A Model Citizen

One of my many creative talents, other than writing and talking is modelling – the scale variety, not the catwalk variety.

Although I did do that in high school. Once.

My interest in modelling started off many years ago.

Like generations of kiwi children, I grew up with Toro and Lego blocks, making cars, buildings, planes, trains, space ships and all sorts of things – They were a great introduction to creativity and creation.

But after going to a model show at a local school with my Dad in the 80’s and seeing the dioramas and detail that went into scale models, I was hooked!

Dad had been a bit of a modeller himself in his younger days. But rather than planes or trains, Dad made buildings.
He was so good he made it into Napier’s Daily Telegraph with a model of the city’s new St John’s Cathedral.

He was even offered a job with the Ministry of Works in Wellington making scale models of proposed buildings, bridges and structures, but turned it down.

The first two kits we ever got and made together were a WWII Mk 1 Spitfire and a Cold War Mig-27 Flogger jet fighter.

We put them together in the garage, glued them and even painted the Spitfire. It was a wonderful bonding experience and a cherished memory.

I started making more and more models.

The closest model shop to our house was also a bike shop, so ever since those days a part of me has associated model kits with the smell of rubber (and glue and paint..).

I even won a prize for the Skyhawk diorama I made in a local toy shop’s modelling competition.

The prize? Another model kit!

I believe this was what they called a “gateway drug“…

It was around this time that Japanese model giants, Tamiya were really taking off in New Zealand, especially with their radio controlled cars (the “Lunchbox”, “Bigwig” and “Hotshot” are still my all-time favourites) and 1/35 scale model tanks and soldiers.

These military models became a real interest of mine (what would modelling today be without the rather magnificent engineering and design that was so unfortunately dedicated to the death and destruction of war?) because the size of these 1/35 scale models leant themselves very well to becoming the basis for highly detailed dioramas – little scenes of frozen time, usually in the heat of battle, or sometimes candid moments of rest from the fray.

The (often immense) level of detail involved in making scale model dioramas led nicely into another branch of modelling – TRAINS!

A shot of Mike Danneman’s exquisite N scale Colorado layout.
Made even more amazing by the fact those locomotives are all less than 10cm long, and the entire layout is an L shape measuring only 5’x7′ and 3’wide

In the 90’s I discovered model trains through a cousin who collected HO scale steam locomotives.

In 1992 I found a Model Railroader magazine at the bookshop a couple doors down from the bike shop / model dealer and was henceforth hooked on that too!

Whole basement, nay, HOUSE-SIZED train layouts!

Model diesel locomotives towing dozens of ore car hoppers and log cars!

Railroads weaving over, around and through Colorado mountain ranges, valleys and rivers, shrunken down and represented in miniature, exquisite detail in the space of a six foot by six foot corner layout!

There was only one problem – Model railroading is rather (read “VERY”) expensive, so my tiny train ventures have largely been much smaller and slower, as time and finances permitted, than with the planes and tanks.

I branched out even more, diversifying into making model cars and trucks. When I started working for a forestry company I built a model logging truck!

The problem with using European models to replicate New Zealand logging trucks, is that the original European “rigs” usually only have single steering and driving axles – perfect for the largely flat, straight motorways and Autobahn of Western Europe, while their New Zealand equivalents have to negotiate steep terrain and sharp corners, requiring twin drive and twin steer axles. This meant buying two of the same kitset and “Kitbashing” them – Cutting the front and real axles off one kitset’s chassis and glueing them “seamlessly” onto the front and rear of the other complete chassis, so i wemt from having two kitsets that looked like THIS to one finished model that looked like THIS:

Like many modellers family takes over for a while and while the production line slows or ceases, the kitset collection continues to grow exponentially.

For me that was when our daughter came along and we bought our first home – What little free time I had evaporated for a while.

When I did have time to model I started putting a lot more work, concentration and detail into the models I made. They became specialised projects, like the Valentine tank I built to honour my Dad driving them during his Compulsory Military Training service.

This is a 1/48 scale Valentine tank I built earlier this year.
My Dad drove them as part of his Compulsory Military Training in the 1950’s, so I built it to honour his memory and service.

As our daughter got older it gave me more time to go back into this more detailed modelling.

But before long the pitter-patter of little feet followed me out to the shed to see what I was doing and ask if she could help.

How could I refuse?

Another generation of modeller might just have been created! 🙂

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