Enterprise in 4mm

Sorry it’s been a while, it has not been through a lack of desire but I’ve just had other shit to do. Work has been horrific and COVID for everybody has turned a screw in one way or another. My shituation is no better or worse than a million battles we’ve all had to get through, but hey, we made it right?

Since I jury rigged Six Quarters into the loft, in the sort of way she will never come back out, but she can live a life of exile that won’t make me feel guilty for ripping her apart, I have been thinking how to replace her.

I had a long diversion into OO gauge 1950s Bristol, which left everlasting scars, but after the normal merry-go-round of my layout plans I’ve settled upon, by way of 80s France, late in 90s Britain. When EWS had a fleet of diesels and electrics on their arse and embodied the hope of the new century into the ‘Enterprise Network’. A version of BR’s Speedlink for the 21st Century with the 66s landing on our shores like a Norman invasion.

As you know we’ve modelled stuff well outside of our own timespan and things long lost to progress. 99/00 Britain is slap bang in the middle of my memory and OTCM’s ‘Britain’. Modelling your collective memories into a wooden box is a lot more involved than perhaps understanding someone else’s memories and translating nostalgia. Or maybe I’m over thinking it?

But I look to Portchullin and my friend Mark, who has modelled himself as a child on a 1974 holiday, with his actual family on the layout. Is this a richer modelling experience I wonder?

So I find myself wanting to modelling a slice of my past, how I remember it. However it’s worse, or richer depending on your view, as this period is what slingshotted me into a railway career that I am now sixteen years deep. A period so transformative for myself and for the railway in general. So am I modelling a railway I remember or a railway I wished still existed or one that is both? I know, I know it all sounds like an existential crisis.

99/00 is when I truly fell in love with three things, Blink 182, Jessica D and Lima diesels.

So come 2022, I’m in a decent job, I’m apparently a ‘top’ earner, I should be able to live all my teenage dreams. But the trouble is I’ve seen Blink 182 and they weren’t all that, Jessica had 3 kids and lives in badly fitting leggings and I cannot afford Lima Diesels. There’s two reasons, I either had low expectations or the world’s gone mad.

As girls eat pickled eggs in their lingerie on OnlyFans to earn £200 and Bachmann announce £300 Diesels I cannot help hark back to the days Hattons sold ViTrains 47s for £37.

I’m not advocating the continuation of exploiting poorer countries so we can enjoy a hobby at a bargain price, we are just running out of the ability to do our hobby either expensively or cheaply and this can only end badly.

As we know these price increases have done nothing but shove up the 2nd/3rd/4th/5th/6th hand market. Even a toy fair is like having your pants pulled down. The worst is all the detailing suppliers, A1, Craftsman, Westwood (with the exception of Shawplan) have all gone to the wall or stopped completely and who’s going to cut up a £100 Lima 37? Certainly no one wondering between hunger or heating.

Bugger the cost of living crisis, we’ve got a cost of modelling crisis. It’s going to see the not so well off, the not so retired, forced out the hobby. When the monthly budget is eaten away by everything else, who can afford to do this hobby? People say this may hark back to the days of yore when people ‘modelled’, no it won’t, people are no longer conditioned to compromise, or using the most basic of tools. Hell most would not be able to hold a scapel without cutting off their own eyelids.

They’ll be no modelling, they’ll be shaking the box like a salt and pepper grinder. Who’ll want to see or buy compromise when only the very best is available, whatever the cost?

In that vein I’ve started a layout that’s a magnet for expensive models. It’s full of ‘modern’ diesels and electrics, wagons that cost more than a lorry load of baby formula. But I’m doing it Poundland style. It’s going to take me months to buy stuff second hand to do it, I’m going to beg, I’m going to borrow. Most of these pictures are stuff I’ve ‘borrowed’ from Chris. It’s the layout I’ve always wanted, it’s my teenage dream, however it’s an iPad on a Nokia 3310 budget.

Google defines ‘Enterprise’ as “a project or undertaking, especially a bold or complex one.”. Making model trains and an exhibition layout within a cost accessible to all, the term Enterprise seems apt.

An old Lima 60 with Appleby interior and A1 grilles curves round into the FY remembering the halcyon days of Lima being able to shit out a model every day and a few etched bits brought with your pocket money lifting them to a whole new level.

Mainline class 56047 brings in a selection of Chris’ wagons into the yard

This class 08 now has the pride of working on all of my layouts, being repainted more than a graffitied wall, here it sits waiting to test the points and the sector plate

This 47 has had more lives than trigger’s broom, the chassis I got as part of a GFYE 47 when I left my first job. Hellfire.

Westhill Wagon works cant 3D pieces. Leaning into the new world of model trains.

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Requiem in 1:76.2

COVID has struck its latest victim. This time in the form a four foot board where no one side is quite symmetrical with the other, or as its also known ‘Six Quarters’. Like an old ship being sunk to form a new coral reef, she will ascend the loft ladder to become a home to the sort of spiders that only live in the attic.

While Chris Witty is yet to start collating data for exhibition layouts that have died because of COVID, I know SQ will not be the only one. 2020 was always meant to be the last year, its a shame it follows most of 2020 in being a bit of a damp squid. Like most of us this year we’ve missed countless exhibitions, such as Swansea, Derby and Perth. More than that we’ve missed countless opportunities to chat, have beer and eat Indian cuisine.

It was only in lockdown that I’ve realised how much I genuinely enjoy exhibitions and exhibiting. We should all be proud that our hobby has that at its centre. My four feet of wood has allowed us to travel around Europe talking utter shit with people, stuff that in the present circumstances would seem exceptionally trivial but really kept us coming back for more. It feels a long time since I sat in a pub so far up north my nose won’t stop bleeding talking about North East steel train movements in the 1980s, with Chris leaning over going ‘I’ve got a layout plan for this in my head. We’ll talk about it over naans later’. Many a layout built and dismantled mentally over a weekend in our time.

SQ has survived a divorce, the following three turbulent house moves, survived my bodgery, somehow stayed together when it really shouldn’t of. It took on its own life beyond me really. It got us mentioned in high circles, it was mentioned last week in same breath as Pempoul when Planet Industrials talked about inspirational models (we really all need to get back out soon). Its been mad really when you think it starts life as a tree and then its in an exhibtion hall in Holland and the only difference between the tree and there is your imagination (ED – and the wood processing factory). I say this as you, the readers, are the only people who truly get this.

So it isn’t just a bit of wood going up in the attic, its a bit of me and I hate spiders. Happy retirement SQ, you’ve done us a lot of favours and you’ve given me a lot of happy memories.

Thanks as always to Adrian at Uckfield for giving it its debut. Uckfield’s kindness to us at OTCM is a favour never under appreciated.

So whats next? Well a couple of things. I’ve built a shelf layout, based on the SR/EKR. Which I’ll share when the scenics are more than my imagination.

I’m planning the next exhibition layout also, think trams, think grim, think tungsten bulbs.

We still have BWS in the stable and we are still chief ground crew for the unkillable behemoth of Portchillin . Who I’m sure would be the headline layout at the first show post nuclear annihilation.

Thanks for everybody as well who stopped by, took photos, invited it to further exhibitions and generally put it out there. It seems fitting its last show was actually to Lowca where it was based to meet the real men that worked the tiny engines in 1:1 scale.

Stay safe, stay modelling and let’s have a beer at that next show.

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