Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Museum and The Gallery?

I’m a casual reader of the model railroad press; I probably buy around a dozen magazines a year from newsstands. No subscriptions. No clear favourite either. I pick and choose from the available American and British titles on offer. One thing that is clear, there is a high degree of realism in the model work on display in those pages, and it has advanced a long way from what the magazines routinely showed in the 1970s.

The overall impression I get – assuming that the magazines cater to what the market wants – is that there is a strong desire for museum quality models, and layouts that behave, operate, and are representative of real railroads, whether present-day or historical. I know, this should be obvious – it is after all called ‘model railroading’. I’m starting to think of this as the ‘Museum’ school of model railroading.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean this in a derogatory or condescending way. This view has pushed the hobby to much higher degrees of quality and fidelity, and I think it’s also the jumping off point for other approaches. Not to mention that it’s amazing to look at.

From the post’s title you know the other pole I’m thinking about is the ‘Gallery’ school of thought. This one is harder for me to define since there aren’t any long running popular media that I can point to that consistently showcase this view. I use it as a catch-all for a more free form approach. It’s less about research and rivets, and more about expressing personal ideas you as a modeler or model railroader have. It doesn’t jettison the Museum approach, just picks and chooses whatever it needs.

I need to pull together some examples, at the very least, to clarify my own thoughts. The popular magazines show examples from time-to-time, but they don’t identify any of it as something called ‘Gallery’. It’s more seen on the web than in the press, and it’s more prevalent in older, mid-20th century magazines than today’s. Some artists practice an extreme form of Gallery: one that uses the materials of scale model building as art materials, but isn’t too concerned with model building itself as hobbyists are. Gallery is not as dominant as Museum, and it may even be on the decline – hard to tell exactly.

Anyway, these are just ramblings – I need to get back to building No doubt there are as many approaches to model building and model railroading as there are modelers and model railroaders.


  1. Who first sprang to mind was Malcolm Furlow - a 'gallery' modeler if there ever was one. Next I went to one of his inspirations, John Allen, but I hesitated there because he focused not only on the beautiful artistry of modeling (in a fantastic extreme setting) but the realistic operations as well. So I suppose finding pure 'gallery' modelers vs. 'museum' modelers is a real challenge since, as you pointed out, the prevailing trend in publishing for decades has been on the technical and realistic aspects of the hobby. Artistry abounds, no doubt, put pure artists like Furlow are few. That's too bad because his stuff is just plain awesome!

  2. I agree with your thoughts on Malcolm Furlow’s work - I think it’s excellent. John Allen seems to be one of those rare individuals who bridges both schools of thought – well, one might argue that he was the one who created both and excelled at both.

  3. I was going to say Malcolm Furlow too, his work is sublime. I suppose in Britain I would easily choose Illiffe Stokes as a Gallery modeller, and of course John Ahern- but both were accomplished craftsmen in just about every branch of the hobby. You've started me thinking now! :-)

    1. I have to admit I've learned a lot since I wrote that post - especially since I started down the ELM trail. There might be a revision or two in the works once the ELM dust settles :-)