Sunday, 3 April 2016

Corgi Rail Legends - The Missed Opportunity?

Corgi have a range which is half way between the railway and die-cast market, their Rail Legends range. A range of die-cast model locomotives in, what will be to many, an unusual scale. The range reflects Hornby's main range, clearly sharing research between the two teams - remember that Hornby own Corgi.

I've seen them in various places (the NRM shop has a decent selection of them as some of the range are of locos from the National Collection - I've often looked at them and thought they have potential - someone told me "they're TT you know" and having always thought that 3mm scale is a lovely scale and such a shame it never flourished as it really should have done. I gon to Warley with my good friend james and we both commented a couple of years back, whilst looking at a 'Blue Era' 3mm scale layout, what a nice size it was. It's size when compared with 4mm scale would really give advantages for modelling modern block trains. I also recall a couople of continental TT layouts being on the local exhibtion circuit in the nineties - European and US TT uses a smaller scale of 1:120, rather than the 1:101.6 used with our UK based scale of 3mm:ft. Bear this bit of trivia in mind...

Every so often I trawl through the 3mm Society's website and suppliers like 3mm Scale Model Railways mentally planning layouts as I read! And much like the more niche and specialised scales there are some beautiful modelling to be seen! Two which instantly spring to my mind are Everingham and Masham - they're both North Eastern Railway based so no wonder they appeal to me!

I even have a stock of Kitmaster 'TT-3' Mark 1 coaches in stock which I bought off eBay 'just in case'. It is one of these coaches which lead to this post...

The Corgi Rail Legends version of BR Britania 70013 Oliver Cromwell.

It's a very well proportioned and finished model and represents pretty good value. Twenty years ago we'd have gone mad for RTR which this much seperately applied detail!

My parents bought Thomas a model of 70013 Oliver Cromwell from Corgi's Rail Legends range for Easter. No I'm not sure why either - they never bought me Easter presents! He was quite taken by the model as it's very nicely done - for the price it's pretty good, perfectly proportion and more seperately applied detail than many ready to run locos of not that many years ago! Clearly smaller than the trains he's used to, but not as small as many he's seen at shows (N gauge). So we talked about the size/scale and that lead to me digging out a couple of the Kitmaster coaches, based on having previously been told "they're TT". I was rather surprised to see the coaches towering over the loco. A quick Google revealed Corgi had used a scale of 1:120... Not the British scale, but the continental scale. To me, as a railway modeller, it seemed rather odd. Of course they're really ornaments, aren't they, so to Corgi I guess the scale doesn't matter as long as the end result will be bought by the public. It did however write off my thoughts of using the LNER pacifics they offer as the basis for for an ECML themed layout - a serious thought too at one point!

A bit more digging found this article by Simon Kohler of Hornby. It's bascially about how he thought and considered that Hornby should reintroduce TT as a ready to run scale and range. What an interesting thought - however, there was one section which, to me, is one of the most arrogant pieces I've read concerning the model railway trade.

"I suppose the most radical decision I made when putting my initial thoughts together was to scale the UK ‘TT’ to match that of the European ‘TT’ which is 1:120. The old Tri-ang ‘TT’ was scaled to 3mm:1ft which equated to something like 1:101.6. according to Wikipedia. For me it was time for the days of UK bastard scales to come to an end and although I may not be keen on losing the UK£ to the €uro I had no such qualms over the new UK ‘TT’ being compatible with the rest of Europe even though it may not have suited everyone."

For 'radical' I think 'arrogant' is more appropriate. And saying "according to Wikipedia" does not really give you much confidence in his background knowledge of the hobby. And it seems a very sad "I am Hornby - you will do as I say" attitude. And why would UK TT need to be compatible with European TT? How often would he think that an A4 would be seen alongside German electrics? If someone decides to run their layout so, I would suggest that the mixing of scales bothers them very litte - they're just doing their own thing!

It also shows a horrible either disregard or complete ignorance of the 3mm Scale Society who have done an awful lot to maintain and support the scale nearly fifty years. Although the society, as with many other specialist scale societies, is not huge, it is worth noting that these societies and their members are very vocal when it comes to promoting their scale and activities. So, you have a captive audience who would be, I think, supportive of new generation RTR products in their chosen scale. Then there would be scope for articles in the mainstream and finescale model railway press too. And I always thought Mr Kolher was comercially savvy?

So maybe there is a connection between this and Corgi's choice of 1:120 for their Rail Legends series? We'll never know, but isn't it a shame they didn't choose our traditional and much loved 3mm scale?


  1. Nothing at all stopping Mr Kohler doing 3mm but 14.2mm gauge of course...

  2. Matching uk TT to European TT makes a lot of sense to me. But then I tend to think everything starts with the track rather than the trains.

