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January 2019

First off, may we wish everyone a very happy New Year and hope that the new season is a fruitful one for all concerned? We would further like to pass on our very best wishes to all those who have not been in the best of health in the past year and hope for a full recovery and return to 'active service'. Would be great as well if the weather was a little more cooperative for the scheduled hydro events.

Numerous comments towards the tail end of last year led us back to one of the ‘hobby horses’ that we usually keep stabled. Every so often though, something occurs that requires we let them out for a bit of exercise. This time it was the hoary old chestnut, argued long and loud, that the area of boating this person was active in was declining, almost to the state of extinction. This is a cause for concern in many other modelling disciplines as well, but it is what happens then that can make all the difference. There is of course the ‘Nero’ or I’m all right Jack approach that involves doing precisely nothing, or the alternative, forcibly put to him, that he does something about it. Inevitably there were untold excuses why he could not or would not, it’s a lost cause etc, which will probably result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand we read a very interesting treatise by someone involved in an aeromodelling pursuit that is struggling in a similar way, setting out what might be done.

What this did involve in the first instance though, was a very painful period of discussion as to why the decline was happening, along with a few unfortunate home truths. Firstly and most cruelly, is whether the activity is something of an anachronism nowadays? Is there an attitude of elitism or exclusivity within that particular discipline that deters people? Have the rules allowed development that is now not sustainable in terms of venues, athleticism, or cost? Is the ‘I’m all right Jack’ attitude prevalent in your particular area of modelling? Do you ever stand back and ask basic questions like ‘is this still enjoyable, fun, sociable or attainable? Is the equipment needed available? (At a cost sensible enough not to put off interested parties) There is no doubt that loss of venues and outgrowing existing ones is damaging several areas of model sport, so add in extra travelling time and costs and yes, there are plenty of reasons why certain areas are suffering, but doing nothing is not the answer. It may be quite radical in as much as your discipline needs to change to meet the requirements of venues, size, noise, speed, and safety.

As we have found, a warm welcome and involvement as a newcomer is much more likely to interest you in that activity than being ignored whilst the ‘experts’ get on with it. The enthusiasm and degree of help from those involved also makes a heap of difference. It is no chance that all the activities we have become inextricably involved in started with someone taking the trouble to welcome us, set us on the right road and help us to become established. Conversely where we turned up and were totally ignored we drifted away very quickly. In the same vein, how easy is it to become a participant, get hold of the equipment and get sufficient degree of success to maintain interest? Unlike the days of sheds, workshops and practical skills, expecting a newcomer to build a car, boat or plane from scratch in this modern day and age is no longer realistic, so the availability of useable models is vital. Yes, with experience and facilities people may work towards it, but it will not encourage new entrants, so is it ‘Nero’, or are modellers collectively going to do something pro-active to promote their particular discipline?

A new Album to start the year that looks at some of the less happy moments that are the inevitable price to be paid when racing equipment is pushed that bit too far. We have all experienced the bangs, the tortured sound of shaft runs and the ominous silences that can only lead to a lot of work and a 'wallet lightening' experience. The Photo this month is as interesting for the path it took before arriving with us as the subject.

The 2019 Pitbox begins with one of our frequent email enquiries, have you any idea what this motor, car, boat etc is? Half of it was easy, and half has us flummoxed so again the plea goes out, anyone any ideas?

Many in the model fraternity will be aware of the development of the BMFA centre at Buckminster Lodge. What may not be so well publicised is that there have been plans afoot from the early days to incorporate a track for running vintage and retro tethered cars within one of the control line circles. Steve Betney has been very closely involved with this and has asked us to publish details of progress and the ongoing appeal to raise funds to complete the project, which heads our new Tightlines page.

A project that has never been far from our minds for track days is a steam car. Some while ago, Peter Hill published a photo of a flash steam powered car, which really got the juices flowing, especially when Paul Windross revealed that he had been working on one as well before the hydros took over his life. Too many other diversions and lack of hardware has precluded any further progress, but then from Steve Betney comes the news that he has done just that, and not only a steam powered car, but a beautiful replica of the record breaking Stanley. The joy of reading and publishing the article was tinged with a certain sadness as this lovely car is destined to be a shelf queen and never turn a wheel in anger, Ah well, still time for the 'grand plan'.   

Sometimes we just wonders. In the realms of unrealistic expectations, just how hopeful was the vendor putting an opening price of $77,500 on the Red Dragon twin engine, or have we missed something?

Finally, if you had not worked it out, the hidden word in the Christmas crossword was 'screwdriver'. The only correct answer, apart from ours, but we were disqualified, came from Linda Buonaiuto who wins a ticket to the London Model Engineering Exhibition. Thanks to Norman and Angela for organising this fun diversion.

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