Friday, April 13, 2012

Convention report part III; where to from here?

Today some philsiophising type stuff. over the 4 days I was lucky enough to have conversations outside the convention area with a wide variety of people. A fair bit of this was down to the 'local' knowledge' of the fine dinning establishments on Cuba st, but also the high caliber of dining companions that I tend to attract, and Barry Fitzgerald (who at least this time round didn't wear jandles). A US prototype modeler pointed out something that I had completely missed, that it is actually a modeling event for all modelers in New Zealand. From the coverage 9and indeed the entries ) I had always felt that it was an NZR convention with add-ons. The flip side was that the layout tours were predominantly American, with the opinion that one of the tours was one of the highest overall standard tours that the modeler had been on.

Competition trophy's. Some thinking (which I agree with) is that there needs to be some rationalisation of the trophy's. Its rather confusing that models with high grades in particular sections don't 'trophy' by the simple reason that they are in the 'wrong' scale or 'wrong' prototype. I'm not sure why this bugs me so much, as I don't feel I'm an overly competitive person (wargaming aside, which I play simply for the game , not to actually win), but I do enjoy entering the competitions simply to see how my modeling compares with others. Its also comparing the primarily scratch built or kit built NZR models with British kits or US highly detailed RTR. Now I'm not suggesting doing away with some of the trophy's, but maybe stretching the categories for their award outside 1/64.

Another topic was the future of the hobby. This is a bit of an old chestnut, but still topical. One thing that I did notice at the convention was that there were not that many younger modelers coming through. At about 40 I would have been in the lower age section. The problem goes further than getting people into modeling NZR, but getting them into railway modeling at all. Lets face it, its not a cheap or easy hobby. I've been working on Paekakariki for over 2 years now and there is still a lot of work to do (thats a bit of an understatement). How do you keep a new modeler interested for that length of time. Sure there are shortcuts, but they are only really available for track, or for locos and wagons, for those with money. It was also pointed out that we can get too insulated in our own wee niche and don't look at the wider picture. Here at Motorised dandruff we have spent 4 years showing that making models is not that hard, that everyone makes mistakes, and hopefully encouraging you all to actually have a go.

Well, that's a bit of a ramble, but I guess all the main points are there, maybe. Open to the peanut gallery for comment..


Glen Anthony said...

Well since you are asked for comments from the peanut gallery; stand back cause you are about to get them:

The competitions are flawed, the way they are split down for judging.
This is not sour grapes. The one thing I have entered (more than 10 years ago) took out first place for that section, meanwhile the one that should have won got a third.

Maybe things have changed over time, but I find it "interesting" (change this for another word), that objects cut out by a computer guided laser cutter are treated the same and judged alongside something hand drawn with a pencil and cut with knife.

So what this amounts to, is unless you want to use the latest laser cutter, don't bother entering.
Hell; why not invite the TrainSimulator people to join in put their designs in the same section too?

Now don't get me wrong, there are some very nice models out there; And most of them are a lot better than I will ever build. But I question the critera used to decide which one is the 'best'

E Class 0-4-4-0T said...

There can be some surprises in the competitions. Four years ago a D car got a gold, and a J wagon got a silver, while I would have rated them the other way round.

Looking into the detail of how the judging works, with about 10 judges each independently assessing one of 5 criteria for scoring for each item, I think we have the most objective, unbiased arrangement possible using human judges. One could debate endlessly about whether weathering or complexity or something else should have more or fewer points for that particular aspect, but I don't think we could improve much.

NZ120 will struggle to score highly in competitions if our models are buildable by novices (which they need to be). That's why the Druff's gold with a laser cut wood body and a single piece folded etch chassis was such a fantastic achivement.

Glen raises an issue for the future, though, as more models get drafted on home-based CAD systems and then "printed" via rapid prototyping, automatic etching or laser cutting. Scratch-building will become increasingly obsolete.

Magikan said...

I'm not convinced about the Computer-CAD-laser comments.

Believe me the computer doesn't create the product by itself, it takes some skill and it isn't a case of five minutes in front of a computer. The J wagon and chassis have both been through a number of iterations to get to where they are.

