Viewpoint – August 2019

I was reminded last week just how generous the modelling fraternity can be. I have been working on a conversion project for a few weeks and had reached the point where I had to make a decision. I needed some replacement tracks and whilst I could go down the aftermarket route, I needed more links than are provided in the available sets and besides, the track I needed wasn’t meant to be used on the vehicle I want to put it on. Let me explain…

My current project is a post-war Charioteer, itself a conversion of the Cromwell tank, fitted with a bigger turret and a 20 pounder gun (intended for the Centurion). It was a poor design, a stop-gap that lasted in British service for a handful of years in the 1950s, but went on to serve with several other nations well into the 1980s.

One of the features of the Charioteer  is that it was fitted with a wider track (15.5 inches rather than 14 inches). You can’t get aftermarket versions of the later tracks, but you can get something very close. By strange coincidence, German Pz III and Pz IV track is an extremely close match for the British 15.5 inch track. The ‘pitch’ (the front to rear measurement of the link) is slightly larger than the British track so you have to strip off the drive sprocket teeth where the track sits to make it fit snugly, but other than that, the change is an easy one to make.

The thing is, I didn’t want to purchase a another model just to strip the tracks off the sprues and have a wasted kit. The only way to ensure you have enough track length is to use the strips of spare links provided on the sprues, something you don’t get in the aftermarket sets. The other issue is that I detest individual link track with a passion. I’ll use it occasionally but much prefer link and length or even (sacrilege I know) flexible band tracks if they have good detail.

Before taking the plunge and ordering a kit I thought I’d ask on one of the online modelling groups I  belong to, if anyone had a spare set of tracks that they would be willing to exchange or that I could purchase – my thought was that many modellers would choose to replace the kit tracks with aftermarket items and therefore would not have used the kit parts. Within less than an hour I’d had several responses from modellers in different parts of the world, all offering to help out.

Perhaps it helped in part that I regularly post images of my projects as they progress and after they are finished, but it is in large part simply because I am part of their community. I’ve commented many times before about getting involved in local clubs or online groups as a means of developing your skills and broadening your knowledge, but I really believe that doing this has made me a far better modeller. I also think it has given me a much better understanding of the hobby as a whole.

I would be the first to admit that not every group I’ve joined has suited my temperament, but rather than be disheartened I’ve looked elsewhere and found groups that suit me better. In terms of my local club and indeed the wider IPMS community, I was fortunate to find groups that I felt immediately at home in, but I know that any given group will not suit every modeller who turns up.

I joined a couple of model clubs that meet much further away from where I live. I still meet up with them at shows and keep in contact via email, but time and distance means that I can no longer easily get to their regular meetings.  Some of it is also about me getting older. Twenty years ago I would not think twice about going to a club night that required an hour or two each way in the car and a late night (or early morning) return home. Now, with other priorities calling on my time and maybe less stamina too, I find it more difficult to justify those multiple late nights (often on a weekday) each month.

The internet means I can keep in touch with people more easily but I still crave the face to face interaction that clubs and shows give me. Therefore I have found a balance that offers the advantages of both. Many of the clubs I belong to have a social media presence these days so I can remain a ‘virtual’ member of the clubs I don’t visit as frequently.

The generosity of spirit within all those groups is often inspiring. There is support, advice, knowledge and as I was reminded last week, a willingness to share and exchange items to help a fellow modeller. My replacement tracks should be with me by the time you read this column and I might even have finished the Charioteer.