Monday, September 01, 2014

Pendon Museum

Pendon Museum
     Most railway modellers and many model railroaders know of Pendon, the vision of Roye England, an Australian who came to England in 1924 and was appalled at the modernisation of the countryside. He conceived of a museum that would show rural England of the 1930s in model form. He chose the Vale of the White Horse as his inspiration. The models would be of actual buildings, and the landscape would recreate typical views and villages, with scenes showing the daily lives of the inhabitants. The result is a wonderful layout on two levels, with just enough railway traffic to keep the railway modellers interested, and more than enough models of buildings, fields, road junctions, village greens, ponds, bridges and trees, as well as dozens of figures and vehicles, to please anyone who like to see miniatures. For some reason, that includes almost all of humankind.
     In other words, this is not simply a model railway. It’s a carefully imagined and constructed vision of England in the 1930s.  Th trains are authentic. The slate-layer repairing a roof, the hay wagon, the kitchen garden, the village pump, the bus stopping at a road junction, the oldsters sitting outside a pub, these and many other details tell the story of a time past. Many of the models (and the field notes about the prototypes) form a valuable historical record, an aspect of the layout that may not be fully appreciated by many visitors.
     England’s vision of accurate models of existing buildings and accurate impressions of typical landscapes necessitated new modelling techniques and materials. Many of the modellers who helped him build Pendon wrote articles which have influenced and improved modelling of all kinds. More importantly, Pendon raised expectations, so that commercial railway models these days are built to a far higher standard of accuracy and precision than 80 years ago.
     If anything, there is too much to see. Pendon requires several visits, the first two or three to get a good overall sense of the landscape, and subsequent ones to study the models and scenes. I’ve seen it three times now, and recall earlier versions when the upper vale scene consisted mostly of bare plywood with a few village scenes here and there. I hope I’ll get to see it again in a couple or three years. Highly recommended, especially for anyone who likes history. ****

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