"What is that picture of a bus doing there ?" I hear you ask. Well the weather has been best described as wintry - or in BBC speak, "A snowflake has landed on London ! We're all going to DIE !". Terry Robinson, Stafford Shows exhibition manager, must have been chewing his nails for days wondering if anyone was going to be able to get to the showground for the exhibition.
As it was the snow wasn't that bad and Saturday dawned bright and clear. My train was on time and outside the station the free bus service to the show, provided by the Potteries Omnibus Preservation Society
, was waiting. Apparently it's a 60 year old vehicle and I was surprised to discover the seats upstairs were all on one side. People more knowledgeable than I tell me this is to keep the overall height down, the aisle is lover than the seats and downstairs there is less headroom on one side. We would have been in a different vehicle - a younger one one with heating - but that wouldn't start !
6 pounds plus a quid for the A4 sized programme got me through the door. A very efficient set up with several ticket desks means no one is waiting outside very long. At this time a year that's a good thing. The average age of the visitors means you wouldn't want them hanging around outside too long.
The show is spread across 3 interconnected halls and comprised 29 layouts, 20 traders, 7 demonstrations and a couple of preservation stands. Food is provided by an on-site cafe who have an area in the show supplemented by their main premise just outside the door.
I'm not normally a big layout watcher but the quality of those on display was very high. Singling out anything for special attention is impossible. From Scotland "Law Junction" is a lovely modern image 4 track main line with decent length trains looking for all the world like a real mainline seen from a distance. Viewers should normally see a regular procession of trains. I saw a couple and then heard a loud "Woooah" from the back followed by half a dozen people descending to put things back on the track.
Bridport Town from Wigan caught my eye for the superb market scene at the behind the running tracks. It's a very long thin layout and this small area of detail grabbed me.
The viaduct on Nettlecombe looked fantastic. Very striking and quite brave of the builders giving up so much space to a feature that is purely scenic. Although there is loads going on with the rest of the model, it was this bridge that drew and held my eye.
Best foreign layout had to be Bergeller Bahn, Swiss railways that would also win the "tallest layout" category. A proper rabbit warren model with trains appearing from all directions. If I'm picky the stock looked too clean even for Swiss trains and the Faller Road vehicles had worn the road surface a bit (they always do even though this was a superb use of this kit) but the overhead wiring looked great and the overall effect was marvelous. A real crowd pleaser too.
The layout I would most like to build from the show was unusual for me. "Park House" is a minimum space N gauge set in the blue diesel era. Lots of details and a sensible track plan appealed to me. With the smaller scale RTR models improving in quality (running and detail) it was a rare chance to see how you can build a tiny model and have it look good. Apparently one of the baseboards is made of balsa wood too - clever but very light as the builder discovered when he took it out to the garden to paint !
Trade was average if you want specialists. The range was good though from garden rails to etched loco kits to painting to sickly sweet fudge. With that many stands it was difficult to be disappointed though. I went with a shopping list that didn't go too well mind you:
- Waterslide LMS loco transfers - not available 'cos they aren't made. HMRS ones were on sale but I have these already.
- Triangle section plastic - Plastistruct make a quarter round but not a true triangle.
- Cars Red Label Flux - To be honest I forgot this until I was ready to go but my last minute run around didn't reveal any.
The huge number of people in the hall all seemed to be buying stuff. A couple of friends who are traders were so busy I could do no more than wave at them so the credit crunch didn't seem to be biting too hard. Even though I didn't get the stuff I wanted, I still left with a rucksack full, mostly On30 kits and magazines.
There is only one problem with the event - the show is a mobile phone dead spot, at least in two of the halls. Whist a few hours being spared from poor quality ring tones is a good thing, it means the PDQ machines the trade uses to take plastic cards don't work properly. Several stands had signs up saying cash or cheque only by lunchtime.
The bus back was just as good as the one in and just as well used by happy smiling punters with bags of goodies so technical problems didn't hamper them much. This all looks like a successful event to me.My photos - sorry the light wasn't great so I didn't get that many.Stafford MRC website