Sunday, June 25, 2017

Warminster 2017

According to MRJ, "The emphasis of the show is very much on modelling and the creative side of the hobby, and layouts, traders and demonstrators has been selected with that in mind"

I thought it sounded a bit pretentious.

By Railex, there seemed to be a lot of interest with organisers starting to get concerned the numbers through the door might be several times the 350 they hoped for. Shades of the old MRJ show with a queue around the block maybe with unhappy punters stewing in their tweed.

Arun Quay layout view

The big draw was to be the first showing of Arun Quay, Gordon and Maggie Gravett's follow up to the excellent Pempoul and the latest in a series of high-quality models railways. We'd seen a few photos in print and now it was time to see the real thing in the plaster.

We weren't disappointed. While a very modest size, the quality of workmanship is superb and more importantly, the atmosphere is spot on. A way of being completely finished, we were able to marvel at the lovely buildings and scenery. I'd love to be able to sculpt walls as good as these. Maybe one day, with a lot of practise, I will.

Arun Quay boilerhouse

All this fuss of course, could have overshadowed the other models on show. Warminster is basically a very high quality small-town show. I mean this in the nicest sense - everyone was very friendly and chatty for a start. I talked to most of the layout builders and came away with some inspirational ideas for a start. Things to try in the future.

Just as importantly, there was cake and lots of it. Thanks to sharing a car park with Morrison's, there was no need to cater for meals, just refreshments. That's good as the hall isn't huge and loads of modellers sitting around chomping would have cramped the layout space. I can report that both carrot and chocolate cake were as high a quality as the layouts on display.

Cake selection

Weirdly, on returning from lunch, the numbers in the hall had grown rather than thinned as normally happens. This was a bit of a nuisance as my father and I had been banking on this to give us space to get to some of the exhibits.

Fortunately, the predicted numbers didn't arrive. I'd guess the figure was closer to the organisers hopes. It was generally easy to walk around and despite temperatures approaching 30 degrees, not unpleasant thanks to the lack of smelly people. Those who did make the trip enjoyed themselves simply because everything was so good.

Horselunges house

Tradewise, the "pre-loved" stall was both varied and reasonably priced. A single RTR seller was plenty as was one book seller. There was scenery, DCC and kits and motors. All very much fitting the ethos of the exhibition.

Maybe the MRJ advert was a bit pretentious, but the event itself certainly delivered everything promised. If you wanted to meet the stars of the finescale world and see a selection of absolutely cracking layouts, then this is a show you should have been at.

I know people are twisting arms to say this should be an annual event. If it does go that way, keeping the standards high will be tough. Maybe it should be a one-off so those of us who did go can bore people endlessly by reminiscing about such a legendary event for years to come...

More photos on Flickr. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Great Central Model railway exhibition 2017

The GCR's modelling event each year continues to grow in scale. A quick look at the website confirms that all the stations have some displays so visitors wishing to see the lot will need to spend time on the regular full-size train services running through the day. This is, of course, all part of the appeal.


If all this travelling is too much for you, the main event takes place at Quorn station where a mahoosive marquee is erected at quite substantial cost. For most visitors, this is as far as they go. Car parking is in a nearby field and you can walk down to the event where you find everything a modeller could desire.


Over 140 stands (layouts, trade, societies) were in attendance. There really was something for everyone from big tail chasers to an O gauge layout in a single boxfile. If there is a complaint, it's that there is too much to see in a single day. This is more of a problem if your interests include garden railways and model engineering as these are found at Loughborough and Rothley stations.

Steam tram

I started at Loughborough having travelled in by train. Not an easy journey with changes at New Street and Leicester plus, thanks to split ticketing, a wad of cardboard pieces. My reasons were simple enough, I was spending more than enough time driving that week, didn't wish to pay a fiver to park in a potentially muddy field and more importantly, for the first time I could try the real ale bar found in the middle of the show.

Beer and show guide

As it was, train travel worked well. I managed a few minutes on Loughborough station. Time to spend a bit of cash on the excellent second hand and railwayana stalls plus a quick look through the garden railway displays. If you don't do these, you really are missing out. Having a steam train to catch probably saved me a load of money...

