Let's work backwards through time starting with the article in the REVIEW. As you can see from the cover this was a locomotive builders special issue and the editor, Roy C. Link, asked if I could write an article about the Hudson-Hunslet model I built that became the Narrow Planet kit. In a slight departure from other articles I've written this one is essentially a set of photos with extended captions and runs over six pages. It's been beautifully laid out by Roy and I think gives a nice overview of the whole process from initial idea through to the release of the kit. The whole magazine is stuffed full of wonderful modelling (as it always is) and hopefully readers won't think I bring down the tone with my modern 3D printing approach.
Next we have the July issue of Railway Modeller, which included a short item, about a third of a page, on the Lynton and Barnstaple detailing pieces available from Narrow Planet, which includes the chimneys and finials I designed. We had sent the magazine some samples, and while the item was short it was very positive, and probably explains the sudden surge in orders for chimneys I've had to deal with recently.
Which brings us finally to the article in the June issue of British Railway Modelling. The story behind this article goes all the way back to ExpoNG last year when the Hudson-Hunslet kit first went on sale. One of the kits sold on the day (rather than as part of the pre-order) was bough by Ben Jones the editor of British Railway Modelling. I had a really nice chat with Ben and he took a number of photographs of my prototype model (the red one). No promises on an article were made but I made it clear that if he wanted any more information or needed any help with the kit he only had to ask. So when I heard that there was an article on the kit in the June issue I was full of hope. Unfortunately, as I alluded to in a previous post, hope turned to disappointment very very quickly.
Even before I'd managed to get my hands on a copy of the magazine I'd heard rumours that the article was problematic. Unfortunately this proved to be true, but the situation was a lot worse than I feared. In the magazine the article ran over three pages; one page of build photos and captions and then a double page spread mostly taken up with a single large photo and a column of text. Taking a model that is so small and printing a photo across a double page is always going to be rather cruel, but it helps if the model has at least been put together properly. Unfortunately the body and chassis clearly hadn't been fitted together correctly as the axle boxes and axles didn't line up; probably only a mm both vertically and horizontally but when blown up it was glaringly obvious. Plus the locking handles on the bonnet panels hadn't been fitted (even though they were mentioned in the text of the article) leaving odd holes in the model.
The article itself is fairly positive and the build sequence is nice and clear. Unfortunately, Ben admits to having "hit a brick wall" assembling the chassis and having to ask Phil Parker for help, and then states that the supplied figure is "too large for the seat". Yes the driver is a little large but exactly how to make him fit is covered in the instructions, which Ben suggests "reading thoroughly before you start". The issues with the chassis are then covered in a 3 minute video on the accompanying DVD. Essentially once Phil had got it working rather than writing an e-mail he filmed a quick video for Ben never expecting it to be published. Unfortunately it comes across as Phil simply listing things wrong with the kit:
- Mounting pins in the wrong place: no they aren't I'm guessing when Ben added weight to the body he got it in the wrong place so the two halves won't mate properly. An issue highlighted in the instructions and which would explain why the axle boxes and axles don't line up in the photo.
- Replacing the phosphor bronze wire as we only supply a tiny amount: we actually supply three or four times more than necessary so I'm not sure where the extra went.
- That the etched brakes can't be fitted as they would interfere with the pickups: it's clear in the video Phil is trying to fit them to the mounting pins between the wheels not the ones on the corners of the chassis. Again covered clearly in the instructions.
- A general lack of weight: getting weight into such a small model is hard which is why we supply a whitemetal driver figure so it's a shame it wasn't used.
The article raises a wider issue though. Having seen how misleading the article is (in my eyes at least) how can I, or anyone else for that matter, trust any other kit reviews in the magazine? If I'd read the article with no prior knowledge of the kit I'd probably have thought it was badly designed and wouldn't have bought one. Is every other bad kit review I've read similarly misleading? What about good reviews how accurate are they? Of course I'm not talking just about British Railway Modelling here but magazines in general.
I understand from talking this through with some other people that the REVIEW avoids mistakes like this by often running a copy of the article past the kit manufacturer before publication. This probably explains why it's such a well respected magazine. Maybe the main high street magazines should follow suit?