I follow an interesting blog called Oswestry Works where the author, Alan Buttler, applies his knowledge of digital technology to the recreation of the Oswestry Works, the main locomotive facility of the Cambrian Railways in the UK.

As a retired IT professional, Alan brings extensive computer skills to his craft. He plans to open a 3D printing and digital scanning service for modelers in addition to the work on Oswestry. I’ve long suspected that those who have such skills could do well in offering a service to other hobbyists and it will be interesting to see how Alan’s plans play out. It’s his approach to the layout however that captures my imagination.

As he states, this is his first modeling endeavor in quite some time. He has only a modest space to work with and he chose a single scene to focus on. From what I’ve seen on his blog, his modeling standards are very high, yet the scope of the project is manageable and realistic.

There are several posts outlining his experience with a new 3D printer that are well worth reading. In addition to creating his own parts and models via 3D printing, he gladly makes use of appropriate commercial models by upgrading and modifying them to suit his standards and needs, which gives him the best of both worlds. In my view, this is the where I see the craft going for those who want more than passive entertainment from a box. Modelers now have access to some amazing tools and technology and by bringing strong skills from outside the hobby, they are able to model as they choose rather than compromise their ambitions.

Prince Street Terminal
Another very modest layout effort I’m following is Chris Mears’ latest build in N scale. With only a 1′ x 6′ area in his living room to work with, Chris has had to keenly focus on what he wants and why. The temptation with such a small space is to cram in too many features. To combat this, he has re-evaluated many of his ideas and made hard choices. I enjoy reading about the process he’s working through and the ideas under consideration. He is doing some exercises on how the railroad used to interact with the local community and customers. These go far beyond the conventional layout planning mindset. Although we’ve never met in person, we’ve corresponded via email and have left comments on each other’s blogs. I’ve benefitted from his writing and thought process.

Inspiring Photography
I’ve also found two inspiring magazines from the UK, specifically Meng Air Modeller and Military Modeller Illustrated. Both are high quality publications with in-depth build articles. What I find so refreshing in them is the first rate photography. Construction sequence and model photos are shot against a clean, neutral background that allows one to focus on the subject rather than the surrounding workbench clutter that is so typical of how we present our work. The aircraft, marine and armor modelers understand something we don’t: presentation does matter. As an artist, I assure you that it matters a great deal. It demonstrates that you care about what you’re doing and how it is presented to others. Railroad Model Craftsman is now using this approach in recent articles and I applaud them for it.

A modeler who gets it is Tony Sissons. Tony is working on a book of his diesel modeling techniques that OST Publications is going to publish. His step-by-step photography is the gold standard as this example shows.


The work in this photo is clearly presented, leaving no doubt in the readers’ mind what has been done in this step. Yes, it takes more effort to do photography of this quality (but not as much as you think) and I believe our work is worth it. As you saw in the last blog post, I’m using a similar approach for my own photos and next week, I have a post on the materials and photo shoot process I’m using.



  1. Chris Mears

    Good morning Mike

    I hadn’t heard of the Owestry blog before but I’m looking through it now. As you introduced, it is going to be terrific. I’m fascinated with the potential that some of these new tools, such as 3D printing, can offer us to expand our horizons beyond the steam to diesel transition era. This is, by far, the best time to be in the hobby and work like this stands as wonderful evidence to that.

    Thanks also for the introduction to Tony Sissons and his work. If that single photo tease is any indication of what’s to come, we’re in for a real treat.

    Finally, thanks for including me in this group. I’m beyond flattered to appear on the same page as these other modellers. Thank you.


  2. mike

    Hi Chris,

    You’re welcome. I’m happy to share the work of people like yourself, who are going beyond the conventions we all know. Your thinking about the relationships and attitudes of the railroad and community toward each other and, how that impacted the operations is really fascinating.

    As for Tony’s upcoming book. We don’t have a scheduled release date yet, as it is still very much in production. Tony works in HO scale and models the modern era Norfolk Southern Appalachian coal operations. As for his work, you are in for a treat as this extensive 9-40CW thread from the ProtoModeler Forum demonstrates. Enjoy but, fair warning to all, this is a very long thread.


  3. Chris Mears

    Good morning Mike

    Thanks for the mentioning the ProtoModeler forum. I wasn’t aware of it or the collection of work inside. There are so many terrific projects in there.



  4. mike

    Yes. The work is some of the best of the best, you’ll find a ton of useful tips and ideas.


  5. AlanButtler

    Hi Mike, thank you for featuring my work on your blog, I really appreciate your comments. It’s been a bit of a steep learning curve with the printer but I’m now getting the results I hoped for. Strangely it was a lack of confidence in traditional modelling after such a long break that first led me to work 3D, sanity checking ideas virtually before doing anything with physical materials. That naturally led me firstly to laser cutting and then to 3D printing. However I still get much satisfaction from traditional modelling methods and it is great to be learning all the time.

    Thanks again for the link to my blog, Alan

  6. mike

    Hi Alan,

    Welcome to the blog. I’m following your progress with great interest as I find the technology fascinating even though I have zero knowledge of CAD design. The possibilities it offers are staggering in my view.

    I also like the prototype you’ve chosen and the ideas behind it you’ve shared. It should make an interesting layout.