There's nothing I like better than to spend a baking hot Friday afternoon stationary on the M1 motorway in a small, underpowered van that makes a bonging noise when it thinks it's reached 70mph and has brakes that are either of or ON. Oh yes, what joy.
It's not all glamour this model railway exhibition lark you know. I left home at 2, picked up my spare operator from Rugby, which is on the way, and we pitched up at the venue at 8:30pm. Knackered.
Anyway, the layout was thrown up and not tested. Both of us were more interested in finding the hotel and some fish'n'chips than tidying up the display. Besides, there would be plenty of time for that the next morning.
Hotel, food and a couple of pints acquired we settled down and woke afresh the next morning. After a stroll on the front we turned up at the show to finish set-up. A selection of Parker's Guide projects were laid out on a table, I dropped the 07 diesel and we prepared for the audience.
It was a bit of a surprise to discover the show opened at 9:30 on the first day. If we'd read the poster, we might have twigged this. It didn't say that the punters would be let in at 9 though, but they were. Apologies for those who found us unprepared, we were.
Anyway, the layout ran like a bag of nails and it quickly became apparent that this was to be a show about talking rather than playing trains. Luckily, operator Chris is good at this and quickly settled in. The problems stemmed from relying on the switch rail to stock rail contact on the Peco points. Despite cleaning this up and making everything work a couple of days before, the trip along the motorway had undone all our good work. Gradually, after some cleaning of metal bits, we got most of the points working. Sadly, the manual operating mechanisms that incorporate chocolate blocks to attach the operating rod failed in a couple of places - the rods came out of the connectors and because the layout sits on a paste table, we couldn't get at them to fix things.
None of this seemed to matter much. It seems quite a lot of people have been following the series in Hornby Magazine and were pleased to see the model and talk about it. We explained the problems and they seemed to appreciate the honesty.
The Parker's Guide projects went down well too, especially the Clyde Puffer. Once chap bought the magazine just to read this article! I enjoy yakking about these models and it's great to let people have a good look and handle them. We shifted all the Parker's Guide bookazines that had been brought along too.
Saturday evening, we took the time to slew the layout on it's table so the operating handles could be fixed. Then a quick trip to the tiny pub at the station (No beer for me. Boo) and then back to the hotel for food but as we were early, via a drive around the chemical plants of Middlesborough (ugly but interesting) ending at the transporter bridge, which was brilliant even if we were too late for a ride.
Sunday, Chris went fishing and caught a sand eel before breakfast then we had a trip around the marina to photograph boats before it was back to the show. Opening time was 10 but the audience came in at 9:30 anyway. We were better prepared this time.
The layout worked better than on Saturday and we finally got a feel for what it's like to run properly. Since about 10:30 the day before, I'd been convinced that I would be ripping out the manual point rodding to replace it with Peco motors. By the end of the show, I reckoned that if I could fit microswitches to the mechanisms to fix the electrical issues, I'd keep manual control. With three-link couplings, pushing and pulling things for switching seems appropriate.
Because of all the chat, I didn't really get to see the show so if you are hoping for photos, you'll be disappointed. The only one I took was of Quai:87.
Cake news - there was chocolate cake and it looked lovely. We didn't realise this until far too late on Saturday and then remembered to late on Sunday to. I have quite a nice Choux bun although my preference is for a higher choc to pastry ratio if I'm honest.
Apart from this, the main lesson was that out fascia needs rounded corners and if there isn't a barrier in front of the layout, people will duck under it to chat.
The layout though - ignoring the electrical issues, it works. Quite well too. Looks nice too. Maybe a 7ft 7mm layout is a workable concept. Let's hope so, I think a few people have gone away to build one.
If you were one of the huge number of very pleasant people either of us spoke to, thank you for coming. We enjoy a chat and to be honest, that's what I at least, am there for. I hope you enjoyed the show and if there is anything else I can help with, just hit the "Ask Phil" button at the top right of this page.