Blimey it was hot. Outside the temperature reached 29 degrees, in a school hall with glass walls, hardly any drawn curtains and only a couple of doors for ventilation, it was hotter still. I bet the exhibition team couldn't have believed their (bad) luck when the weather forecasters started predicting a late burst of summer for the weekend and a Saturday that would see records shattered.
The trip down was super - all but 5 miles was a straight run down the M40. The show location couldn't be much better. We drove through a landscape cloaked in early morning swirling mists hovering just above the fields. I wished I could have been on the train as it was the sort of morning where you can't stop gawping out of the window at the beauty of it all.
On arrival we quickly unloaded and set up Melbridge Dock. Thanks to a testing session the day before, everything was working OK. Next to us was a nice N gauge layout, Kings Green Wharf. The other neighbour being Grove Park, another good looking model but one suffering a few gremlins. They didn't have the worst problems though - from one end of the hall was the unmistakable sound of a minidrill grinder working on some metal object.
Strolling round the four halls I alighted on the second hand stall just as it was opening. Very quickly a Hornby Pacer, crane wagon and interesting book were returned to the boxes under our layout. Back on the wander we reached the refreshments and enjoyed tea with bacon sandwich or Victoria sponge. All before 10am!
The show opened to very little rush. Maybe the the punters had made for the second hand stall rather than our hall, but sadly I suspect it was more a case that the outdoors beckoned rather than a model railway show. Chatting to one of the trader later confirmed this, she said it's normally difficult to get around in the morning. Later the organiser confirmed a 25% drop which is pretty impressive considering the other options unexpectedly available. To be fair, the numbers picked up through the day.
Despite the lack of people, we had some great interest pretty much from the start. As usual, the principle interest seemed to be the puffers and couplings. The Clayton no longer raises any interest since you can buy the thing RTR.
Everything was running OK until a dry join developed in a place I couldn't ignore. Prodding at the track caused a short section of rail to fall over so it was out with the soldering iron to sort things out. Maybe the heat played to our advantage as the repairs worked well first time. I don't think we disappointed too many people either as after they had completed a circuit of the room we were operating again.
While buying the sponge cake at the start of the day I had ascertained that chocolate cake would be available later and my Dad, who performs tea boy duties, was under strict instructions to keep an eye open for it's appearance. Early in the afternoon, he returned with tea and two slices. I operated the model while he consumed his. Then he "quickly" wandered off to have a chat with a trader and I found myself stuck playing trains while it taunted my from it's plate in the fiddle yard.
Eventually he returned and I was about to head off for a chomp. Then Chis Nevard pitched up at the end of the layout and politeness dictated that we should have a chat. Which was nice. Eventually, I managed to bore him enough so he cleared off for a bit and I could stuff my face. Thankfully the cake was worth the wait. So good in fact that we had another slice later - just because if we didn't it would have had to be thrown away you understand.
Thanks to the weather the crowd was made up of more people wearing shorts than I've ever seen at a toy train event. Fortunately, standards were maintained by one gentleman wearing a tweed jacket, v-neck jumper, shirt and tie. The later item had a train logo that I didn't recognise but hats off to the gent for maintaining sartorial elegance.
Beaconsfield MRC website