I was on my way out of the Nottingham show on Saturday when I spotted a side room. Had I not been so stingy and purchased an exhibition guide my discovery might have happened earlier. Or not as I probably wouldn't have bothered reading it properly.
Anyway, in the room were some demos from members of the EM Gauge Society. Nice, but I had a bus to catch back into a town where I hoped to buy a Mothers Day present. Then I realised what I was standing next to.
Leighton Buzzard. Built by Rev Peter Denny. Of Buckingham fame.
I have the books. Even the old ones, but I've never seen the real model. This model is truly a legend. Built in the days when everyone thought Hornby Dublo to be a bit whizzy, it's a tribute to the work of one man who had to do it all the hard way. Apart from some basic parts such as wheels, rail and ERG brickpaper, the modeller was on his or her own.
What he or she did have was the real world to look at. My favorite feature on that layout is the gas works. When Denny built his, every town had one so he could go and have a look. In fact it probably wouldn't have occurred to many people to not build a gas works in the same way a modern image modeller would leave out a big aluminium shed-based industrial or retail park.
There was a very comprehensive series of articles in the Railway Modeller on this corner of the model. I'm sure I have them saved in a box file somewhere.
You might look and say that the workmanship isn't that great compared to the best on show now but then you would be forgetting that this was pretty much the only model being built like this at the time. Beal and Ahern were at the same sort of thing but with no interweb you had to rely on magazines to share information. They weren't the full colour productions of today - a contemporary Nevard would be snapping away with a bellows camera and roll film. No shooting until your finger hurt and picking the best from a few hundred pictures. Film wasn't cheap and so you spent a lot of time on each shot. You had to, if it was wrong, unless your darkroom technique was good, there was nothing you could do about it.
Denny didn't just build a model, he wanted to operate it like a real railway too and so despite being next to each other over the baseboard, the operator and fiddle yard man communicate with bell codes and some boxes with lights on to indicate the status of the the lines. While I was there, these were supplemented by speaking but I can see how you could stay silent and operate the timetable.
One myth I was happy to see scotched was that the locos didn't run that well. Given a modern Gaugemaster controller (on the main board, the fiddle yard is still H&M), they run a sweetly as my stuff. Mind you, they are all well run in by now !
OK, so if I produced a model like this now it wouldn't grace MRJ but I was ever so pleased to finally see a model I've read so much about. I want more than ever to try some of the techniques used too. I bet when my glue isn't made of boiled cow and the cardboard isn't straw-based, there is still lots of life in them !
You can see my other pictures from Nottingham on Flickr