After 4 hours of a 2 hour journey up the M1, I pitched up at Doncaster Racecourse with less than an hour to go before the place was shut up for the Friday night. Fortunately, Edgeworth goes together very quickly and so with the aid of BRM's Howard Smith to hold the fascia panel up, both layout and project display were ready just before we were cast out on to the pavement.
The trip to the hotel was made more interesting by turning up at a really nice looking Holiday Inn to be told that we weren't booked in there. It seems that this happens all the time so a set of printed directions is available to guide lost travellers to the right place. Better still, the right place comes complete with not a health club as the wrong place did, but with a pub that serves mahosive deserts.
So mahosive are they that both Howard and I were defeated by our choux pastry, custard, cream and ice cream confections. Amazingly, this heart attack on a plate prompts the question, "Would you like normal or pouring cream?" when ordered. Apparently, half a pint of "normal" cream isn't enough in the cake, you need more on the side!
Holiday Inns are set up for breakfast to be served at a leisurely pace, not to the whole hotel at one go. Luckily the organisers had asked for it to be available from 7am and chatting to the staff, they took this to mean they had to start preparation for 6:30. 6:45 Saturday morning, several of us enjoyed first pickings and were not in the least surprised that 15 minutes later, a queue for food appeared. If you want to eat AND get to the show well before opening, you have to wake up pretty early.
At the show, I was shocked to discover that the numerous TV screens dotted around the venue, normally used for gee-gee spotting, were to show a short, and mercifully silent, advertising film for various BRM products including the latest BRM live for which I filmed some stuff just before Christmas. What this meant is that directly opposite me there was a giant telly with me gawping out of the screen every 10 minutes. That's at least 6 times an hour I get a reminder that I'm going bald. Yippee.
Fortunately, there were so many people in front of me that I spent the time chatting and answering questions rather than fretting about my hair. Top topic of conversation was the Peco backscene. Lots of people had either never seen one or forgotten they exist. Most were pleasantly surprised how good they can look with careful use. A couple even thought I'd painted it myself.
Time flew and soon I was due to perform in the BRM Theatre. This didn't go quite as well as hoped due to the presentation I'd put together failing to load on the laptop. Of course, I wasn't prepared for this and so had to do my best to entertain the audience by talking without pictures. They politely clapped at the end so I probably got away with it. At least the chairs were comfy which is probably what everyone wanted anyway...
Saturday dessert in the pub was HMS Doncaster. Ostensibly this is the healthy option as it includes a banana at hull underneath an ice cream and cream superstructure. The sail on this boat was, I though a wafer, except it wasn't, it was a triangle of sweet batter with sugar frosting. I scooped out the fruit along with the little cream and ice cream but left around a weeks worth of calories on the plate...
Sunday began with a quick run around pointing my camera at things, the only chance I had to do this. There was no time at all for looking round once the show opened as again, the stand was inundated by people asking questions.
One unusual aspect to the layout is that people are welcomed around the back to have a good look at the areas normally hidden from view. I seriously considered exhibiting without a curtain around the legs but decided that it would look better to have one but then invite interested visitors to come behind the layout. Quite a few took up the invitation and I think some might have thought the system I've used to attach boards together and hold them off the floor wasn't completely mad. Conveniently, the last part of the series was available fresh from the printers so I could show the diagram that explains things while people looked at the model.
Sundays are always quieter than Saturdays and this allowed me a brief break right at the end of the day to see the Luton club's "Great Train Robbery" model. It's a controversial piece, with some people determined to be offended and to let the people who built it know. This isn't something they mind, everyone is entitled to an opinion, unless offence has been taken without bothering to read either the article on the model or actually view the presentation itself.
As it is, the 5 minute show is a very dry history of the railway parts of the robbery. There's no sensation, certainly a lot less then the mainstream media have made around those events.
4:30 saw the crowds depart and we packed up the layout for the trip back down the motorway. I should have mentioned to RMweb's Andy York that when I unscrew the two fascia retaining bolts, the thing will start to fold itself up - he looked most surprised when it happened.
Anyway, an excellent weekend. I apologise for the lack of pictures during my talk. We'll sort this for next time. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to chat and ask questions, especially those who said the layout had inspired them to have a go at some modelling. This makes it all worthwhile.
My photos from the Doncaster show on Flickr - all the shots with trains are here.