    1. I get what you mean about starting with the track, but it was the attitude which really seemed poor.

      Where you have a well established, albeit niche, scale it would seem a foolish move to go against it. While the market from the exisiting modellers in the scale maybe small, the positive PR and magazine/blog coverage would be very good for any company. I can't imagine Bachmann displaying the same sort of arrogance.

    2. I would imagine thier conclusion would be the same, perhaps with a slightly different route to it. A large industry can't really afford to place any reliance on a small selection of cottage industries even if the end result would be better. Siding with an existing industry (even if it's a different countries prototype) makes a lot more commercial sense.

    3. In this case, I'm not sure it does - there's not really much scope for mixing European and British in general. But drawing conclusions in one thing, but the attitude of Kolher is what stands out.

      If there's a market within the wider hobby, most won't care with it's 1/120th or 1/100th scale, so with that in mind why not make the most of the support which exists for the scale Hornby themselves (in Tri-ang days) gave to the hobby?

      There's also an argument that the continental scale is probably too close to N gauge's scale of 1/148. With the smaller mainstream equibvalents of H0 and N in Europe it fits as a more 'inbetween' scale than 1/120th would in the UK. 3mm scale fits nearly perfectly half way between 4mm scale and N.

      The inaccuracy of the gauge still remains as issue of course - either for new ventures or existing 3mm scale modelling.

    4. I dunno, track, buildings, road vehicles etc etc. It's makes a lot of commercial sense to me and in the same position it's what I'd do, but then I've always viewed the trains as just a part of the scene rather than in isolation.

  3. Some years ago an editorial in the US 'Model Railroader' had a throw away comment that if the editor was starting the hobby from scratch he would choose TT and S as the main scales/gauges for development. He didn't provide his reasoning, but I've often pondered this, as for the quart that I'm trying to squeeze into my pint sized loft, I think TT or TT-3 would work well.

  4. I occasionally ponder how nice it would have been for the uk to have stayed imperial when it comes to modelling scales. 1/4", 3/16" and in particular 1/8" would all have a little something over what we've got now. The demise of RTR 3mm scale was a real shame. It is such a nice size. If it had continued and there was more support for it I might well have been been modelling in 3mmm scale now.

    1. The one advantage of a scale that has relatively little trade support is that it can provide a platform for some really innovative and a high standard of modelling. I personally think John Sutton's Southwell is one of the finest layouts of the last thirty years.

      The S Scale Society similarly produce some wonderful results - the size of 3/16" scale is very pleasing. Just as with 3mm scale, I would like to have a go with S but it takes me an age to produce results in P4 where we enjoy some amazing and very innovative trade support so I dread to think how long it would take me in a scale and standard such as 'S'!

  5. While I have a lot of love and respect for folk who model in 3mm scale (John Sutton was a former teacher of mine!), as a European modeller, I have to agree with Simon K.
    2.5mm TT scale has a considerable amount of commercial support in Europe and I feel that any resurgence of interest in this scale in Britain should be compatible with it.
    Cheers from Greece, John E.

  6. I wonder if, had Hornby actually have gone ahead and produced items in British 3mm scale, there would have been a market for it in the way that when a new road is built, it fills up to capacity fairly quickly. I feel sure that there would be at least a reasonable market for the British scale...I am old enough to remember the days of Triang "TT" and how popular it was, but of course, there wasn't a worldwide market- perhaps it is better if the scale stays in a finescale "ghetto" where the lack of trade supposrt is part of the charm. I guess mass consumerism requires huge amounts of numbers shifting boxes off shelves...I'll stay in the ghetto, then. A good, thought-provoking poost, by the way!

    1. apologies for the spelling mistakes :-(

  7. I can see the logic of going with the continental scale also. Whilst there might be little in common in the era that loco is from, the closer you get to the present the more crossover there is, and the more synergy between markets. You can see that if you look at OO and HO.

    Just off the top of my head, in HO there is a really nice Tiphook ferryvan which can't be used in OO, and separate models of the class 66 and AAE Megafret have had to be tooled to suit both markets.

    In OO we have a nice Multifret, Cargowaggon & flat, polybulks, car carriers, class 92 and so on (without mentioning all the "domestic" British loco's that have been exported over the years!) that are no use for HO modellers.

    And would we have had a proper RTR model of a Eurostar if the same model could have been sold in multiple markets?

    That's before you get to things like containers, vehicles, scenery bits, parts (how many domestic wagons run on Y25s!)...

    With Hornby and Bachmann both having mainland European ranges, the opportunity to be compatible and share at least some tooling is pretty compelling.

    It might not make a lot of difference if you're modelling a 1950s BLT, but in other places, it might make an awful lot!

    1. Thanks for your common sense reply, buddy!