Sunday, January 21, 2018

Chiltern Model Railway show 2018


Didn't this use to be St Albans show?

Yes, it did, but then they made the move to Stevenage to a leisure centre and theatre complex. Result - instead of the horribly cramped and difficult to navigate accommodation of past years, this time we have two large, rectangular halls.

The organisers have taken the advantage of this to fill them with lots of high-quality layouts, several of which would have been too large for the old place.

Getting in a bit odd as the ticket booth is upstairs and show on the ground floor. The last vestiges of the panto were evident with Dick Whittington themed cafe names still pinned up as the show finishes its run.


Sorry to report that this was another show with a lot of chatting which I know doesn't make for an exciting report. I did take a few photos and the excellent lighting means most of them came out OK.

Highlights had to be listening to the Gauge 3 models run. Not the sound units in the electric locos, but the rumble of heavy rolling stock over track joints - absolutely perfect. You can try in smaller scales, but never really achieve that deep thunk so redolent of old train journeys. I don't miss it on a modern train, but there is something very reassuring about the sound on a slow service.

Aerial and Pickles

The show attracts layouts from abroad, including this slightly mad, but apparently prototypical one with a working cableway. Not only working, but very well modelled too. It's easy to do this as a gimmick, but much harder to do a quality job.

Sutton Wharf

If there has to be a "layout I'd like to built", it's going to be Sutton Wharf. I love the large scale and the atmospheric colouring and building finishes. Over the years, I've come to appreciate narrow gauge oddities and one day will build something along these lines myself I hope.

Tea and pasteries stand

One change to show reports for a while will be the lack of cake reviews I'm afraid. A new leaf has been turned over with some healthy eating on the agenda and for the moment that means I don't get cake. I can report the tea was lovely and the chicken in a basket perfectly fine. Not pricey either. To ben honest, the cake slooked nice, but small, so I didn't miss them too much...

1 comment:

Christopher Payne said...


As the builder of “Sutton Wharf” I will admit that your kind and appreciative comment brings tears to my old eyes.

I had previously thought being told that one’s work was liked was good, but even better was being told one had inspired. However, your comment that you wished you had built it tops that.

All of that said, I must confess as follows.

Now fifteen years old, the layout had last been exhibited in January 2015 when I had taken it to the Netherlands. On its return (a 350 mile drive + Eurotunnel) it had been stored in my workshop and not touched (the display case had not been opened) until the Wednesday afternoon before the CMRA Stevenage exhibition. The scenic work was carefully dusted down, graphite applied to the track, and the wheels of the locomotives cleaned. Then consternation for at the first attempt at running all locos were found to come to a grinding halt on the frog of one of the points. Testing showed that the frog (and the rail beyond) were electrically dead when the blades moved.

At this point (3.00am on the Thursday) I became very depressed and later that morning discussed with the exhibition manager the option of taking a different layout should a repair prove impossible. This was agreed if necessary, and indeed a notice (for display) of apology was produced to that effect. I then grasped the nettle and replaced the point motor. Given the nature of the layout (the inset canal side restricts the working space under the baseboard) this was not easy but happily proved successful. In essence the old point motor was moving the blades but the inbuilt switching was not routing the power to the frog.

In the event the layout ran all weekend. I am indebted to my good friend Simon Andrews for his services as assistant operator.

Christopher Payne