I'll confess to being less than enthusiastic about attending this show before we went. The paperwork was on the late side and I didn't worry about chasing it up as I wasn't too worried if the trip fell through. Basingstoke isn't a town that fills me with the urge to visit - I doubt many people chose to holiday there and all I recall from my only other visit was that there was a long and complicated journey to a place with a shopping centre with roof-top car park.
A few weeks ago, things began to look up. At Doncaster we met the exhibition manager, Jeremy Bagshaw. He made the effort to come and find us to have a chat and apologise for the paperwork delays which were due to a few changes of personnel within the team. Better still, he made a real effort to stay in touch.
On arrival at the show, a relatively simple journey it turned out with the Satnav picking a good route, we wandered into the hall and accosted someone waving a tape measure. He quickly pointed us to our spot which was well marked showing both layout and barrier lines. We were in a sports hall, the floor of which had been covered with a rubbery sheet to protect the surface. It did this well and as an added advantage stopped dropped little parts from bouncing too far when dropped as I found out later.
A quick set up was followed by a wander where we found tea was being served along with free fairy cakes ! Now that is a good thing. OK, so they were on the tiny side but you don't look a gift cake in the mouth. At least the L&WMRS members with Meacham didn't when we delivered their refreshments.
Accommodation was around the ring-road at the Hilton Hotel. Apparently this isn't a crazy as you might think, the place was pretty much empty apart from us exhibitors so I bet a cracking deal had been struck. Show to hotel were less than ten minutes apart on fast roads. Truth is, we are aware there is a town of Basingstoke but never saw any sign of it all weekend.
Saturday arrived and we started to play trains. Being in the hall furthest from the door, it took a few minutes before we saw anyone. When they arrived the trade was more interesting as is normal at this time. Soon we had an audience and amazingly, for a Saturday morning, chat. Real people talking to us and asking interesting questions. Just what we love. Better still this carried on through the weekend.
Saturday evening saw a quiz in the local indoor bowls club. This was run by the treasurer and won by the exhibition manager. Something going on here we all thought ! And as for the question about flightless birds, if it had mentioned swimming, I would have known about the penguins. After all, I've seen Happy Feet 2 twice ! On the plus side, for the first time ever, I got a football question right - What nickname is shared by a football club and a WAG ?
Sunday was much like Saturday. Sadly the numbers seemed a bit hit by the good weather driving people to garden centres but there was a rush towards lunchtime and there were apparently respectable amounts of people in the door.
Our layout ran amazingly well. The extra little bit of track added last week makes a huge difference to the way it works. As well as allowing sensible running around with the diesels, the headshunt sees lots of use now as the brake van dumped in there can be left a long way down and out of the way. That means shunting isn't carried out over the crossover resulting in an improvement in running.
Thanks to all those blog readers and 3mm Society members who dropped in to say hello. None of you brought any cake I noticed...
Layout wise, the show was mixed. Some I liked, some not. Just like any other show really. It's not helped that I have weird tastes in trainsets. The prize for Layout Phil Would Like to Build goes to the N gauge Kidmore Manor. A tiny roundy-roundy with loads of delicious detail in the scenic section. Not the most exciting model to operate, as I found out for a few minutes, but great to build. Mind you, no one told me about the working signals which would have provided some switch wobbling action !
Second prize goes to Owoh Nine Wells Watercress farm. I like the pun and I like the weird prototype. OK, so it's a single line in a box file, but that is certainly different.
Mention must be made of the fantastic modern image 7mm scale rolling stock on the layout next to us on Invergeachy. I don't think I've seen better quality modelling for a long while. Maybe I could have lived without the sound which seemed a bit distorted in the DMU's and earned a cheer from the room when it was switched off, but the smoke effects were clever. The operator switched them off as a loco approached me in case I didn't like the smell (I was hanging over the model with the camera) but as I explained to him quietly later, it was nicer than the aroma of the person standing next to me.
Trade wise I picked up some bits and pieces. There are some projects for magazine work and a new tool or two. Blog readers also have a treat coming up with one purchase. Watch this space for more.
Anyway, it was a good show. A very good show. We were well looked after by a friendly club. After all our initial scepticism, I'd now say we'd be happy to take an layout if they wanted us. Mind you, with over 10 enquiries from other clubs, we might be a bit busy in the future.
See more pictures on Flickr.