The sharp eyed will have noticed that we aren't at Doncaster show as previously advertised. Last minute transport problems meant we had to let the organisers down. We don't like doing this. It's the third time over our exhibition career that it has happened. That's too often.
So - we are going to leave the model railway exhibition circuit.
I'm in the process of writing to all the show managers who have booked us to let them know that we're giving up. Since the next booked event in a few months away, hopefully the loss of a small layout won't cause any headaches.
Getting off the circuit isn't easy - the latest layout, Clayhanger Yard, is being serialised in Hornby Magazine so even though I don't get anything for attending, I feel duty bound to show it at the 4 events it's already booked in to: Hartlepool, Midland Railex, Telford and Gaydon.
Our other layouts will be kept nice and safe while we work out what to do next. My feeling is that we'll be aiming to take Melbridge Dock to the L&WMRS 40th anniversary show in 2015 as a final hurrah. Apart from that, we'll do our booked demos at Warley NEC as long as they will have us and I'll probably have to turn up at a couple of other events in connection with magazines.
You might be thinking this is a bit of an over-reaction to having problems with one event, but the truth it, this has been coming for a while.
The Parker exhibition team is my Dad and me. He doesn't drive and so transport falls on my shoulders. And I hate driving. I do it, but only because I have to. I might like cars but if I never had to get behind the wheel again, I'd be happy.
This makes the joys of getting half way around the country pretty unappealing. Maybe it's because I'm getting older but these are starting to outweigh the fun of the event itself. Last years Warley show is a good example - For two days my ego was massaged by visitors saying how much they enjoyed my work. All I remember is breaking the car exhaust driving through some flood on the way in and the frustration of dealing with the NEC security staff when attempting to get near the hall at the end of the event to collect our stand.
There have been other events where the nitty-gritty of being part of the show has overwhelmed the events itself for me. I enjoy the practical aspects a bit, but less than I used to. I am fed up of the feeling about half way through the second day when I wish the public would get lost so we could go home. It's not fair on anyone.
We cause ourselves some problems with high standards for putting on a display. Our model will work and work all day. For the Dock, this isn't much of an issue. Once up and running it's pretty reliable. The Hospital is more cantankerous with the overhead but we can usually work around this. It's still boring to operate. Flockbrugh sees me constantly on edge. Finescale 3mm is at the limits of my construction abilities and even though it works OK, I don't really relax.
Finally, there is the cost. Ignore the expenses for the moment - increasingly these are petrol money only with receipts provided please - to move even a little train set you need a reasonable sized vehicle. In our case, this is the family Belingo as my 206 is far too small. In an ideal situation I'd upgrade the Peugeot but finances don't allow for that and even if they did, I hardly drive at the moment so I'd be buying a car just for exhibitions. This isn't a business, it's a hobby (even for me) so that isn't going to happen. Don't mention van hire either - it whacks up the expenses so we don't use it and on the odd occasions I have, there is usually a £500 excess hanging over me...
Of course, over the 25 or so years we've been shuffling layouts around the country, exhibition circuit has changed. Some of this is for the good - better accommodation for example. We haven't been put up with a member for many years, something I'm very happy with. Reasonable B&B's or Travelodges (cheap for block weekend bookings and easy to manage) tend to be the order of the day.
The Saturday night socials do seem to have died off. Even if you didn't want to go, at least there was an option and we've enjoyed many an evenings entertainment with other exhibitors, traders and club members. I miss those.
Layouts have changed too. The world is moving towards RTR based, DCC controlled displays with flashing lights and noise controlled by operators prodding at keypads. Plain DC with no gizmo's but a loads of kit-built locos is pretty unfashionable now but that's what I enjoy doing.
We will miss some parts of the hobby. Chatting over the layout to visitors. That's the best bit by miles. That's why we plan to carry on with Warley demonstrations as long as we can. Lots of chat, but your display is small and doesn't take a lot of effort to get in and out of the hall. We can even get there on the train on Saturday. I'll certainly miss taking part in something that made me feel special because I was inside the barrier and listening to people saying what a nice model I'd brought.
Both of us will carry on model making but will need to find new focus without a project layout to aim my efforts at. Mind you, that is another change over the period, I have to do a certain amount of modelling now for publication so this takes me in different directions.
It's been fun but the time to call it quits has arrived. Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to book one of our layouts. At a rough guess this amounts to over 150 shows, most of which we've enjoyed, the others making for good anecdotes. At least now we can turn up at shows as visitors without a stupid o'clock start!