Second weekend of the year and it's time to break the toy train drought with a quick trip to St Albans exhibition.
Early Sunday morning is the time to arrive - we bagged a place in the car park behind the show and then decided that a sausage bap in the adjacent Weatherspoons was more appealing than half an hour wait in the cold. One of the benefits of an in-town show is that there are plenty of facilities for eating and drinking. Gourmets might even have stocked up at the fantastic farmers market taking place at the same time.
Once inside, we headed for the basement. The second hand stall is always worth a look although pickings were a bit thin by the time we arrived. Some Farish OO coach kits appealed but I decided to see if they would still be there later as I have too many kits already.
Sticking with Farrish OO, over on the OO Gauge Association stand, Colin Snowden was showing off a vintage Black 5 from the company. While the bodywork might be horribly dated, the mechanism in the tender was amazing. The 2-pole motor drove a cardan shaft through a centrifugal clutch. Power was fed through moving commutators. Given a dose of 12V, this arrangement looks great in action and is firmly on my list of desirable collectibles.
While underground I also had another chance to enjoy Shaun Greet's lovely Evington St John, a micro layout stuffed full of detail. Perhaps not the most exciting thing to operate but it must have been great fun to build.
The main hall is dominated by the trade and much time was spent chatting to friends while not actually spending much money. That's more luck than judgement as the trade is very good here and well supported by the visitors.
On the stage was the massive 2mm finescale layout Fencehouses. I remember seeing this in bare baseboards years ago at the 2mm society exhibition in Oxford. Now fully sceniced, it's a fine looking model and disproves the theory that a finescale layout has to be boring to watch with good length trains processing around the circuit.
The balcony is a troublesome area for the show organisers being a bit of a nightmare to lay out. However they do a good job with demo stands and a couple of small layouts. Rixworth Green is the sort of small branch line terminus with a hint of Colonel Stephens about it. The sort of thing most people could build if they weren't obsessed by owning dozens of top link locomotives but decided to create a model that fitted the available space.
All in all, an excellent show again. Visiting on the Sunday paid off as although the morning was busy, although not at busy as Saturday, by lunchtime moving around was pleasantly easy. OK, so I didn't bag the Grafar coaches which had gone by the time I took a second look, but I saw everything and spoke to everyone I wanted to and that's fine by me.
Photos from St Albans on Flickr