I’ve long been interested in the narrow gauge railways of Wales and in the Ffestiniog in particular. This interest was formed on wet “summer” holidays in Wales. They were wonderful and so is the railway. It is a deeply historical place. Engineering problems of great magnitude were solved there with great ingenuity and skill. It was an honour and a bit of a schoolboy’s dream to visit the famous Boston Lodge works and be allowed to walk around as people worked and to work there yourself for a couple of days.
A trawl through my old box of enamel and button badges that my parents had kept was like an archeological dig into my childhood interests and one which yielded these treasures. Badges of one of the engines that we scanned last week. It feels almost unfathomable in many ways.
Prince and the other England locomotives were old favourites. They had that fascinating quality of looking both old and very industrial but also very modern for their age - you knew that when built they were right at the cutting edge - the old new modernity. At some point in time every piece of history flips over from being the future in its own timeline.
I also liked them as one of my favourite characters in the Railway Stories, the original ones, was based on Prince. I always liked the stories about the small narrow gauge railways best. They were all based loosely on reality, mainly at the Talyllyn Railway. They also didn’t involve the tin pot dictatorship of the Fat Controller which is quite hard to read as an adult to children in this century.
This one, Duke the Lost Engine, was the favourite of my books from my childhood, this almost pristine copy is the one I bought for my boys.
One of my favourite books of my adulthood is Makers by Cory Doctorow. It had such a profound effect on me but I had no idea what to do with it for a long while. It instilled in me the idea that we could all become manufacturers of things. We didn’t need to own factories, we just had to invent things, to make products that others might want. To become, to use a wonderful word from my youth that Kevin Marks reminded me of recently, boffins. (When I was younger I always really wanted to be a boffin. Maybe that’s why I did a chemistry degree - the labcoat came with the course.)
So fast forward a few years from Makers to seeing some 3D prints at a model show and being impressed by their existence but knowing in my heart that they weren’t accurate models of things, they were caricatures and blunt ones at that. Having made very accurate models for a long while I knew that there had to be a better way to do some of this, but also that the route to an accurate end result is accurate data at the start.
The cover of Makers has always fascinated me, the sprues on which pieces of the real world sit have a profound nature to them. That’s what we’re setting out to do with The Flexiscale Company. To record physical things accurately in minute detail and to then split them up and put them on a sprue so that you can put them back together again. Then you can have a real miniature something that either sits on a shelf, or sits on a model railway or maybe you make run on a model railway.
It feels entirely wonderful that, a few years after reading a book which showed me a future I didn’t quite know what to do with, that I’m doing something with its germ of a possibility. Furthermore what we’re now working out piece by piece is allowing me to make the models I dreamed of in my youth.