Off we go again to the NEC. It's not far and we're demonstrating so there's not even a layout to lug. 4 plastic crates bought from Wilkos for a whopping £3 each contained everything we needed apart from the modelling board and some drinks. Dropping the contents out of the back of the car took 2 minutes once we were inside.
Our stand faced the Oaks restaurant. No problem there. What was less good was to be under the "Railway Modeller Shows You How" banner dangling from the ceiling. I mean, after all the magazine moving I've done this year, we get to be directly under one I'm not involved with? Someone is taking the p**s methinks...
(OK, I know it's not deliberate. Still funny though!)
Anyway, I get back from the car park hike and we set up. Close proximity to the large open doors prevents everything being put in place but most of it was ready in case the next days arrival was tight to opening time.
As it was I needn't have worried. Our train (yes, it's the one show we can do as exhibitors by train, so we do on the Saturday) got us in with 3/4 of an hour to go. Arriving at the hall we pushed out was through the large crowd awaiting advanced ticket entry. I wouldn't fancy being on the Bachmann stand just inside the entrance with that lot waiting to pounce.
Being much further in, we had time to set up and then indulge in an excellent sausage bap from the restaurant. This was a good plan because once the crowds arrived we didn't surface until 3:30pm. No chance of lunch, too many questions to answer and people to chat to.
The display was made up of models I've built for Hornby Mag, BRM and MBRDL during the last year. Each was labeled with the issue and magazine but despite this, we spent a lot of time explaining that they had appeared in print to many visitors. Once the idea was grasped, many went away in search of back-numbers.
Not as much time though as we spent explaining sand. One of the dioramas on show was my beach scene and it seems this really caught the imagination of visitors. Tuesdays chinchilla sand post stemmed from this as at least 20 people wanted to know more during the weekend. A couple also wanted to buy the model, which makes me think perhaps I should be selling these as "art".
By the end of the show, we'd seen next to nothing. My Dad was getting good at answering the repeated questions and no modelling at all had been done. That's a good demo as far as I'm concerned - we're there to answer questions, not build trains.
Learning from previous years, we didn't head for the first train back but caught the air-rail link over to the airport. There, the Wetherspoons pub failed to have any of the meals we tried to order in stock but Frankie & Benny's did much better with fast service and an excellent spag-bol. Many visitors forget the airport for food but once you've made it as far as the station, it's only 2 minutes further and you get to ride the maglev successor into the bargain.
Anyway, Sunday we're in the car and all is as normal. Sausage batch is consumed and the show opens. Crowds are lighter then Saturday but it seems that all at once we are descended upon by people we know. One friend I used to work with has brought her family so hubby can learn more about model railways for the layout he's building for the kids (yeah, right). Another friend from Banbury club is there and once from Leamington.
Before this though, the highlight of the show. A reader of this blog, whose name will be kept secret to avoid embarrassment, dropped off some cheesecake as a thank you for my efforts. The cake was delicious and it was absolutely wonderful.
I'm dead chuffed that I'm entertaining you all enough and as it happens, I hadn't had any cake to write about by this point. Mind you, my old colleague foolishly suggested it was far too early for cake - she's wrong. It's never too early for cake!
The crowds might have been less fulsome but we still chatted away. My model building supplement in the latest BRM proved popular with many people making their way across the hall to pick up a copy. Hornby garden sheds sold out with at least one retailer too as people decided to have a go at pretty beach huts.
At least I managed to get a bit of a look around. I think the highlight was watching a proper sign writer at work on the Patriot loco "The Unknown Warrior" and later on a Corris coach. Seeing a craftsman at work is humbling and puts my own bodgery into perspective.
Seeing the Hattons/Heljan Garratt in action makes me think I've done the right thing pre-ordering mine. It was even the right version - rotating bunker and unweathered. Sadly there were too many cameras around for me to pick mine up early and I suspect I'd have been rugby tackled by half the crowd before reaching the exit had I tried.
The other highlight was the number of MREmag readers who dropped by to sat hello. Writing and editing happens in a bit of a vacuum so it's lovely to see some faces of real people, most of whoom were polite enough to say nice things as well.
Layout of the show? For me, Worecester South Quay I think. I've a bit of the thing for quirky micro layouts and this was tiny O gauge but with loads of atmosphere. Mind you, I didn't see that much but I bet it would have been hard to beat.
Trade-wise. I bought an RT Models Sentinel kit. I don't need any more loco kits but it is a prototype that has been high on my list of wants for many years. I even know how it will look when finished. All I need to do is find the time. On top of this, Matt Dawson dropped off a bag of unwanted kits and bits. Quite a few blog projects in here as well as some frustration I think. Watch this space.
Exiting the hall, we'd decided to avoid last years "fun" with the NEC security leaving me cruising the road system for 45 minutes unable to get near the hall or go back in a car park.
Changes had been made by the organisers but on the basis that one less car in the hall is welcome, we packed our stand back in its crates, lashed the lot to a trolley with a couple of bungee cords and walked it back to the car park. Half an hour after closing, we are on the road which can't be a bad thing.
While we didn't see much, it was still and excellent show. Thanks very much to all those who dropped by. I hope we were able to help you a bit and perhaps even inspire some modelling. Don't forget that if you need help, the "Ask Phil" button is only a click away on the top right of this very page.
Warley NEC photos on Flickr