If it is indeed that quick and easy I wonder why the number of people actually producing anything with CAD can be counted on one hand (and that probably includes S scale).

Anonymous said...

Personally I am not fussed about competitions. I just wanna build stuff, lots of stuff, as best I can and take great pleasure in seeing the final result, and seeing it run, and sharing those experiences with others.

"Here at Motorised dandruff we have spent 4 years showing that making models is not that hard, that everyone makes mistakes, and hopefully encouraging you all to actually have a go."

Well Herr Druff (and ALL the contributors to MD - thankyou thankyou thankyou), you guys have more than encouraged me to give it all a go, some of the results of which can be seen at

Although not NZ120 (my eyes are 20 years older than yours HD!) it's those same principles you 120 guys extol. Get out there, give it a go, find ways of building stuff relatively cheaply and easily, but maintain that good 'ol NZGR/NZR/TR/Toll/KR "look", and share your experiences. Don't be shy and don't think your sutff isn't good enough to show off to others.

And btw totally agree with you Magikan, there is a HECK of a lot of time spent getting CAD drawings right. It is certainly NOT quick and easy. And building those J5s is NOT quick and easy either. Check out the tie rods/wires for example!

As far as attracting the younger ones to the hobby, I've watched a couple of generations now and it's always the same. I was the same at a younger age. Instant gratification - you want the stuff right now, but no patience for the work and time it takes to get it. Some of us eventually grow out of it :-)

But then why wouldn't the younger ones be interested? Have to think about why. Do they think it's an old fella's game? Or do they even know what it's all about. And what's available? Anyone have teenage or 20's rellies they could quiz and get some answers? Maybe it is just that instant gratification psyche? The band Queen had a great song that explains it all - I want it now!

- SteveF

Anonymous said...

hmm. I agree with the spirit of Glen's comments; scratchbuilding demonstrates meticulous skill and thus should be recognised with highest honours. A beautiful one-off, best example being that 9mm Rogers K some years back.

But then, the skills required in CAD engineering this foldable etched chassis are while different, equally laudable. And of course assembly and attaching of the tiny extra details.

But I reckon what takes the cake is the repeatability of this insanely small J wagon. So I would award the gold prize to the brilliance of these computer wielding miniaturists for thinking up such a scheme in the first place. N gauge for NZR is looking ever more promising. They could next time cover all the convention tables with a cornucopia of 4 wheel wagons all built on that fold up etched chassis...

Regarding the older age of attendees indicating the dyingness of our hobby etc, I suppose younger people are less inclined to spend the whole weekend there. I doubt this hobby could die out as the urge to make things will always be attractive. Computer gaming and other virtual attractions I assume get pretty boring after youth. The same computer can be turned to CAD modelling to produce etched and rapid prototyped aids for hand making models. So this hobby is entering a new era.

Around 40 perhaps is the age when people get keen on the hobby which could tally with the observation above about the 'younger attendees'. I was out of the hobby for years until my children grew up when I finally had time (and money) to devote to it.


beaka said...

I think the problem stems from the very thing that has changed our hobby , over the past decade in particular-technology. the internet has created a huge opportunity for researching, viewing and experiencing our hobby which is great.however it has also created a situation for even more armchair modellers. i for one know how easy it is to get hooked into screen watching instead of going out to my shed to do actual modelling. the worst thing is you actually feel quite smug initially after finding new info on your project,etc or getting sidetracked by something else on the internet.then later i realise what i should have been doing physically on my project. perhaps if things get a bit tougher financially for people over the next few years, we might see a revival in scratchbuilding or kitbuilding.RTR is nice sometimes, but it comes at a price!just my thoughts.

Am_Fet said...

I can definitely understand where Glen is coming from and his opinion is valid. However, the difference here is that Glen is clever and I am not. I have now found a way that I can create the models that I dream about without my lack of skill with a scalpel (and attendant short fuse) coming into effect.

As I have the attention span of a gnat (as everyone will testify to), CAD saves me from endless drudgery at the workbench measuring and cutting and allows a wagon fleet to grow quickly.

My own personal view of the competition entries this year was more about showing that Nz120 is now a viable alternative for the finescale modeller (Time will tell if we achieved that) rather than the silverware, although it was nice!