The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 1 (April 1, 1937)
In every advance made by science and invention there must first be imagination to picture in the mind some semblance of the finished product. Following the work of the imagination comes the necessity for its practical application, and it is here that artistic talent is called for—capacity to picture forth so that others may see the thing imagined by the scientist or inventor, the philosopher or poet.
It is in the realm of mechanics that model-making plays its most important part. Doubtless many conceptions have been spoilt, if not utterly ruined, by the short-comings of the model-maker—the lack of ability to produce the thing the mind conceived—but against these defects, inherent in the use of models, must be set uncounted successes where, as the model took shape, new ideas developed from it to improve almost beyond imagination the original idea.
The successful uses to which scale models are put in experimental investigation regarding buildings, power machines and transport units is interestingly told in a recent issue of “The Engineer”; but the use of models extends, of course, far beyond the limitations of mechanics. Sculptors, painters, dress designers take nature's model as a basis for their work. Preachers and teachers point constantly to models of humanity—“Lives of great men all remind us how to make our lives sublime”—that kind of model.
There are model houses, model gardens, model stations which are not “scale” models but places actually in operation which might be used either as something to copy or to improve upon. The railways of this country, for instance, are gaining good reputation for the model gardens to be found associated with some of their stations or workshops. To anyone who has had an opportunity to see the work, and skill in design, and knowledge of growing things which these places reveal, the thought comes that here at last is the best possible use made of the means available for making the desert blossom like the rose. The attitude towards things of this kind may either be “Here's something done. Can you better it?” or “Make yours like this!”
There is no doubt that example is vastly more important than precept, and that to have something to judge by and to work to is the principal aid in human progression.
In the realm of the social sciences the use of models is not so simple, yet even here the experience of history is a useful guide in showing what is worth following and what to avoid.
The principle of the use of models is as old as nature itself, and it is an interesting and valuable study to trace the origin of inventions as well as the origin of species.
For the purposes of everyday life, it is a lesson of experience that most is accomplished when work is arranged according to some model—it may be rough and sketchy, but a model, a “scheme of work,” an agenda, should be there, like the shafts of a cart or the rails of a track, to help direction or point the way to the desired goal.