With the advancements in the level of detail of the ready to run market in both locomotives and rollingstock, one could certainly not be blamed for wondering just where we are going and where this development will all end up. Surely, what I am about to post will polarize modellers and certainly alienate some...but since my earliest recollection of receiving my first Triang RTR model was sometime in 1964 and being continuously and actively involved in the hobby since that time...if nothing else I think I have earned an opinion at least.
I have just received a twin pack of ready to run LHG vans and upon opening the box and examining the contents...the first thing that struck me was the fidelity and the obvious detail that is what we have come to expect from today's models...what tainted that initial delight was the 11 items of detail that had somehow found their way to the bottom of the box and only became visible when the models were removed. It must be stated at the outset that this phenomena was not limited to this particular purchase or manufacturer and is now sadly an all too common finding right across the spectrum...either upon arrival or shortly after the item has entered service.
How much detail is too much detail?. I think this feeling is growing amongst fellow modellers and is certainly worthy of discussion. Have we created this progression due to our own perpetual hunger and push for realism...or have the manufacturers "self adopted" the belief that this is what we demand and anything less is to be seen as a self imposed failure on their part and a cause for possible belittling by other manufacturers?...in essence an ego thing...
A casual perusal of Australian model rail forum sites would certainly support the theory that our uncompromising level of detail demand and the merciless criticising of most item releases has had a large input. As much as these forums are a cross section of people's opinions, have we lost the plot on detail expectation and price point v's practicality and quality....in other words do we want our cake and eat it as well?. We could then equally focus the spotlight on the manufacturers and ask why it is that the level of the detail in general is now approaching museum quality but basic ( and long ago perfected ) items such as couplers and bogies have in some instances diminished in quality.
From my own perspective...it would be a lot easier if I was a "collector" and just made purchases that ended up in a glass fronted case to be just admired...but I do purchase rollingstock with the intention of weathering and then running on my layout...so some level of durability is important as is the need to be able to have a modicum of running quality with the ability for the item to reliably stay coupled to other rollingstock I have purchased. Also to be regularly presented with a grab bag of detail items that have fallen off purchased items in transit or have been shed due to manufacturing deficiencies is certainly disappointing. I guess that I first noticed this "detail race" with the arrival of the BWH wheat hoppers with the nifty but totally senseless spring loaded bottom discharge doors...was this an attempt at humour?...or was it an ego trip of "see what I can do"?...I readily confess that at the end of the day, they were a brilliant running wagon that had an adequate amount of detail and were relatively robust, tracked well and had reliable couplers...so I am a happy owner!
So what is the answer...
To be honest I have no one-statement panacea to this issue. It may be that we have reached the technological limit of detail inclusion and the "detail race" may have reached it's limit. It may be that any further detail items will be packaged separately and the onus is on the buyer to add these items should they wish. Maybe we as modellers need to strike a balance between reliability, robustness and inclusions in our hobby demands and be more objective when we offer personal views and unsolicited reviews of products on forums?...Presently it just seems that some of these forum posts revert into a "pick the prototypical fault" competition which in turn then just slides into a "I know more than you do challenge" with little regard as to whether the item is a fair and reasonable facsimile that is value for money and will perform to a reasonable expectation.
From the manufacturers perspective...I guess they have to be mindful of when an item has reached a balance between prototypical appearance and dimension, detail inclusion, manufacturing soundness, ongoing reliability and whether it is of merchantable quality...and to illustrate this point I add an analogy that while not totally comparing apples to apples...it does offer some similarities as to what an average consumer expects.
You arrive at the Holden dealer to pick up your new car...when you get in the driver's seat, you notice that all the control buttons and detail items have fallen off and are sitting in a neat pile on the passenger seat...the towbar has been fitted and will not reliably "couple up" with any commercially available trailer or caravan...and when you take it for a spin the wheels wobble... I am not sure that you would be a happy person...and a comparison with any consumer product would illicit the same response...
In closing...I certainly am thankful of the almost limitless supply of Australian RTR items to choose from and the days of scratchbuilding and kit building of wagon rakes and locos is now but a memory ( apart from if one chooses ) ....but just hope that the above factors will balance out...and a happy and sensible medium can be reached.
|I can't wait to unleash the air brush on these pair of LHGs...|