I’ve separated these comments into a new post because they don’t belong in a review that strives to be objective. A good practice I learned from my time at O Scale Trains Magazine.
Let’s dive into it. Why did I willingly spend in excess of $100 bucks (US) for two British books about modeling British steam locomotives when a), I don’t model British prototypes and b), have no intention of scratchbuilding a steam locomotive in brass? Because these two titles and the other Wild Swan works I’ve collected present a vision of the hobby I can aspire to instead of constantly rehashing one I already know how to do.
I long ago reached the turning point where the basics of the craft are covered. At the age of 59 and in the usable time remaining to me, however long or short it may be, I want to take my skills deeper and quit playing around with things. I have no delusions about where I can go with this desire. I’ve waited too long to entertain any ideas of scratchbuilding locomotives to the standards seen in the late Mr. Holt’s work or Tom Mix’s here in the US and, honestly, steam doesn’t move me like it does for these gentlemen and so many others.
I would like to further develop my skills with modern freight cars. While there is a good selection of commercially produced contemporary models in quarter-inch scale, because they are designed for the 3-rail market first, they all need completely new underframes and draft gear to bring them up to scale standards. In some isolated cases there are also major dimensional errors and certain fundamental car types are noticeably absent. Given the modest scope of my layout, this is an area I can dedicate my time to and see good results from.
I would also like to develop better scenery skills. I’ve made progress in this area and shared the results on the blog but I can do better with tree modeling and groundcover. Yes, I already go beyond what the majority do and I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone. I’m simply making personal choices about the level of detail I find satisfying on a layout.
So back to the question of the Wild Swan locomotive books. What I’ve confirmed from reading and studying them is this: good things don’t come easily, but good things come to those who pursue them for the sake of the journey.
From Mr. Holt’s work, I’ve learned useful techniques that will help me become a better modeler. His volumes are helping me overcome my intimidation towards working with brass and they encourage me to look at my chosen subject with a discerning eye. Subject matter, scale, nationality or era doesn’t enter the equation because craftsmanship is a universal language.
I’m well aware that many, many people in the hobby today believe such craftsmanship is too intimidating and beyond their reach. That’s the reality of where things are now but I think that’s also a profoundly sad situation that speaks volumes about how much the hobby has truly lost in the relentless effort to make it appealing to the masses.
I’ve been privileged to know and present the work of a handful of very fine craftsmen. Seeing the joy that comes through in their work is a more compelling testament to this craft than any proclamation of how much fun it is will ever be. This is why I present such work on this blog and in The Missing Conversation and why I treat it with the respect it deserves. Work of such caliber doesn’t come easily to anyone.