After our visit to the Hamburg model railway exhibition, James has been reminding me that there's the ingredients for a model railway layout still sitting disassembled in my workshop, and I've got to thinking (as well as catching up on my reading of Model Rail magazine, to which I subscribe). As you well know, me thinking can be dangerous...
Considering how similar the two hobbies are, it's quite amazing how they differ.
- In general, although this is, I think, becoming less so as time goes by, we as wargamers are easier satisfied with the quality of scenery. Now, admittedly, there's the whole practical issue of portability, changeability and general survivability, but the average railway layout does seem to have better scenery than the average wargames table. Of course, if you go up to the level that someone like Sid or Silver Whistle aims for, that's patently not true, but as a general observation...
- Conversely, it does appear that most railway modellers are much less fussy about figure painting than we are! Most of them seem very content to buy pre-painted figures from Preiser, Faller, Noch, Hornby etc, and just plonk 'em down...
- Railway modelling as a hobby appears to have only just discovered laser-cut MDF. My last visit to Trains4U revealed one company (and a small, niche one, with a tiny display in the 'grab bags' stand by the checkout) making things like line side huts and footbridges, and that was it. Big opening for Warbases or 4Ground there.
- Railway modelling hasn't discovered Vallejo/Army Painter style dropper paint bottles. All the railway paint makers (Humbrol, Railmatch, Lifecolour etc) do screw-top or pop-top pots. With all the attendant 'paint drying round the edge' issues.
- Railway modelling hasn't discovered dip and ink washes, as far as I can tell. The latest issue of Model Rail has finally realised that washes on figures improve the look, but are still using thinned paint.
- Railway modelling is slightly ahead of us on 3D printing - there are some 00 scale models of real British prototypes available on Shapeways, for example.
- Railway modelling doesn't appear to have discovered resin as a casting material.
- There's an immensely frustrating divide price-wise between kit and ready-to-run in model railways. The really big case in point is coaches - the minimal selection of ready-to-run Great Western coaches, for example, at circa £15-20 quid a pop, is backed by... everything you could possibly want in etched brass + whitemetal kit form at £50 or more a time (often 'just add your own wheels, bearings and couplings' on top, too). With the exception of some old and obscure kits from Ratio, there's absolutely sod-all that's affordable to fill the gap, and surprisingly little will amongst modellers or apparently manufacturers to see that that's an issue. Now obviously, one of the problems is production-run size, as previously discussed, and the fact that a box of PSC tanks is a less daunting job for the likes of Renedra than a foot-long coach which has to sit accurately on the track afterwards, but even so... For flat-sided coaches (which I know not all are), laser cut sides, with resin ends and roof, is surely a possibility. In ready-to-run, IF the right coaches exist, I can build a 6 coach train for around £100. If they don't, I'm looking at £3-400 PLUS the work involved AND painting, lining and lettering. And the end result weighs a ton.