With all model railway shows cancelled for the foreseeable future, I've been pondering on which I miss the most. Which has lead me to think about what makes a good show from my personal point of view.
I'm going to ignore shows I attend purely for work, and by that I mean the Warners events at Ally Pally, Doncaster and Peterborough. Much as I enjoy each of them a lot, and would probably go to at least one if I were paying to go in, for obvious reasons, my relationship with the event is different. On the same basis, I can't say Warley NEC, even though I've visited Warley shows since they were at the Harry Mitchell Centre. At all these, I'm "performing" all day, I'm not there to enjoy myself, even though I do.
This also counts out Leamington & Warwick shows - especially since I might only see them from the car park.
I also need to limit myself to the shows as they currently are. No point is dreamily thinking back to Auchtermuchty in 1993, because it has gone. It's in the past. It's also fictitious, but you get my point. I mean I could say Nottingham when it was in the centre of the city and the trip there included my first sighting of a Sprinter train. No time machine, no revisit.
Ultimately, it all comes down to two - York and Stafford. I've been going to both for years.
But the winner has to be Stafford. It ticks a lot of boxes for me, most importantly, being a day out.
The journey starts with a bus ride to the station. Then a train to Stafford followed by a vintage bus to the showground. I enjoy all of that. York means a three-hour drive and I prefer travelling by train. I just do.
On arrival, I head to the cafe to let the first crowds get in while enjoying tea and not standing in the cold.
Once I do make it inside, it's straight to the back of the show for the second-hand stall. I'll never give up the pleasure of a club bring'n'buy and the friendly team here always relieve me of some money. They seem to know to expect me and I'm greeted with a glint in the eye! The addition of a card machine only made this worse, but I don't care. There have been some terrific bargains picked up, things I've been looking for for a while, and junk that I probably shouldn't have purchased, but did anyway.
After that, it's time to work around the hall looking at layouts and picking up essentials from the trade. I get to chat to people I know, but in a more relaxed way than when I'm "working". There will obviously be a bit of work done - I'm always layout spotting for the magazine as well as picking up gossip.
Lunch is back to the cafe where something warm is accompanied by some cake. Regular readers will know how important that it. Afterwards, I try to remember to check the timetable for buses back to the station.
And this is pretty much a standard day. I know what I'm getting into and how it will pan out. Maybe if the train in gets there earlier, I have the chance to nip over and see the aviary in the park next to the station. If it's really early, the hothouse is perfect for a warm-up. Well, the show is in February after all, snow on the ground isn't uncommon!
Maybe York has a nicer venue. The cafe is posher and no-one struggles for mobile phone signals to make card readers work, but Stafford, and shows like this, win for me because I turn the whole day into something special by leaving the car at home.
Perhaps this stems from my early show visiting days. My dad doesn't drive, so we used to take the train and those trips were special. Mind you, even when we exhibited at shows, the evening involved a look around the town rather than just the nearest pub. I'm a bit rubbish at travelling, but in my own small way, I like to get out and about. I'm really missing that.
Relive some past shows: