THE CJM REVOLUTIONGwen-ad
In September, Chris Marchant, who played a vital role in raising standards of ready-to-run ‘N’ gauge models, died. MARK CHIVERS meets with BEN ANDO who recalls Chris’ immense and ground breaking contribution to railway modelling.
Chris Marchant founded CJM Models (CJM) in 1987, long before the highly-detailed ‘N’ gauge models that we now take for granted.
At the time, detailing was fairly (often very) basic with little competition in the marketplace and, frustrated with the quality of ‘off-the-shelf’ products, Chris set about producing high quality repaints and hand-assembled, detailed models of his own.
Initially, Chris’ new company was based in his garage and comprised a selection of repainted Graham Farish ‘N’ gauge models which he sold through his local model shop in Kent. These proved popular with like-minded modellers who snapped them up – and so began the process of improving ‘N’ gauge standards for ready-to-run. As the business developed, Chris moved to new premises in the early 1990s and, together with long-time collaborator Bernard Taylor of Taylor Precision Models, began expanding his own bespoke range of ready-to-run ‘N’ gauge models with cast resin body shells, etched brass detailing and metal parts, creating a niche for high quality, low-volume, hand-assembled and decorated ready-to-run locomotives.
The new range opened with an exquisite ‘N’ gauge ready-to-run Class 73 electro-diesel locomotive, which allied to its detailed bodyshell also incorporated a high specification American chassis, with five-pole motor and twin flywheels. It was light years away from the ready-to-run models of the era and showed just how good ’N’ gauge models could be. This was in the early 1990s -a point where standards in ’OO’ gauge really began their inexorable improvement.
SPARKS OF CHANGE
Another development, this time on the fullsize railway, helped set the course for future models when Eurotunnel – operator of the Channel Tunnel – was looking to showcase its operations with models of typical motive power and rolling stock, including British Rail’s Class 92 dual-voltage electric locomotives, together with its own ‘Le Shuttle’ locomotives, passenger and freight rolling stock, which ran between the company’s terminals at Cheriton, near Folkestone, and Coquelles, near Calais, via the tunnel.
The tough specification required models to cover around 22 actual miles a week on a new permanent ‘N’ gauge exhibition layout at the Eurotunnel Exhibition Centre at Cheriton, with locomotives hauling scale length train formations. During discussions it was clear that there was nothing suitable ‘off-the-shelf’, so Chris worked on a revolutionary new chassis that would withstand the rigours of constant use as well as sufficient parts to produce accurate models of the motive power and rolling stock.
The all-new heavy, twin-flywheel chassis – which he named Saturn because it ‘ran rings’ around other chassis available at the time – was powerful, reliable and more than capable of handling the scale length trains and formed the basis of further models in the CJM range. Tests showed the new chassis could haul a 2kg weight up scale gradients with ease.
These developments enabled CJM to develop its own range of ‘N’ gauge locomotives, based on the new chassis, with the Class 92 being offered for general sale, as were kits of the ‘Le Shuttle’ models.
Some Class 92 kits were initially sold, but Chris quickly moved away from these to concentrate on fully-finished ready-to-run items. These were produced in small batches to a high quality and proved very popular with modellers wishing to reflect the contemporary rail scene at the time.
Further locomotives included the Class 89 Co-Co electric, together with classes 50, 56, 58, 59, 66, 67 and more. Indeed, the expanded range of locomotives also included a small selection of rolling stock, including a Gatwick Luggage Van (GLV) to accompany the Class 73.
Chris continued to work closely with Bernard Taylor on projects. Revolution Trains’ Ben Ando –a long-time friend and colleague – recalls: “it is quite possible ‘N’ gauge might not have been as successful without their involvement”. Their remit was clear – to offer a high quality product for those who wanted and could afford them.
Of course, these handmade models came at a price, but it didn’t deter customers due to the high-quality finish and their reliability over the other options of the time. As Ben points out: “CJM set the benchmark for what was possible in modern image ‘N’ gauge, at a time when rivals were still running dated drive systems and unrealistic, shiny wheels.”
Ben continues: ”Chris was a visionary and saw the way forward for ‘N’ gauge. He was also happy to share. One example was when I visited Chris for an airbrushing tutorial, where he sold me an airbrush and showed me how to use it. Indeed, when setting up Revolution Trains, Chris offered invaluable advice and was really clear on who the company should work with and the specification to follow.” Ben believes that Chris’ seal of approval helped them develop and deliver their plans – and they may not have been as successful as they have become without it.
Chris was a diesel modeller at heart and was never really interested in steam locomotives (a shame as given the quality of the diesel models, it’s a fascinating thought to imagine just how much of an improvement a CJM steam model might have been over what was in the market at the time). His main focus was motive power, although some wagons did appear in the CJM range and he continued to fly the flag for quality ‘N’ gauge before Bachmann got stuck into improving the products of its newly-acquired Graham Farish collection in the early 2000s and Dapol announcing its new ‘N’ gauge range in 2003.
It should also be remembered that CJM introduced the first ready-to-run ‘N’ gauge Class 66, which featured a Streamline chassis with impressive running characteristics and remained the only ready-to-run option for several years. It may have lacked directional lighting, but certainly looked the part.
With a desire to add further high quality ‘N’ gauge wagons to the market, Chris teamed up with Ben Ando and Bernard Taylor under the ATM brand initially, which included the limited edition ‘N’ gauge five-car Arbel Fauvet WIA car carrier sets. The models comprised resin bodies and etched metal detailing. However, Chris subsequently decided to pull out of the arrangement to concentrate and focus on his locomotive production.
Chris was always conscious that he didn’t want to be a big business. He could have worked with other companies, but only really trusted himself and was happier producing eight to ten highquality locomotives a month, boxing them up and sending them to customers – repeating the same process the following month.
During the mid-2000s Chris considered winding CJM down, with thoughts of eventually retiring, although he continued to work on models until his health declined in recent years.
Chris’ influence in the ‘N’ gauge market cannot be underestimated – as Ben says: “he was an influencer in the days before ‘influencers’!”. He will be sadly missed, but his legacy is immense – not just in the models he produced but in driving manufacturers to create the superb models we take for granted in ‘N’ gauge today. HM
Content Source: https://www.keymodelworld.com/article/cjm-models-story