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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have just recieved [I think the ink is still wet] the latest book from the desk of that well-known finescale modeller, and modelling author, Iain Rice.

''Railway Modelling....the realistic way'' is the very latest of many railway modelling books that offer a history, and a 'how to'' of railway modelling.

It is written by a well known finescale modeller...who has penned many ''subject-specific'' books....I'd call them manuals.......on various aspects of our hobby..a broad church at best.

What drew me to buy this particular book...[apart from having a particular penchant for the writings of this some may well have gathered from my sojourn on this forum]........was the fact that the book represents a thoroughly up-to-the-minute view of railway modelling......but not specifically from a beginner's, or RTR enthusiasts viewpoint.

Although I have yet to don slippers, nice toddy, and sit down to read it only arrived this morning, courtesy of Amazon......I suspect Mr Rice has tried to put forward the idea that railway modelling doesn't stop with the Hornby catalogue......or the contents of Railway Modeller.

There seems to be an acknowledgement that the hobby itself has undergone a fundamental change of emphasis in the past 10 years or so.

This I think we all agree with here-in?

With the wealth of accurate[!], super-detailed, exquisitely-running models available from the manufacturers.....[producing items that most of us could never come near to, if we were to scratch-build].....railway modelling has indeed turned a new corner.

Add to that, the availability of superb, finescale permanent way.....even in such hallowed corners as P4.....and what was once the realm of the skilled modelling engineer is now openly accessible to even the humblest beginner with a Hornby trainset in front of as much as, excellent results can be achieved....without having to take a course in using a lathe, for example!

So.....I shall get reading..and see how this latest offering differs from the basic, ''how-to-get-started'' books we are currently familiar with???

Nice hard-back copy, though......nice pix as well.....will report back unless there is an overwhelming vote for me to be silent???

long live the steeplecab?

· Administrator
10,720 Posts
QUOTE will report back unless there is an overwhelming vote for me to be silent???

I for one look forward to hearing your report. So that's 1 - 0!

I have just spent an enjoyable hour or so reading about the new CBUS proposal from MERG. About a week ago I spent a fair bit of time reading about building track and points using tenplot and parts from C & L. That was fun too. I also enjoyed doing the research for the Jubilee review. I think it's the creative aspect of model railways that gives me the buzz. Collecting information or components, making some, acquiring others and putting them together to make something; that's the essence of model railways for me - I think.

Have a good read!


· Registered
2,202 Posts

Railway Modelling - The Realistic way

well....I've had a pleasant evening` without telly and other banal distractions....reading quite a lot of the above book.

so far.............:-the title is:-

RAILWAY MODELLING.. the realistic Rice.

ISBN no. 978 1 84425 359 3

published by Haynes Publishing..[of motor book fame]...jacket price £19.99....but mine was less through Amazon....I had spotted the forthcoming release way back in October, and had ''pre-ordered'.

The book is a 9 1/2" by 7" hardback...a good one inch this is no mere insubstantial manual!

The book runs to 350 pages, including an index and list of other relevant books and websites..[doesn't mention this one, though]

Contained within are lots of photos, colour and B/W......of model and some diagrams, [layout plans/suggestions] also coloured.....

Published December 2007....I don't know what 'lead' time there was...but from reading I suspect at least middle 2007, judging by the information??..[the ''Introduction'' is dated, autumn 2007....]

So as a manual, it's pretty up-to-date....however,in matters like DCC, new models, etc, there is little that can be done, owing to the pace of change within the model railway world.

Iain Rice acknowledges that this book is an update..or 'follow-on' from the older Railway modelling books of Norman Simmons...still available from Amazon, etc.

This is done via the 'Introduction' is a lot of ''pre-empting' of potential critiscm of the book contents..and acknowledgement of other points of the author is being suitably humble about his attribute I notice repeatedly in his writings!

The author also observes that, as time passes, more and more modellers are of an age whereby they would not have ever seen the prototype actually at work.
Therefore, for many, the only glimpse of what went on for real, is via picture, book, or film.
[indeed, the BR blue diesel era is now fast fading from memory??]

Therefore, throughout this book the author tries to show what ACTUALLY went on in the age of steam trains.etc.

Chapter 1 is a substantial, 25 page work covering the historical aspects of our hobby....explaining clearly stuff like WHY we have OO, HO, etc.....historical background which I feel is essential information to a newcomer to this it 'explains' an awful lot of quite a few threads herein attest??

One ''interesting'' observation I noted was the author's conclusion that in fact, MODEL RAILWAYS/TRAINS preceeded the actual prototype!!!!!!!!!

Sorts out the 'chicken and egg'' thing, then?

we were first!

The prototype followed!

Anyhow...I usual.

having established the reasons for the mish-mash of scales, gauges a newcomer , Mr Rice then goes on to chapter 2,covering 'PLANNING A MODEL RAILWAY'.

He points out that there is a huge difference between setting out a 'track plan'....and 'planning a model railway'.

