should we be concerned with propriety in the model railway world?

I have been called many things but never Mary Whitehouse; that is until now!

Granted, railway modelling is mostly the preserve of men. There are of course, some significant lady railway modellers but they are as rare as hens teeth. There are also many young people who follow the hobby and aspire to building their own layouts. In many cases, this interest starts very young, often after their Dad has bought them a train set (for himself)!

The image of railway modellers is perhaps not the 'coolest' around and accusations of 'playing with his train set' are often not far from the lips of adjacent females. It is probably not too unfair, as for many of us, model trains are an aspect of our childhood that has never deserted us.

This, however, is no excuse for a number of grown up men to propagate infantile smut within their models which can easily cause offence and bring the hobby into disrepute.

When folks are killed by guns, many blame the manufacturers of guns. The firearm lobby, of course, respond by saying that guns do not kill people, other people pull the trigger. The same could be said of manufactures of 'lewd' miniature people.

Sadly, the gun lobby argument does not really work here. The very fact that otherwise reputable manufacturers produce these artefacts gives legitimacy to some who lack sufficient maturity to understand that such items are not appropriate for model railways being displayed in public. The last phrase is the clincher here: 'displayed in public'.

If one wishes to build a model railway around a Satanist orgy one is entirely free to do so in one's own home!

So firstly, let us show two manufacturers of such artefacts as examples:

1.    This company produces a range of 'sexy figures'.


This is described as an animated novelty for adult modellers. (building not included)

I first came across this trend at Warley, where a well known narrow gauge layout had the animated figures 'horizontally jogging' in a house. They were only visible once a light was switched on. The owner of the layout, rather like a small boy showing his mates a photo of a nude woman, was switching on the light for visitors and hoping for a cheap laugh. Sadly, on two occasions I watched this being done when children were also watching. Since that time I have noted that some other layout owners are doing the same.

Now this brings me on to a thread in a popular model railway forum; a forum for railway modellers which is viewed by many people of differing cultures and age groups; the RM Web This forum does not describe itself as having content of an adult nature and will therefore slip through parental filters. Forums require constant monitoring by the moderators to ensure that content, supplied by its members are appropriate. Of course, some bad content will be posted but it is the responsibility of the moderators to remove it once they have been alerted.

The incident in question was brought to my notice by an angry mother. The model included an enormous phallus and a well modelled stream of 'liquid' emanating from it. The describing text leaves no doubt as to the intention of this model;  "I have always populated the bogs on my layouts and I am now taking the finescale tag to the extreme. The figure is a Monty's Model signalman with token. The token has been truncated and his arm bent to the required position. As you can see, using the token has resulted in an appendage that's going to make the girls eyes water a bit."

click on image to enlarge

The builder and author of this abomination at that time had a forum signature stating; "Make poverty history - cheaper drugs and beer". Andy Cooper is the erstwhile exhibition manager of the Manchester model railway exhibition. Small wonder that Wigan has now eclipsed the Manchester show.

So there it is, I am the new Mary Whitehouse, it would seem! Am I personally offended? Well actually no, I just see it as juvenile behaviour and ignore such things with the disdain they deserve. I do strongly believe however, that we should maintain certain standards when publishing and exhibiting and this is actually the issue. The hobby should never play a role in the sexualisation of children either in fora or exhibitions.

In the light of the recent Jimmy Saville revelations, the issue is more pertinent than ever.

Railway modelling is a broad church and is enjoyed by folks of both genders, many cultures and a huge age range. Personally, I would hate to think that such behaviour becomes commonplace in our hopefully INCLUSIVE hobby and I trust that most will agree.