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The quality of shows in the UK - Model Railway Shows. - Model Railway Layouts. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 10:15 am
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Barry Miltenburg
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Hi

I recently posted a bit of a toys-out-of-the-pram rant on the Much Muckle site about the quality of exhibitions - nothing aimed at Nick & the team because they were good at what they did - but at the vast majority of the layouts for the following reasons;
  1. long periods of time when nothing happened
  2. operators working behind the layout and running trains/talking/etc with mouthfuls of (egg) sandwiches, coke cans stood on the corner of a scenic board
  3. layouts coming to a halt because a mate has turned up and he is more important than entertaining the paying public
  4. shunting at 50 mph with little regard/knowledge of how real shunting was done
  5. trains arriving with a consist that would have made a real railwayman cry
  6. never-to-be-seen trains running into stations because the operator thinks it's a good visual (Royal Mail TPO coaches into a branch terminus was the biggest howler)
  7. HST speeds for all trains whether unfitted freights or on platform approach, then to a dead stop within a loco length at the platform. [more akin to a current London bus than a train :lol:]
On top of this was the usual smattering of
  1. prod and poke because the train wont go
  2. trains coming to a dead stop because the points/isolator section is incorrectly set up
  3. trains falling off the track
  4. couplings won't (un)couple
  5. trains moving when they shouldn't (analogue only!!)
Nick defended the second group of complaints eloquently given the (often) difficult venue conditions and that inevitable "it was alright when we tested it yesterday" scenario.  Back in my younger days, I exhibited plenty of times in N, 009, OO and O and I understand these problems although it does appear these days that some layouts are erected, powered up and expected to run straight off.  Any snags, dirty track or dead spots will be sorted out once the public arrives.  I am sure that is not the case but it certainly looks like it.

I see absolutely no excuse for the first group of complaints and unfortunately, they appear at both national and local shows.  Most of the list appeared at Hornby's GETS.  I commented on the Much Muckle site because they avoided all of them and it's clear why they had been awarded Best In Show a few times recently.  Only they and the Hornby (professional) boys seemed to understand the concept of entertainment.

Like it or not, model railway exhibitions are in the entertainment business.

Last weekend, I drove about 50 minutes to a local show which, on paper, offered a wide range of layouts showing pre-grouping to modern, N to O, end-to-end & terminii.  Good trader support and, on approach, excellent signage from the motorway direct to the venue where lads directed cars into the various car parks.  A Leisure Centre venue usually (IMHO) provides a good start as the cafeteria, toilets, car parking, hall sizes are well suited.

The traders were good offering RTR, tools, bits and beaks as you would expect so 10/10 there.

The layouts were appalling.

No I correct that - the operation of the layouts was appalling.

Beautiful models in all scales were destroyed by a lack of activity and poor running.  Operators with high-spec digital controllers running locos that chuffed, woofed, tooted and hissed at all the right moments committing fouls 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 above.  Not just one train or one layout - nearly all of them.

I lost count of the number of times a child complained "nothing's happening Dad", to which the poor Dad had to explain that something was bound to come along in a minute.  When it became clear that the operators were still chatting about the new X kit of the Y wagon they had just finished and that the public show was somewhat secondary, we all moved on.  Unfortunately the same story played out at the next layout, and the next.

One beautiful layout stood idle whilst the operator chatted to a lady about holidays in the area when she was a girl.  I'm all for interaction but I stood watching the stationary layout for over 5 minutes whilst most people stopped briefly and then kept walking.

I am not the greatest railway operator in the World and I'm not perfect.  I have committed some/all of the fouls (except the egg sandwich one because I hate egg sandwiches!!).  Now, I have a home layout and a small portable layout in the course of construction.  Going forward I will have a new mega home layout.  In all cases, friends and guests always like to look at the trains so I expect the layouts to run any time at the flick of a switch.  Yes, I do get occasional melt-downs when dirty track meets dirty wheels or I'm too busy chatting to realise that I have not closed a section switch but I try desperately to avoid most of the second group of failings and all of the first group.  Even when the visitors don't really know what they are looking at, it's scale speeds, proper consist, appropriate locos with headcodes.  Wagons have loads and coaches have people.

