Why build kits?


People new, or perhaps returning to railway modelling after a long break, could almost be forgiven for thinking that kit-building is old-hat, outdated, a waste of time, unnecessary even.

Modellers in the second decade of the 21st century have an astonishing amount of top-rate, ready-to-run (or plant) items at their disposal. Not only in rolling stock, but in scenic items, buildings, road vehicles etc. In the last ten years, the quality of proprietary models available to the railway modeller, has improved beyond all recognition compared to what was around only a short time ago. And it is true to say that a model railway of a high standard, could quite easily be built using off-the-shelf components.

However, human nature being what it is, most of us will always have that little nagging voice in the back of our minds wanting something different - unique even. A voice that perhaps asks "why does my railway look like everyone else's?", or "why don't they make a model of that loco I remember as a child?".

The first step to a more individual layout could be simply renaming, or renumbering proprietary models, and there are a number of firms selling etched name and number plates, or re-numbering transfers, to allow the modeller to do just that. Then there is the possibility of re-painting a model, to cater for a livery that perhaps is not available from the manufacturers.

But to cater for that real spark of individuality often yearned for, there is nothing quite like having a model that one's neighbour, friend, or fellow club member does not have, to make a chap's layout stand out from the crowd. I suppose the ultimate in "oneupmanship", is to identify the desired loco, coach or whatever, spend weeks (or even possibly months!) doing research, finding drawings and photographs from which to work, and then fashioning the finished masterpiece out of sheet material, to the eternal amazement of allcomers! However, 99 times out of 100, for one reason or another, this "ultimate in railway modelling oneupmanship" is simply not attainable, and like most things in life, a certain amount of compromise is normally called for. But don't despair, there is a band of intrepid enthusiasts around who have done most of the hard work for you - they manufacture kits that you simply glue or solder together, and then paint, to produce that all-important individual model.

The ready-to-run market can never, ever, supply everything, that everyone wants - it's impossible. If you added up all of the locomotives for instance, available ready-to-run today, there would be twenty times (or probably greater) those examples not catered for. Did you know that at Nationalisation in 1948, British Railways inherited 20,000 steam locomotives of 2,000 different designs! Then they built some of their own, and all this before the diesel era started properly! This statement also goes for coaches, wagons, road vehicles, station buildings, goods sheds, signal boxes etc etc etc (not to mention things outside the railway fence!). Kit manufacturers may not cover the whole of this shortfall, again it's impossible, but they do go a long way to filling the void, and this all goes towards making our layouts look more individual - our own creations.

Another thing - it's up to us railway modellers (me included), to support these often "cottage industry" kit producers - they are enthusiasts too, doing their best to make a living, trying to give us what we want. However, the constant onslaught of top-quality ready-to-run models - normally cherry picking the kit producers designs with the greatest profit potential, has put these producers in financial danger, and if we don't use their products, they will disappear from the scene, and the model railway hobby as a whole will be the poorer for it - then everyone's layout will look like everyone else's! So come on, get out there and buy a kit, and discover just how much satisfaction can be had by building your own models.


Happy Modelling.


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