St Albans show turned out to be surprisingly easy to visit from Leamington. If you set off by 8:30am on the Sunday, the M1 is pretty quiet, the trip from the motorway to venue is short and not too fiddly and you can bag the last parking place in the multi story next door which doesn't charge for parking on the day of rest.
There was a bit of a queue when we got there so whiled away a few minutes in the nearby Costa coffee (this is an in-town show) where I discovered you can buy giant sized chocolate teacakes and that one of those and medium hot chocolate is a bit too much choccie in one session even for me.
Once inside, it was crowded but moving around wasn't too hard. Our first objective was to talk to traders finalising bookings for the Leamington show. That meant lots of chat but I did manage to get a bit of layout gawping in too.
I wasn't the only one. The CMRA who run the show have invested in a pile of plastic periscopes. I recognise these from a few years ago and have asked one of the big noises in the Association if they can tell me where they came from as I'd still love to add one to my layout kit. From a safety perspective, these have got to be a better idea than renting out step stools for children to fall off.
For a change, my favourite layouts weren't the smallest ones in the hall. They were even foreign prototypes.
On the stage my eye was first caught by some exquisite, atmospheric modelling of La Baraque. Although using 16.5mm gauge track, the scale is 1:64. To be honest, operation was a bit limited with a single train circling the model repeatedly but that didn't worry me. The star wasn't the steam engine, it was the buildings. The modeller, Hans Lovet, has captured the look of a run down town with slightly crumbling architecture.
Next to La Baraque, there was Three Chop Roundup, On3 (1:48 and 3/4" gauge), an American layout that also had some cracking modelling going on.
Using a logging line as a prototype, this is circular layout which encourages the viewer to walk all the way round so they don't miss anything. Even the fiddle yard area has a substantial wooden trestle bridge running along its back.
By lunchtime the crowds were still thick so we headed out for some food. Sadly, I missed the turning for the upstairs cafe and we ended up in town again. There was a food fair taking place but the I didn't think I could manage a whole ostrich egg so we settled for a snack in BHS. Sorry, this means no review of the in-site catering but I can report the jammy doughnut was lovely.
Back inside, there is one more layout I need to mention, Christopher Paynes Pynton Tramway Company.
Another odd scale - O9 - 7mm scale on 9mm track to represent 18 inch gauge. The entirely fictitious model assumes someone built a rural line and then electrified it with overhead wires. The builder describes the idea as, "a bit of a stretch" but it's not that different from the Hellingly line which also featured overhead electric running through a bucolic English country scene.
The central station building with "Tram" painted on the roof reminded me of Laxey Station on the Manx Electric Railway although I think there was a Colonel Stephens railway (Rye & Camber?) with a similarly decorated building.
Although a flight of fancy, I think the scene is pretty and although it didn't exist, we wish it had done.
I've scratched the surface of the show here. The quality of the layouts was very high this year but I don't have time to praise every one of them. Instead why not head over to my Flickr gallery to see what I haven't mentioned.