My research for the layout includes the usual activity but I include video footage of real railway operation.  Take care with old B&W footage as the record/play-back speeds can be wrong but there are plenty of preserved lines showing speeds, operational correctness etc.  Even the RailSim programmes can help to steer you towards best practice and give a guide to what 30 mph looks like.

Maybe I'm asking too much but if I am expected to continue to pay to look at layouts, the least they can do is entertain me and look like model railways.  Once again, the Best In Show last weekend was the Thomas layout - it ran faultlessly  :hmm

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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 10:46 am
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Spurno
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An interesting insight to the exhibition scene Barry and a shame really when you think of the time,effort and money that those operators/owners have put into their layouts only to fail at the last hurdle in showing it properly.Makes you wonder why they bothered in the first place.



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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 10:57 am
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Hi Barry,

I sympathise with your concerns and have heard them many times before and yes, I too would have hoped exhibitors would think more about the spectator experience, rather than keeping themselves topped up with tea and sarnies.

However, the exhibitors are a mixed bunch, some with professionally run layouts such as Nick's MM, others being hobby layouts of various standards, all of which they enjoy and want to share with others.

For that I'm grateful and as such, often have to accept the mixed bag and not over worry that the hobby is being reduced. If it was, I wouldn't have so many exhibitions to choose from.

We all enjoy certain aspects of the hobby more than others and are more capable with certain aspects than others, but hopefully will enjoy more and more as we gather greater expertise. I suppose the last aspect we experience, having researched and built a layout sometimes over a long period of time, is running it. I don't mean just playing trains here, but developing a sequence, testing it and operating it successfully many times.

This last aspect clearly needs some brushing up with some and this will hopefully come with practice. Unfortunately, the only practice many get with a larger layout, is at the exhibitions!

Just as well we all like railways.

Bill

 



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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 11:07 am
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col.stephens
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Whilst I agree with many of Barry's comments, I do wonder why the model railway hobby is so hung-up over movement.  Presumably, a static cameo scene should never be allowed as there would be no movement.  Having said that, there is just such a model doing the rounds in SE England which depicts the events on the night of The Great Train Robbery.  To view it you have to enter a kind of tent in which the lighting is controlled to give the effect of night time.  Basically the model consists of a static train.  Nothing moves.  Strangely, on the occasions I have seen it, I have never heard anyone complain about lack of movement.


 To ignore a well detailed and realistic scene simply because a train is not moving through it is a shame.  No point then in going to view the vast countryside depicted on the model at Pendon?


 


Actually, of more real concern to me are the number of layouts which are being shown but are not of a standard that justifies them being exhibited.  Many of them fall into the category of 'dire'!  Whilst I understand that we all have differing levels of modelling expertise and this will probably improve over time, surely we should strive to exhibit the best of the bunch to offer something to which others can aspire?  Sadly, as with so much of modern life, certainly in the UK, it seems as if we are engaged in a constant race to the bottom!


 Terry


 

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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 11:17 am
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Longchap
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Very well put Terry. It's not just the operating side of the hobby on show.

Best,

Bill



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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 11:29 am
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pnwood
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Just for completeness I have copied below the relevant part of my response to Barry's comments on my Much Murkle (note spelling) thread

"My team try to put on an entertaining show with a limited track plan compared to many layouts and we always try to keep something moving.

I take great pains to ensure that track and wheels are clean, the main requisite of good running, and that operations follow as near as is practicable to the prototype. We do have the odd derailment but they are few and far between, fortunately and are usually the result of operators being distracted. 

One thing that is not often appreciated by the paying public, which often results in erratic running, is that the environmental conditions can greatly influence how a layout behaves. Taking a layout such as Much Murkle from its storage in an unheated garage and transporting it into a very warm exhibition hall can have unexpected consequences. 

