The aliens have landed

SMEC members will have noticed something a bit different about the place. Even the most casual observer cannot have missed the fact that a monster mole has been churning up the hallowed turf between the steam-up sidings and the Gauge 1 tracks. Or to put it another way, a bunch of upstart 16millers have parked their locos on your lawn. All to embrace diversity and stretch the bandwidth of the ‘model engineer’ definition.

And there are some differences, although I suspect these are more than outweighed by what is held in common. The 16mm fraternity stretches from one extreme (make everything from bar, sheet and tube) to the other (buy everything with the universal credit card, what might be termed plastic modelling). In-between lies the great bulk of the membership, who can make a fine-looking cab but not a boiler, an exquisitely-detailed wagon but not a valve motion, or a director’s coach for the most demanding CEO but not a set of wheels. And then there are the grunge bodgellers, who skilfully cobble stuff together to represent the budget end of the narrow-gauge industry, where parsimony rules, paint is unheard of and make-do-and-mend is the universal mantra.

Above all, we love to run trains in a garden setting. And it can be a very detailed setting, as evidenced by the number and variety of accessory makers, supplying everything from a ground signal to a two-storey station to adorn the layout. Some significant civil engineering can be involved, with gradients, tunnels and embankments often featuring. And of course the typical garden is a multi-user partnership-enabled resource facility, so delicate negotiations may be required to secure running rights across, around or if all else fails, under, pristine lawns and award-winning flower beds.

Should you wish to inspect the end result, the local 16mm group would be happy to demonstrate at any one of our regular meetings. Just bring an open mind - we will happily fill it for you!

First published in the magazine of Southport Model Engineering Club.

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