I really do tire of the cyclical debate that model railways seem to create. It's impossible on the internet to HAVE a debate sometimes, let alone approach one with a critical and a modelling eye.
Some people also seem to have switched their brains off and forgot that constructive criticism in the pre-production phase can sometimes generate even better results. Suddenly we have all manner of people coming out of the woodwork, "defending" the manufacturers by berating anyone who speaks out of the party line.
The "party line" by the way, is alive and well on a certain model railway forum and I don't think I need to tell you how wearying it is to constantly read people stating that those of us with a more critical eye are "berating the manufacturers".
Sorry to disappoint, but nobody has berated Hornby as far as I can see. I can certainly surmise that the moaning about someone else moaning about "plastic buffers" will have been aimed at me, but to be fair this is a criticism of Hornby's Tornado and Railroad Flying Scotsman models too, and in both cases it has been proven that the thin, moulded plastic buffers are no substitute for proper metal turned ones (whether sprung or not) in terms of their durability.
Here's what I was quoted as saying on MREmag this week:
Hornby's Gresley P2 has made its debut, and what a debut. Despite my natural reservations (moulded plastic buffers, square axleboxes and moulded handrails), Hornby's newest "big green and named" locomotive looks like unexpectedly bucking the trend this year and proving to be the stunner of stunners.
My only real criticism at this early stage are the plastic buffers. The 2012 Railroad 4472 model and the Hornby Tornado both share this trait, and they are very easily damaged or broken off altogether whether in the youngest or oldest of hands.
I do not understand how the recent 42xx/72xx Heavy Tanks can have unsprung metal buffers (probably the best compromise if the aim is to reduce the number of separate parts from the sprung alternative) but the Gresley P2 and the Duke retain plastic buffers?
I reserve judgement on the square axleboxes, though it is with some regret that we see Hornby move away from their excellent chassis design of years past. The Railroad Tornado retained the brass bearings inset into the chassis principle of the best of Hornby's most recent Pacific and LNER outline models, and remains one of their smoothest operators in the range.
On this occasion, despite the head leading with a firm desire to be constructive, and despite the reservations outlined above, the heart melted at the sight of the perfectly curved deflectors, the exquisite valve gear and the handsome high shoulders of the Gresley P2.
Truly, Hornby could have a winner here. I do so hope they do. Nobody in the model railway world wants Hornby to fail: to do so would be counterproductive to the future of the hobby. We must not, however, be blind to their discrepancies when they arise, and be as constructive in our critique as possible.
Simon A.C. Martin
(And thank you to MREmag for printing it un-edited: it is nice to know that there are still places for model railway enthusiasts to discuss topics without being censored or silenced altogether).
So, where exactly is that "berating" Hornby or "moaning?" We are in danger of letting the lunatics take over the asylum in terms of being able to talk about our hobby, whether it's latest releases and how the manufacturers can improve them (before manufacturing them) or improving the latest model by - well - modelling!
The biggest problem I have with model railways at the minute, and the one thing which has spurned me from being able to talk about them on the blog, is the politicking, point scoring and general sort of reverse snobbery which stops people from being able to produce fair, balanced opinions with all the facts to hand.
I'm currently working for a superb organisation whose core beliefs centre around "there are two sides to every story", and in the case of Hornby's Gresley P2, there are two sides to the debate: those who want to have one and discuss it maturely, and those who do not and want to silence everyone else.
Pick your side carefully!
In my case, I choose to remain constructive, cautious and looking towards the future with an open mind but also a practical one. Railroad range models, intended for younger hands or for older ones returning to the hobby should not have plastic buffers which can be easily broken.
That's my view, it's based on actual experience and testing this out both with children and my own modelling experience. If you don't like it, feel free to have your right to reply here and give your view. I will publish any and all comments on this blog (if it doesn't work first time it's because I have a spam filter in place and will publish your comment at the earliest available opportunity).
Until next time, have a great weekend, enjoy Wimbledon today and tomorrow and remember: model railways are meant to be fun but can also be a great source of informative, constructive debate that feeds the mind.