The main event in the tent suffered a little from the excellent weather. While the parking may have been fine, temperatures under canvas were rising as was the humidity. One or two layouts suffered electrical gremlins because of this, and that was on the Friday which is I suspect the quieter day.

Hawthorn shunter

With so much to see, picking a favourite layout, or even one I'd like to build is pretty much impossible. A single pass around the show was all time allowed, although as I had editor Andy with me, there was quite a lot of chatting to do as well, it's part of the job you know!

Moving on to Rothley, the display was quieter. Apart from the G3 Blankgang layout, it was all static, but I still found much to enjoy.

Traction engine

I'm never quite sure what to make of this show. It's huge and there's loads of good stuff to see every year. 

I'm not a fan of the tent - half the floor was very good, the other half a little bouncy for a start and I worry what would happen in heavy rain. BUT, that is just me. 

Visitors enjoyed themselves and the layouts didn't seem too badly affected. The whole ambiance is nice and very different from a "normal" show with real trains passing a few feet away and providing a soundtrack to proceedings. 

As a day out, it's not cheap at 20 quid entrance plus parking but as this includes rides, it's not so pricey. In value for money terms, I'd say that most enthusiasts, it scores very highly. 

As I say, looking around really needs more than a day if you want to see everything. Can't say that very often!

Friday, June 23, 2017

An exotic garden railway feature

Buying presents for my dad isn't easy. He doesn't do technology or flash stuff. No point buying sweets either since he went sugar free.

With father's day approaching, I found myself in Hereford Model Centre looking for ideas. No kits - like me he has a huge backlog of projects. I wanted something fun anyway.

 He's always been interested in birds, there is an aviary in his distant past as well as a couple of years working at a zoo. When I spotted the Playmobil Tropical birds set, it looked perfect and as expected, amused him greatly.

Now, we have a little garden railway project on the go and Playmobil products are about the right size, so could this live outside? Well, it's plastic so no worried on this score but that means it's light and would be blown away in the wind. That tree needs roots.

Like most modellers, I collect "useful" things and in the paintbrush pot are several swizzle sticks.

Breaking one in half, it fitted into a 4mm diameter holes drilled up the tree. Dipped in Plastic Weld, the paddle end soon stuck in place. That ought to be enough, but as I had more stick left over, I added a piece through the paddle.

Job done, the "roots" are pushed hard into the earth and the tree should stay put no matter how hard the wind blows.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Back to the 70s in BRM

I'm taking a trip back in time in July's issue of BRM. Presented with a Metcalfe card kit for a corner shop and told to do something interesting with it, inspired by a novel I had just finished, I've taken it back to the long hot summer of 1976.

I'm a big fan of card kits, but if I'm honest, built straight from the packet they can look just like card kits. I've made a few subtle modifications that I think lift this model a bit. Nothing huge, the kit is fundamentally very good, but just tweaks. The result surprised me. 

And the 1976 bit? If you can't see it, you'll have to buy the issue. You'll also find a photos of a VERY young me...

Should you be feeling inspired after my trip to the 7mm NG show last week, I've built a nice simple loco to get you started in the scale. Smallbrook studios "Hero" is a good model and well withing the capabilities of most modellers who can work a tube of superglue and pot of paint.

Next month we feature Geoff Taylor's Barmouth Junction, so this time I've interviewed him. His methods for constructing model buildings were well documented in a couple of books, both of which are now obsolete as he doesn't use any of them any more (OK, the methods still work, but Geoff has others now). A lovely guy, we had a good chat. It's very interesting to see how a professional model maker works.

This month really does feature the Ecclesbourne Railway as an extra on the DVD. Half an hour of slow TV with a trip along the length of the line chatting to the driver. 

(Sorry that I said this was last month. I'm writing this before I see a copy of the mag)

Sticking with the DVD, to tie in with a layout featuring canal boats, I'm building a nice, simple kit for a small live-aboard vessel. It's a cheap and attractive addition to any waterways scene.