Colin Binnie 1933-2008 - A Fine Craftsman and a Good Friend

What can I say about Colin Binnie? Where do I start?


Firstly, he was a friend. Liz and I loved Colin and Marjorie’s company. Their hospitality and kindness and their not-so-subtly camouflaged love for each other made a visit to their Open Days a delight, even before we met the trains. Even at a distance, Colin’s wit and knowledge made the 16mm modellers e-group a place of enjoyment and enlightenment.


We were both gutted to hear the news of Marjorie’s death and are now, so soon after, are trying to come to terms with Colin’s.


Secondly, Colin was an exceptional modeller. He was there at the start of 16mm scale, with the Merioneth Society. His models were a triumph of both technical skill and inspired whimsy in the best tradition of the hobby, none more so than Lord Baggins’ Conveyance. His skill and humour were a welcome antidote to those who took  themselves and their modelling far too seriously – Colin was always aware that we were ‘playing trains’.


In particular, his ‘droodles’ combined superb draughtsmanship with a wit that was wicked but never malicious. I should know, having been on the receiving end often enough.


Thirdly, Colin was an inspiration and a teacher to those starting off in 16mm modelling. A skilled model engineer himself, he was always appreciative of beginners’ efforts, while encouraging them to go that one step further. What little bodgelling ability I possess owes more to Colin's help and encouragement than to any other source. Many others, most of them much younger than I, can say the same.


Did I mention his generosity? You always had to be careful not to admire any work of Colin’s too much, or he was liable to thrust it upon you.


My recent series in Garden Rail, ‘Bodgelling for Beginners’ was dedicated to Colin and was intended to encourage beginners to take that first hesitant step into modelling, as Colin always did.


It included one of the last pieces Colin Binnie wrote, which outlined his view of things and shows that he was as skilled with words as with lathe or drawing pen. I quote them here as an epitaph for a man whom we will miss more than we can say.


Just a few personal musings on Skills for 16mm.


The only way to learn is to pick up the tools and do the job. Ask advice then learn by your mistakes. The one you regard as an expert has simply made more mistakes than you have. (Or has a better line of Bull****).

If you aren't satisfied with the result, do it again.


Start with something simple and inexpensive and work up. Few have the natural aptitude to tackle a scratch built Garratt as a first model.


16mm modelling covers such a wide range of techniques that one can never get bored especially if one deliberately chooses to model an item offering a new challenge. (I deliberately discarded my collection of transfers to force myself to learn miniature signwriting and lettering and persisted until I was comfortable with it!)


One does not need formal training or a degree to model in 16mm. Grab a scalpel and start cutting card: you will soon discover which end of the scalpel is sharp. Grab a soldering iron, flux, solder and some small scraps of metal or paper clips and you will learn more about soldering and its limitations in the first half hour than any written instruction can teach you. (You will also discover which is the hot end)


Basic metalwork is all that is necessary to build a loco. Choosing and forcing metal into ever more complex shapes is all that it is about. If you get into difficulty ask the group but remember that the replies are opinions based on the writers own set of mistakes. Just get the result tested before you steam it!


Above all have a go. Do not ever say I cannot do that! If one man can make it so can you but the skills are not inborn they must be learnt; by mistakes and persistence.


Amen to that, says I. We’ll miss you, Colin.