Sunday, February 24, 2013

Exhibiting a model railway by public transport

Over at Wood End and Beyond, there is a thought-provoking post post about the idea of transporting model railway layouts by public transport.

The cause of this speculation is the rather excellent looking S gauge layout "St Juliot". It'd 5 feet long yet packs up into a carryable package complete with castors on the bottom. The photos show it stowed on a train and it appears to be about a third taller than a rucksack but a comfortable fit in the luggage section of a Class 158, whatever that is.

Anyway, this might be the solution to my exhibiting woes. If we built something similar, and at 5 feet, that's not far off the size of most of the layouts anyway, then there's no need to use the car. Result!

As I commented on the original post, I'm not so sure. Since this is my blog, I think I can ramble a bit and expand on the points mentioned.

First, the trend for UK exhibitions is to move to out-of-town venues with little or no public transport access. I know from years helping organise shows that the biggest selling point to the punters are the words FREE PARKING on the poster. Talking over the barrier at shows many years ago, when we mentioned being in a rather nice town centre venue, faces fell. Put simply, railway modellers do not travel by train.

The move to an exhibition centre made a lot of people very happy. It also made one customer at the local model shop quite unhappy but since he had been slagging the show off for years in a local fanzine thing he ran whilst never offering any help - I thought that on balance we'd done OK with that one.

Yes, I know I could pitch up at the station and call a cab but this brings us on to the other problem - cost. Exhibitions want the lowest costs and that, in the UK, means petrol money only. Not a couple of train tickets and then some taxis. I know they can be bought in advance to save money but a trip to York (for example) with be 60 quid each. The diesel Berlingo will go there and back for that in fuel.

Oh, and while I think about it - without transport, getting to the accommodation will be tricky to impossible. You might get a lift from a fellow exhibitor but there's no guarantee.

While I suggest that the layout at 5 feet long might be a Parker-stylie model, realistically there are limitations. We're talking micro-layout rather than full-blown train-set. No matter how clever the model, it's not as interesting to operate or as public friendly as a proper model. Some major planning is required to pack the baseboards, stock, controllers, power, lights and other stuff into a single box too. I notice that St Juliot requires tables, another risk as there are some horrors out there. You want them all the same level?

So, is it a goer? Not sure. My feeling is that one or two layouts like this are fine. After that an exhibition manager is faced with an expensive layout that isn't very big. Too many of these pushes the expenses bill through the roof.

The trick is, I suspect, to work in an oddball scale. S gauge is good and I've always wanted to have a go at it. 3mm would be fine too - we certainly received invites simply because of the scale where a manager wanted a full spread. Produce a largely out of the box OO or even one with kit built stock and I bet there is a lot less interest.

I love the idea. I'd happily put up with the travelling problems (early start on Friday, desperately late back on the Sunday) to have a go. I just don't know if it is worth it. What do you think?

St Juliot on at the S Guage website


James Finister said...

Perhaps this needs a re-thinking of what you are exhibiting for and why people would want to see it? A micro-layout used to demonstrate your techniques, and how to easily make the switch away from RTR is very different from the typical fanciful micro layout on the late Carl Arendt's site (you'll find one of my garden lines on it). Weren't you at least tempted to sketch a possibility when Hornby mag ran its 3ft Challenge? What about an Inglenook version of Hellingly?

Sadly as you point out public transport would still be difficult for a lot of exhibitions

Paul B. said...

Slightly off-topic, the club that I used to be a member of many years ago gave a modest discount to anyone who travelled to the show by train, although I have no idea how many did.

And Phil, you need a proofreader! (mdoel railway?)

Phil Parker said...

James - I'd be happy to demo model making but very, very few clubs bring in demonstrations from a distance, it's far cheaper to get the members to do this and I don't think I'm enough of a "name" to justify the expenses!

Paul - Title fixed. That's what happens when the passion for writitng is flowing...

Michael Campbell said...

You're right about few people using public transport - I took the train to Brighton this weekend but it's the first time I remember getting to a show any other way except by car!

I saw St Juliot at Uckfield and it is a great layout, but Maurice was there on his own and reliant on the local club providing cover for lunch breaks etc. As you say, once 2 operators are required it's far less economic.

Mind you, you already have a layout in a storage box, you must be able to take that on a bus?!

Duncan Young said...

Just came across this thread... Reading my father's Railway Modellers of 1961 there was a chap called Jack Dugdale who had a layout called Ortogo with lots of early electro-mechanical attractions like riabbits popping out of holes and other stuff- quite trailblazing in its day. He was from tye Manchester club and used to transport the layout to and from the Manchester show on the rear platform of a Corporation 'bus. I doubt if you would be allowed to do that now!

Phil Parker said...

I remember reading about Ortogo in old magazines - I still have the articles on the operating features in a box file.