We experienced problems with our auto-couplers and some electrical continuity with our cassettes for the first hour or so, and other layouts were also having running problems due to the very warm temperatures in some parts of the venue. Whilst you have complimented me and my team on how well Much Murkle ran please bear in mind that some problems that layouts have are not always within the operators / owners control.
"

To add further to the discussion; taking up one of Bill's points, I would not consider myself and the Much Murkle team as professional operators, but we do try very hard to put on a show that will please the enthusiast as well as the parents bringing along their young train mad offspring. The later generally know little about steam train operation in the early 1900's. Indeed many have never seen a lump of coal. To those we try (not always successfully) and engage them in a discussion about how coal was essential to daily living and how other goods were transported around the country. I would add that it is just as important to use the exhibition environment to try and educate the younger generation on how railways dominated the transport scene before the second World War.

I also agree there are many beautiful layouts poorly operated, and a few scenically poor layouts which are operated very well. Much Murkle is only a small branch line terminus which many people at exhibitions only give a glance to as they head for the bigger layouts with long trains. Those who do stay for a while at the front of MM hopefully feel their time spent was worthwhile. Me and my team are not in the exhibition scene to win cups and accolades although it is very nice when it happens. We do it because we enjoy doing it.




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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 11:57 am
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pnwood
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Reading Terry's point about static scenes made me think about how important it is to have well presented scenes, particularly when no trains are moving.

Having now done approx 20 exhibitions with MM, I have noted that those attending can generally be put into 4 groups

1. Rail enthusiasts - Really interested in railways and operation, may or may not also be a good modeller.
2. Modellers - Marginally interested in the prototype but like building things.
3. Artists - Like trains a little but the creation of a detailed scene apeals more (many women fit into this category), not bothered about operation at all.
4. Aspirers - Would like to build a layout but not sure where to start. May or may not have a young child(ren) in tow.

When no trains are moving Modellers and Artists are the ones most likely to engage us in discussion about how this or that was made or how or take the time to study the cameo scenes around the layout.

Rail enthusiasts will generally ask about the auto-couplings or the stock that is on the layout.

Aspirers will ask about track and control systems.

This is of course only a generalisation but I feel that most people at shows fit into categories 2 & 3 although they may have a leaning towards 1 and/or 4 as well. Therefore I agree with Terry that it is important to have well created scenes and cameos that can lead people to ask questions or inspire them to go and creat something for themselves.

 




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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 12:25 pm
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MaxSouthOz
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I have some difficulty in following this discussion - and I think that it must be that here in Oz, the trains run differently.

We live near a railway right of way which has one track for interstate freight and the other for local passenger trains. 

Well, I say trains - they're not like proper trains with a loco and carriages/wagons; they are just carriages with motors in them.  But I digress.

One may pick any place on our rail network and sit and watch the proceedings - like at an exhibition.  Most of the time one is staring at empty tracks.  At the Blackwood station we will see/hear a freight train every few hours, and the passenger rail cars run a couple of times per hour in the peaks in the mornings and the afternoons; and then virtually nothing.

Having discovered the delights of Chris Tarrant and Michael Portillo's TV shows, I have gleaned that British trains appear to run more frequently than ours; but surely not continuously.

I rather enjoy the luxury of being able to ogle rolling stock standing around, or waiting at the station.  It looks very natural to me.

What I think is appalling however, is the unrealistic speed at which operators hurl their charges around their layouts.  Racing through the same station over and over and over.

My friend Ian took his scale speedometer one year and asked permission to place it on a British outline layout - only to find the Flying Scotsman hurtling along at 280 miles per hour.

As I said, it's probably different here.  :lol:



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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 04:13 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Firstly, may I apologise for mis-spelling "Murkle" into "Muckle".  I'll do the 100 lines..........

If it didn't come across, may I stress that the real shame of the operation issues are that the layouts on show are, generally, very good in terms of scenery, subject matter, setting etc.  I have not come across many (if any) layouts that might fall into the category mentioned by Terry (Col Stephens) which beg questions as to whether they are good enough to exhibit.  I have found that, whatever the subject and genral standard of production, layouts invariably have some lessons or other that I can take away - often colours or textures, scenic treatments and the like.

