With a blisteringly successful 16mm Society AGM only a few weeks ago and trade stand price increases I wondered just how good the Larger Scale show would be this year. Of course it covers a wider range of scales, from 7mm upwards but that still isn't a whole lot of people compared with a mainstream event. Add to this at the AGM there had been plenty of G scale for sale so most of the main potential customers would surely have had thier fill and be back out in the garden laying track by now and you'd wonder just how many would cross the threshold into the hall.
8 quid to go in, and the good news was that the first model I saw was a Garratt. A great big Garratt made of Meccano. It was a very impressive model of one of the steam locomotives now running on the Welsh Highland Railway. Chatting to the builder, it took him around 3 months to create the loco and if he hadn't been around the stand all day I'd have been tempted to grab and make a run for it (joking !). While there were several scale models of the same loco at the show, this was the one that really made an impression on me. It's almost as if the slight cartooning made things look even better. Whatever, that was something the builder had every right to feel proud of.
As it turned out, working layouts were the highlight of the show. Compared to previous years the trade was on the the thin side and if you'd turned up with a shopping list I suspect you'd have been disappointed. It's always a bad sign when one of the stand is selling sweets - at least it wasn't the infamous sickly sweet fudge this time but still not what you want at a show full of meths powered steam machines. I suppose someone will suggest it allowed the modeller to buy something for the wife if he'd overspent but I'm not sure if some chocolates, no matter how posh, would make up for an inadvertent purchase from Roundhouse !
Fortunately I find watching live steam layouts, even when they are little more than test tracks, more fun than finescale ones a lot of the time. Not sure why really, perhaps I am succumbing to the attitude that seeing something move is more important than how well that something is modelled. O gauges, Gauge 1, several 16mm narrow gauge and a couple of G scale layouts were on show. All were run by middle age men who looked after their models like they were children and at the same time seemed to be having great fun. There were lots of smiling happy faces. OK, so the air was thick with meths but I'm sure it wasn't just the chemicals that made them happy.
The G1 model was the usual test track style and featured a very customer friendly board telling visitors what would be running at different times each day. Every loco operated for half an hour and with two tracks that mean the trains change every 15 minutes. In the sheds members prepared their models and chatted both to the public and themselves. I was mightily impressed with a model of "Morning Star" that was fired by real coal. I think this probably amounts to the pinnacle of steam power in engineering terms - you get to look down on those who use meths or butane to fire up !
Despite thin trade I still managed to come away with a full bag and empty wallet. Bulk buys of slitting disks and flap wheels for car restoration contributed to most of the weight but a heavily discounted book on building small steam engines was also well received. I know I'm not likely to build one myself in the near future but that doesn't mean I can't dream. Mind you, the sales lady on the Barratt Engineering stand went to great pains to try and persuade me that the J38 kit would be an excellent buy. I agreed but even at the bargain price of £960 for a reasonably idiot proof model, it's a bit more than my bank balance will stand at present. Mind you, if anyone out there wants one built for them I could do you a very good deal including painting ! On the other hand a Roundhouse "Lady Anne" would be more useful in the garden and about the same price...
At the end of the day I'm glad I didn't have to travel too far. If I had, my feelings toward the organisers wouldn't be that charitable I suspect. As it was I picked up some bits, enjoyed seeing some small scale steam engines running and had a good lunch. 8 quid is a bit steep for admission in my opinion but I suppose the show has to make a profit as it's run as a business. Perhaps next year they might consider moving it a little from the Stoneleigh event and perhaps doing a few deals for the trade to fill things up a bit. It was noticeable that the aisles were wider than normal and you could have fitted in a few more stands. There was inspiration on offer and you can't put a price on this of course.
Enjoy more photos from the event.