Avoiding the cliché

by Mikkel Kjartan

No railway in Britain has been modelled as much as the GWR, and no particular theme has been modelled more than the GWR branchline. Countless are the numbers of 14xx locos that have trundled their way through modelling magazines, across exhibition halls and around club-rooms.

While this is good in many ways, it also presents a problem for the GWR modeller: Our models risk becoming nothing but clichés – charmless reproductions of what others have built or bought a thousand times before. If you are content with that, no problem – it is your choice. However, there are several good reasons why we as modellers should make an effort to avoid the GWR cliche.

For one thing, historical facts tend to become 'corrupted' if we uncritically copy others, rather than research things ourselves. Moreover, our layouts may loose the atmosphere and "personality" that forms an important ingredient of any good model and layout. And finally, we may in the long run experience less personal satisfaction if our modelling does not reflect individual choices and interpretations.

To make a GWR layout that is just that little bit different from all the others is really not that hard. There are many variables that can be changed or tweaked a little, and you don't need to be an elite modeller to do it. All it takes is a bit of dedication and a little research.

The table below briefly outlines examples of how various variables can be worked on to come up with something a little different from the GWR cliché. Some of the examples given do require kit-building of stock to varying degrees (i.e. 6, 9, 10, 11 & 12), while the rest should be possible with RTR items. It must be emphasized that these are examples only, and that such tables tend to have their own inherent generalizations and clichés!

No. Variable Example Keywords
1 Period Wartime Austerity locos; austerity liveries; troop trains; armour trains; grimy buildings; blackout curtains; dark clouds; dark days.

2 Period Edwardian Victorian locos; Churchward locos; short trains; mixed rakes; magnificent liveries; polished domes. A time that was.
More on this.

3 Location Welsh
Branches
Rural outposts; 0-6-2T locos; mining communities; bleak architecture; rough terrain; declining lines.
More on this.

4 Location Suburban/
Urban
Urban communities; brick walling; frequent services; compressed trackplans; raised track; fast tank locos; fixed short-coupled rakes; workmans trains.

5 Ownership Operated
lines
Independent and distinctive architecture; non-standard signs and colours; downgraded and ancient GWR locos and stock; GWR – yet not GWR.
Example: The DN&SR

6 Ownership Constituent
companies
Not really GWR – but same region and potential for dual period operation i.e. pre- and post-grouping. Wide scope here: rarely modelled stock, architecture, and line histories. Explore new horizons while remaining faithful to the GWR!
Example: The Taff Vale Railway

7 Operation Goods only
branch
Workmanlike trains; functional goods facilities; no-nonsense operation. Run-down, ex-passenger branch? Or maybe china clay in Cornwall.

8 Operation Lineside
industry
Shunting galore! Lots of brick; grimy warehouses; workshops; kick-back sidings; gates across the rails. Small saddle tanks; specialized rolling stock; wagons everywhere.

9 Stock Oddities One-off locos and coaches simply ooze character. Many were inherited from absorbed light railways, giving historical scope. Or make up your own!

10 Stock Swindonized
locos
Belpaire fireboxes and coned boilers on non-standard stock. Ex-Welsh Valleys locos, maybe, or how about austerity locos in GWR guise?

11 Gauge Broad
Gauge
Brunels great way; branch or mainline; Broad gauge only, or mixed track. Or alternatively: ex-Broad Gauge with remaining baulk road track.

12 Gauge Narrow
Gauge
Possibly a cliché in themselves, but much scope for distinctive and characterful GWR modelling here.