I don't know why I didn't book the Friday night.
I mean, I always book accommodation for the Friday night of a show. Except this time. Maybe I though I was being clever. Maybe I reckoned that the M6 on Friday afternoon would be worse than a 6:30am start on Saturday morning. Whatever, it was this that we did and to be fair, the M6 was pretty quiet.
Arriving at the hall, there was a quick circuit of the 1-way system to get us to the correct entrance but by 8am, we were in and the car parked up for the weekend.
Operational by 8:45, we had time for a quick look around the show before heading back to be ready for the early entrants at 9:30. There were some superb dioramas on the LNWR stand including a breathtaking piece of perspective modelling. You don't often see this but this was worth the look. Being there early and showing an interest, I got to see the top view - the model is very shallow but you can't tell this from the front. Quite how you go about starting a model where nothing is square, I don't really know.
I also managed to borrow the new Heljan Wester diesel and railcar. The later could have happily stayed as it was a gem, although £400 seems a bit steep. Big locos aren't really my thing so the Western went back before any more bits dropped off the pre-production model!
Anyway, we awaited the first punters for quite a while. This is a show with 120+ trade stands so obviously the early birds were there to catch the 7mm scale worms. Eventually though, they found us and started to watch.
And chat. Buy, did we chat to people. The Clayhanger Yard build has been serialised in Hornby Magazine and an awful lot of people seem to have been following this. One gentleman had even come up from London especially to see the model - fortunately he was pleased with what he found!
By lunchtime, the early start and constant talking was catching up with us. The problem was that the show was so busy, attempts to get lunch we doomed to failure - the queue was out the door. We survived on Kit Kats and biscuits until mid afternoon when I managed to bag some chicken wrap and a portion of chips from the very depleted cafe. Luckily, we acquired a couple of guest operators who kept the layout moving while we talked.
By the end of the day, we sloped off to the hotel which is next to the hall. A look in at the social event didn't last long as the single member of bar staff was struggling to serve the 50 or so people who had turned up at the same time.
Not fancying the restaurant much we headed off to a Beefeater only to find it closed.
Telford is a "new town" which means a lot of roads and very little town centre as far as I can tell. This is all great if you know where you are going but we didn't. Had we not been quite so knackered, perhaps a trip to Kidderminster or Bridgenorth would have been on the cards but neither of us felt like being adventurous.
Dinner ended up being a Twix and shortcake biscuit from the vending machine. Even that wasn't easy as the one on our floor was broken and I had to search out a working one. To be fair, the room was very comfortable but to be honest, I think we'd have slept on the floor at this point.
The "Full English" breakfast in the morning turned out to be under-cooked bacon in a bap. To accompany this there was cereal, and toast from a machine capable of making stale bread or charcoal and nothing in between.
Getting back to the hall, we had a quick clean up and then took a load of photos of the layout. While I have plenty of building shots, finished ones are a bit rarer. After this, we got our only other look around the show. There were some superb layouts and amazing trade. I even liked the big GWR model which was well made and featured stock of a quality I'll never match.
Anyway, the doors opened and we started work. Almost immediately, we discovered that the mechanism under one of the points had failed.
On Clayhanger, this is a problem. Because it's aimed at beginner, the model sits on a paste table so there is no access to the underside of the baseboard. Fortunately, the failed point was at the fiddle yard end so by sliding the table along while holding on to the baseboard, I could see what the problem was.
Point operation uses piano wire on to which are fitted the brass bits from inside electrical chocolate block. Wires soldered to these head up through the points to operate them and it was one of these that had dropped off. Fixing it requires the wire to be dropped off the board and a new wire soldered in place. Easy to do with the layout on its side. Nearly impossible with it set up.
In the end, discretion won out and we fixed the point in position so most of the model could be used. Being the first point on the board this dramatically reduced operation.
As it happens, by shear hard work we got away with it mostly. Every punter was talked to. Problems were explained and most seemed far more interested in finding out how we made things rather than worrying about seeing models move much.
The other blessing was that the show was a lot quieter. I reckon that the attendance was about 30% of day 1. We even got in to eat at lunchtime to get some very nice food. Of course, just as I got back, the Fowler loco arrived but my burger stayed warm in its box while I took photos...
Knocking down con-incided with the roar of heavy rain on the metal roof. Getting the car near the door was tough too. I should have moved it to the nearer parking in the morning as despite being a proper exhibition hall, access for vans involves a huge queue at the back and I got stuck in it for a while.
An hour after the show closed, we were just setting off. Another hour and half and the layout was back in store.
So, one of the tougher shows. We talked ourselves hoarse but that's what we were there to do. If I were invited again I'd go on Friday night and make sure I brought in some food like the team whose layout backed on to our did. Checking out the local eateries for Saturday night in advance would have been a good idea too. None of this is the fault of anyone but me - hopefully this will help someone in the future.
The show itself looked very good. Neither of use saw much but then that's what happens when you build a layout like ours which is about the chat rather than hiding away behind the scenes.
Anyway, what photos I took are on Flickr.