RTR as just part of the picture, somewhere between a blank canvas, a means to an end and a timesaver, but that seems to be an increasingly odd concept to some observers.

Now with that, we bring in the more personal perspectives, the ones that shape our own buying decisions.  Whether this hypothetical 1mm actually matters to you is another issue entirely, and this is where opinion comes more into play.  We all have our own set of  tolerances, and that’s just fine – even my own are sometimes more than a tad inconsistent, in that I’ll accept a 4mm error on one model and jib at less than 1mm on another.  But nevertheless, they are my own tolerances and it’s me that has to live with them.

More importantly, once an error is identified and it’s perhaps looking like something that I know is going to bug me, I can then start thinking about whether I can alter it without an excessive input of time, or whether it’s just too much of a compromise and whether I can either do without the model or find another way of getting that prototype.  This is where that raw information can become useful knowledge.  Ideally, I would like to be able to spend just a little time perhaps personalising a model with details, or making a subtly different variant, and then crack on with the painting side of things, which is what I enjoy most.  That’s not always going to be possible though and some models are always going to need more work, but that work has to be balanced against how essential that model is to the concept in question.  In some cases I may decide not to buy it at all, that’s my decision and as long as I don’t ram it down anybody’s throat, I don’t need folk insisting I should take it and be happy with it.

In the context of a review then, I believe that said review should be sufficiently informative and objective on basic points of accuracy as to enable the reader, armed with that information, to make a duly informed choice.  Whilst I might still offer my opinion an error in a model – what’s the point in having a blog if I don’t do that – it’s not my place to make the buying decision for you, either way.  If I say (as I have in the tippler review) that a particular detail is half a millimetre out, and you think ‘what on earth is he on about’ and choose to disregard it, that’s absolutely fine.  You don’t have to agree with me, you’ve had access to the information, plus anything you’ve read elsewhere, and you’ve made a decision based on it and your own tolerances.  If however I noticed these things, but chose not to draw them to your attention, then I feel that I’d be arbitrarily restricting your choice to make that decision.

As for where we came in, I believe there are a large number of ‘hands on’ modellers who not only look on new models with a discerning eye, but are also more than prepared to do something themselves about any errors they come across.  But in order to do that, it’s first necessary to actually talk about those errors with others whose judgment one respects.   Just lately though, I’ve been quite exasperated to not be able to do that without getting caught between more polarised and intolerant viewpoints.  Very few people expect perfection at the prices we pay for RTR, but at the other end of the scale, I don’t believe people should be holding back standards, either by foisting lesser expectations on others or by stifling their attempts at self-improvement.


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