Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rail-ex Taunton: The adventure

Taunton School

"B****y hell, we are exhibiting at Hogwarts !" was my reaction as we pulled up to the school that Rail-ex is held in. Taunton school is apparently one of the best in the country and it's products will doubtless be running the country for years to come. It's certainly one of the most impressive halls we've exhibited in.

The show is held in the sports hall at the side of the building and takes place in two large rooms. We were in the bigger one and found it had been carpeted and nicely marked with the layout name on some masking tape. The allotted space looked a bit small as the end of our plot appeared to be against the back of the layout around the corner. Once set up, and with no sign of our neighbours, I left a business card with my phone number on our control panel in case there was a problem. My worry was that the space allowed was sufficient for the layout but not enough for a bunch of corpulent operators to wander about behind.

Another worry was a lack of barriers. Maybe I'm going all prima donna but I like something between the crowds and the layout. As it turned out, this would have been a good thing, but more of this later. Finally, we hadn't tested the model since the last show and so it was out with the soldering iron to deal with a couple of dry joints and a lose switch rail. Arriving before 5 gave plenty of uninterrupted time to handle these niggles.

Accommodation was on site. The boarding students had been turfed out for half term and we were each issued with a key and swipe car to stop in their rooms. On the plus side, everyone got a single room (I was Max Kroppen) but this was at a price of shared bathroom and worse, communal showers. The rooms were clean but basic. I wish I'd taken a small radio to provide a bit of background noise, and several other operators said the same. We had access to a common room with billiards table and coffee making facilities which a few people sat around in for a chat.

Saturday started with an excellent breakfast in the school canteen. Full English and plenty of it. I'll forgive accommodation a lot for decent morning grub. We didn't have far to stroll to the show either, in fact we could have arrived on Friday and not left the site until Sunday night if we'd wanted to.

Arriving behind the layout, after a quick track clean we wandered around to see what had arrived since the previous evening. Most people were comfortably in place. and there was plenty to see. We caught up with a few old friends including, just after opening, by the man I'm named after, an old friend of my Father. Guess who got to do an extended operating session while they chatted ?

About the middle of the morning we had our one duff moment - a scruffy bloke decided to push past a lady watching the layout. She was about 2 inches away from the board and there was plenty of space behind her but he shoved by anyway. As he passed he managed to give the end leg an almighty boot - enough to move the entire layout slightly. Certainly enough to shake up the track and dislodge a lump of lead from inside a locomotive. Of course he didn't apologise, just looked around grumpily and scuttled off. If by any chance you recognise yourself from that description site, please sod off my blog and don't come back.

Chocolate BrownieLunchtime arrived but the quality of the food had drawn an audience. There was no seating left in the canteen and a queue of people outside waiting with trays of cooling food for a seat. Luckily that breakfast meant we weren't hungry so settled for tea and a delicious (and cheap) cake. Chocolate brownie or muffin, both yummy and enough to sustain us until the evening.

A stroll around town on Friday evening had shown that the delights of Taunton were limited, and sitting around the accommodation didn't appeal, but a trip to the seaside was an option. Thus, we took the quick and well signposted trip tot he station and hopped on one of the regular trains to Western-super-Mare.

Western station is about ten minutes walk from the sea by which time we'd worked up nearly enough appetite for the enormous fish and chips we bought. The sea was out (is it ever in ?) and out of season, the town was pretty shut up but as we say on the station heading back, listening to an Elvis tribute act in the platform pub, this was definitely a worthwhile trip. I've spent Saturday night at shows in the pub with other modellers but if I have the chance to do something different, it's taken. After all, we spend all day in the show with them !

Western-super-Mare pier

Sunday, the layout worked a lot better than the previous day. Both days had seen a lot of chatty punters in the door and only two smelly ones - one of whom probably wondered quite how long the train was going to stay in the platform, the answer being "Until you go away" ! Apart from the grumpy bloke the day before, the crowds were really well behaved as well with very few finger marks on the water in the quayside.

The main question asked was about the scale. Loads of people were interested as it's unusual and they wondered how we managed to build everything. The nice man from Bachmann was nearly persuaded that they should start some RTR in it !

At the end of the weekend we packed up and were on our way after about half an hour. The trip home was uneventful apart from the least competent Little Chef ever and we got the stuff back ready to put away. I have a lit of jobs to do before Warley in a month so watch this space...

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