With this in mind, the author leads the reader right through the COMPLETE process, from deciding one wants a model actually being ready to achieve it.

He covers selecting a site..or sites, for one's model......nothing new there, Peco have done so for has everybody else....but the author does hilight a lot of ''considerations' regarding 'site' that generally get 'glossed over' by other books.

Although based on personal experience, the author tries to forewarn of pitfalls which can lead to cessation of interest.

PLUS, he suggests ideas for sites that most others seem to ignore in their generalisation...........albeit, much of hte author's information has been extracted from his previous writings over the past 20 years!....but then, only someone like me would realise that...I have most of his books already!.

His main emphasis for design is to adopt a holistic view of one's project....rather than a specific one...[have I used the right 'word' there?]

so EVERYTHING needs to be considered, planned for.....not just the track.......sometimes its a better idea to consider the scenery first, for example?

This is one of the first 'beginner's 'guides that I have read, which pays a good deal of attention to truly PORTABLE distinct from 'transportable' layouts.......and the author also raises the issue of model railways, with NO fixed those not 'permanently' housed, either in room, shed, or shelf...etc.

In this age of incredibly small living spaces, the idea of a ''no-site' layout must be a good kick-starter?

The author also suggests what I consider a valid, [and novel] idea if space is non-existent.....of building not just one 'no-space' layout.....but several!! could have, to fit within one's dimensional criteria....[and stored in a cupboard when not used, for example..or under the bed??]....several DIFFERENT model railways......of very diferent models/prototypes.

hence perhaps a steam age model...for those nice rtr steamers one collects...then perhaps a European model, perhaps DB or whatever.....or a US -type .....narrow gauge....whatever has taken one's fancy, for protoytpe, AND topic.

To me this idea has the supreme advantage of reducing the likelyhood of the modeller going 'stale'.....which can happen when involved with a larger project?

Pretty near ALL the questions I have read on this forum from beginners, new-comers, etc regarding model railway design, are answered clearly and comprehensively...and this chapter....well worth ploughing through.

Next chapter goes on to recommend minimum tool requirements......pretty much as has been said elsewhere....sorting the site out...and constructing baseboards.
Here Iain Rice diverges from the 'accepted' doctrines regarding baseboard construction......with but a brief overview of the 'normal' recommendations regarding 2 x 1 inch frames, chipboard, etc.....and an observation by a professional boat builder on these ideas.....and leads the reader into 'alternative' suggestions.

All have been aired in the past......but where Mr Rice differs from previous authors of books of this type is that he gives more attention to the non-''conventional'' ideas.........which tend to get 'glossed- over'' in other books.

Needless to say, all his advice has been soundly tested over the past 30 years.

but it differs quite a lot from that usually put forward.

''Presentation'' is also given a lot of page space...important if one has a model that is a bit ''in yer face'' as far as the rest of the family are concerned??

The next chapter covers all its model aspects, as well as prototype....and emphasises many of the complaints seen recently regarding the likes of Peco Streamline, etc....having said that, the author devotes a lot of space to praising Peco, and describing their be fair.
But what the author also INCLUDE ''finescale'' track, and self-build PW.....actually describing what and how to do it..rather than glossing over the idea as being of no real value to a modelling novice.

The chapter on 'electrics' is comprehensive...includes a good deal about DCC.....praises are sung there...and concludes with the idea that DCC is the 'way forward'...but may not be for 'everybody' it really depends on what one wants to do with one's model?....and acknowledges that many may already have long-standing 'commitment' to DC...and the expense of converting may be somewhat of concern.

The author does end by writing that, if one IS starting 'from scratch'..then DCC ought to be the only consideration.

There is an entire chapter on signals, and point control........emphasing the 'real' order of things with train operation.

Much space is devoted to what 'the real thing' did, and why....before going on the advise on how to model..and get working.

The chapter on 'landscaping ' gets a full 30 pages.....ranging in advice, from 'inspiration', season [important]..presentation, again.....very important, since a model railway is also 'theatre??'.....pitfalls to avoid, advice on creating simple, lightweight landforms.....

there is a recent thread on tis forum sharing concerns over the 'scenery' evening with this chapter alone would have dispelled all fears??

Much is made of new scenic products available.

The chapter covering 'structures is well written, and well observed....covering all the various methods of achieving a degree of realism.

Covered are 'new' products like Scaledale, and plaster well as the old faithfulls, like plastic and card.

Motive Power comes interesting 'take' on the subject....and one that I have to admit to advising over the years to newcomers....but can get roundly ignored.

Mr Rice starts off this chapter by asking the question, of what is/are the right locos for the job?

[especially regarding the layout being built?]

Whilst acknowledging the glamour pussies such as the Gresley A4's, Duchesses, Kings, BOB's, etc.....he roundly puts them in their rightful boxes.....right at the end with but a whimper.....leading the reader on to the 'real' workhorses of the railway...and why they were created.

Thus he specifically starts with the 0-6-0 tender loco!.....

this was the most prevalent type in the age of steam.....and the most useful....forming the backbone of railway operations...

In other words, primarily 'general purpose' engines.....being used on all classes of train, from humble freight turns, to express passenger trains.

Built by pretty much every company for these purposes.

0-6-0 tanks [and related beasts] also fall into this category.

How many out there with layouts, started out with an 0-6-0 loco.....?

Or was a Pendolino..or its steam equivalent, the primary motive power sought?

yet going back over the years, the advice from all like Freezer, etc start with a general purpose loco...rather than a glory boy?

Not too many in the current manufacturers' catalogues, I see?

Mr Rice goes on to describe the Mixed Traffic locos...then the specialised locos..which were, relativley, few and far between...such as, the big freight locos, and the top link express passenger locos.

shunters get cover, as do passenger tanks, diesels, electrics and contemporary power....equally in depth.

THEN Mr Rice goes on to the models....describing the various ways of acquiring the necessary power for your layout....RTR various types of kit, etc......and including observations for 'finescale' modelling, etc......advice on building, modifying, etc.

Two chapters on rolling stock...coaches, followed by wagons......both dealing with the prototype first....from way back, to present day....what, AND how it was used, etc...going on to the models..what is available, kits and how best to tackle, etc....and upgrades, advice, running and maintenance.....

Finally a chapter covering operation......what was actually done, through the ages..rules, regualtions...even a good descritiion of how the various forms of shunting were conducted.

I say 'finally'...the book ends wit a 13 page chapter on 'couplings'......obviously linked intrinsically with 'operation'....the author describes the 'history' of the various types of coupling used by modellers, their advantages and drawbacks.

Also, equal space is devoted to the more specialised couplings, designed to try and address the shortcomings of those designs used by the big makers.

I really must find out more about Iain Rice's own, home-made couplers......a tantalysing mention is made, including a picture...I suppose just to show that coupler selection need not be reliant on bank-balance?


well....there is some assumption the reader has some awareness of the characters that made our hobby what it is....with frequent referral to what went on way back in the last century.......whilst I fully appreciate, and understand where the author is coming from.....a much younger newcomer might find this somewhat of a nuisance, daunting..yet another auld fahrt rambling on about the 'good times' etc.

too much use of latin/french decriptive phrases...appreciated by someone like me..but can seem a little pompous to a young reader?

However, excellent emphasis onwhat the real thing actually did and had....which leads the novice modeller nicely into producing models which have realism.....'actual' rather than 'percieved?'

Iain Rice's aim with this book..apart from as laid down in his introduction....seems to focus on showing the beginner how to avoid building a layout which simply resembles a collection of red or blue boxed stock, whose scenery actually loooks the was there before the trains...etc...and where the operation of that stock actually resembles what really went on, instead of a 'parade' of pointless amblings?

Perhaps there is also an attempt to wean the reader away from'credit card' modelling, and into actually doing for oneself, instead?

Incidentally, whilst the advice is aimed at the most popular scale, ie 4mm/foot....much room is devoted to N, and indeed, some to O.......even some to the more specialised scales such as HO, 3mm, 2mm, S, etc.

All in all a good book.

More 'comprehensive' than the current 'how to' books..not that I'm saying they are of little worth..simply that this book plunges into greater depth with the subject...leading the reader into the darkest realms of our hoby, railway modelling.

· Administrator
10,720 Posts
Thanks for posting that Alastair, it sounds like a book well worth its cover price and more if you get it on Amazon


· Premium Member
1,307 Posts
Having a quick glance at it on the weekend at a friends home & now read this report, I too have just ordered from Amazon.
Cost with postage to Australia included just under 22 GBP.

· DT
5,345 Posts
The review is much appreciated. I've added the book to our Resources Page.

There are some other interesting books there and other reviews that the members and guests may find useful - take a look.

I was going to review this Ian Rice book, as I bought it too when it was released, but I must have got sidetracked. A good book with some nice drawings and photos, but I'm not that keen on his style of writing. Old School is the way that I'd describe it.

Another book that I recently picked up is Railway Signalling and Track Plans - a great book for those like me who don't know much about the subject and feel the need to learn about the prototype a little more before adding signals to the home layout.

If anyone would like to add some more book reviews, then please go ahead. They are always welcome.

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2,202 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
QUOTE Another book that I recently picked up is Railway Signalling and Track Plans R.J.Essery?

this too is an excellent reference book....although the 'track plans' bit is a tad misleading.......the plans being, basic, functional track layouts....rather than 'ideas'.... problem I've had with these books is, the depth they need to go into the subject.

To actually make a good fist of the information available, one actually has to embark on an in-depth study of the prototype, and what went on........which these books help one do...but.....I found myself getting sidetracked into prototype operations and the understanding of absorbing subject in its own right......possibly bigger than railway modelling itself......which is the problem.........there is only so much time to do these when does the layout get built?????
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