Sunday, 12 February 2012

Catching out the nit-pickers

I haven't had a jab at model railway enthusiasts for some time, and I know that quite a few of you, the loyal readers, enjoy my pokes at some of the odder people that make this hobby so special, so here goes and I don't even mention armchairs for a change .....

Anyone who takes their trainset out on the road will no doubt get these solitary types that hang around their pride and joy peering over their glasses just a little longer than most. They're easily spotted because they'll tend to dwell on one particular area longer than anyone else, concentrating on something or other which isn't immediately obvious. After 10 minutes or so they'll try to capture your attention, you of course know this and will almost by instinct pretend they're not there by conveniently finding a member of the audience to chat to, or simply disappear off to the fiddle yard murmering something about swapping some trains around.

Like flies to a smelly horse, they don't normally give up and will almost certainly fail to notice the layout owner's body language which says 'go away', 'bog off', or maybe something far too colourful to type here. When they do finally strike like an oversized hungry mosquito on a mission, this will always be when you briefly let the guard down as you nip around the front of the layout to re-attach the drape or deal with a tricky 3 link coupling. Damn and blast!

These are of course the nit-pickers, they're those who have probably never built anything, but purely go to shows to find to their eyes what are errors and failings, then take a great delight in correcting the builder. When they're not at shows they'll be hanging around on internet forums giving 'helpful advice' when they could be doing something more useful like hoovering the carpet or sorting out 'mother's meals on wheels' or counting the sprocket holes on a roll of 35mm film.

My most recent one was at the Guildford show, this one was standard-issue complete with gabardine raincoat and one of those shopping bag/basket things with wheels and a handle, you know the model, the one with go-slower tartan pattern to go with the matching thermos. The subject of his observation was the Simonds Beer hoarding on Combwich, and off he went with the usual nasal diatribe; "Young man, do you know where Simonds Brewery was? It wasn't in the West Country but Reading! This is completely wrong!"

Flies and mosquitoes can be swatted, but slapping a member of the public is likely to involve a night down the local nick, so one has to retaliate verbally with a well rehearsed explanation; "it's based on such an advert that greeted motorists on the A38 as they drove through Bridgwater and underneath the Edington Junction to Bridgwater branch of the old SDJR in the early 1950's". This is of course quite true and for those that have Mac Hawkins' 'Somerset & Dorset Then and Now' book, have a look at page 212 there is the proof. The nit-picker was wrong for a change and hence the reason for this post.

Simonds Brewery, whilst indeed it was in Reading, the period advert proclaimed 'Brewed in the West Country', which with today's heavy advertising regulation would be hard to justify, but I presume in 1950's Britain, things were a little more relaxed, and of course Reading is west of Heathrow which might have been enough for the brewery to get away with such a claim!

So, all you know-alls out there, not everything in this world makes complete sense, you're not an authority on everything, and not everything must be taken too literally. But most importantly, there can be a prototype for almost anything if you look hard enough - which is great for us who actually do some model making. Of course Daily Mail readers/Jeremy Whine viewers will say that I should have an information board on the layout explaining this, but it's far more fun to catch the nit-pickers out this way to their face, even if just to treasure albeit too briefly the disappointment on their faces as they wander off to irritate somebody else.


  1. I don't care how accurate Combwich is, it has atmosphere by the bucketload. It feels like a small branch terminus should and thats all that matters. And it just looks superb.

    I am surprised your visitor, whose name I understand was Mr. Richard Cranium, did not take you to task over the fact that in reality only one or two trains would have probably arrived in such a location in the space of several hours!

  2. Excellent sentiments Chris. We get the 'Didn't you know 47-blah had old green style overhead warning flashes rather than the BR blue style ones.......' a sharp poke in the eye normally suffices!

  3. I just love it Chris...both the modelling and the excellent observations of some of the visiting onlookers!! Bloody funny, yet unfortunately so damn truthful at the same time. I suppose I have a bit of a dark sense of humour, but its those sort of characters at shows that I actually find quite entertaining...they give us something to talk about when the show goes a bit quiet, "Hey, did you hear that guy that came over before..."

    Thanks for the regular updates and entertaining reading.


  4. Once again we nit-pickers have to accept a tirade of abuse from Mr. "it's nearly right so it will do" Nevard! Don't your realise how much time we have to spend memorising books and photos, maps and timetables just to be able to help you make your next model that bit better. Heck, I have to live in a shed now my house is so full of magazines, books, interesting pamphlets, and all sorts of very useful literature and illustrations. It wouldn't be so bad but my mother always hogs the chair, and the chamber pot and I have to sleep in a pile of old sacks. This is OK but I have to wear them the next day. And as for nit picking; let me tell you - what else is a mother to do in the evenings except groom her beloved son's hair? And so far as the shopping trolley is concerned I traded my best and biggest back-pack in against it at the local dump because it got so many complaints at model railway shows! Don't think I'll follow your thread any more; you're so ungrateful! Want a sandwich?

  5. I feel a bit sad for these guys. Why can't they just enjoy the bigger picture? You can imagine them feeling very frustrated with their lives if every little niggle gets them down.

    On the other hand they might just be smug gits who need a well-aimed kick.

  6. anyone would think you do this deliberately Chris ;)

  7. I reserve the phrase, "Thank you for sharing" for comments like these.

  8. Thanks for the fun comments!

    Actually I just had a email (shame they didn't post here instead, but much of it was rather rude) from someone who got right worked up about this and who obviously hadn't read the post fully.

    Moving on; I've covered smelly ones, armchair ones, ones that live with dead mothers in wardrobes. I'm running out of ideas you'll be plased to know (and the rude chap really will be).

  9. Aren't we all nit pickers at heart? It's just our cut off points that differ and if our opinions sit in the middle than those at both extremes will seem a little weird.

  10. @Neil. A moderate must also, therefore, be an extremist; by being opposed to either extreme. Oh er!

  11. Actually if they really had murdered their mothers they would be at least interesting.

  12. I so love how you can see life for what it is.. Your observations as always are excellent

  13. Well done Chris! your blog is certainly one of the most enjoyable i've read - as you always say it how it is... bravo!

  14. You have used the wrong bolts for that sign you used a 32a but infact they should be a 32b mkII as it's post 1950 the 32a was long gone before 1950, yeah we have em here too across the water. It must be a universal given?


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