There was an N gauge Settle & Carlisle line at the local show on which the scenery was very good and the O gauge layouts included some interesting well modelled cameos and some humorous scenes. Yes I like this sort of thing and agree that a branch terminus with a schedule like the London Underground looks as silly as the TPO vehicles.  Operationally, neither ticked my boxes though and I confess, at heart, to like good operation within a realistic environment.  Great modelling but no trains or nice trains on bare baseboards is not my thing.  I fully accept that we are all different (fortunately) and what I like is not what others like.  Perhaps I am asking too much that exhibitions please all of the people all of the time?

Movement includes shunting as well as running and I am sure the operators of terminus stations know all too well that a bit of shunting helps to give a show even when there are no arrivals or departures.  I am not sure why the bigger layouts include lineside sidings, lay-byes etc and then never use them.  A Stopping Freight train doing it's thing is every bit as interesting as an express pasenger - in fact, more so as it tends to be on the scene a lot longer!!

I give each layout at least 2 or 3 views at a show and each time, watch for at least 5 minutes.  That way, I hope to miss the quiet times and hope to see as wide as possible range of trains on show.  In today's hectic lifestyle, maybe operators are trying to get through the shunting/running sequence as quickly as possible - hence the manic speeds - but that is at odds with the long periods of sweet nothing?????

Perhaps more Members like Nick with an exhibition pedigree can offer an insight.  Perhaps I'm just too fussy and should just sit down?

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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 06:42 pm
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The Q
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Having people watched at our own and others shows, I do notice if nothing moves the punters do, especially if accompanied by children.

Most punters only observe a layout for only a couple of minutes.

I have noticed some operators being diverted by visitors and everything stops.

I have also seen a layout run so prototypically very little happened as the signalmen were busy ringing their bells operating their signals, and eventually a train would arrive by which time half the punters had gone.

I've also seen a layout where nothing ran until the last hour of the show as they rebuilt the wiring under the layout, sadly it was not one of the most scenically capable layouts either.

My opinion is something has to move, that doesn't mean a train can't come in stop at a station for say 20 seconds and then move on.

Continuous hand of God moments break the illusion, I guest operated on a 4mm three link coupling shunting layout. A nightmare to operate and illusions destroyed..

My own project I hope to have four trains available each way, and run the trains in sequence at proper speeds. Also having the branch line shuttle or freight for available for operation or some shunting in the goods yard.
The total sequence should run for 5 to 10 minutes, long enough for any punter and not to much of a brain strain for the operator.



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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 06:47 pm
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Not living in the UK my experience of British Exhibitions is rather limited although my partner & I have been to all the major events & quite a few minors shows as well. We haven't been to the UK in a few years now but will eventually will again sometime.My main gripes with layouts are


(1) Dirty track. I know it can happen when a layout is running for several hours but not continuously. Stop using plastic wheels & that will help.


(2) Excessive Speed. I know expresses ran at a fair pace but most local & urban trains ran at a respectable speed & didn't look like they were been driven by Lewis Hamilton.
I've seen mixed good trains driven at the speed of the Flying Scotsman & it just looked plain wrong.


(3) Sound. I love sound & think it adds greatly to the experience but not sounding like world war three.
I remember being at a minor local show in the South of England a few years ago where one exhibitor had an American layout with full sound which was a bit loud.
The exhibitor next to him had had enough so he laid into the American layout owner in full voice & in full view of the public. Have to say it was worth the entrance fee alone.  :lol:


Tony.



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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 06:55 pm
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col.stephens
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Not too fussy Barry.  You make some good points, to which I would add:


a) trains running without lamps front and rear,


b) non-working signals, resulting in trains passing when at danger,


c) runaway trains, i.e. no crew in the cab - especially noticeable in O gauge.


d) shunting which is so slow that one gets the impression the operator is just trying to impress with his oh-so slow loco which only does three inches in an hour! Never mind that the crew want to get to the bothy for a mug of tea!


e) small oval layouts (usually in N gauge), which bear no resemblance in any way to prototypical railways. (Just glorified train sets.)


f) model railways instead of models of railways.


g) goods trains running without a brake van attached.


h) silly attempts at humour thereby destroying the illusion of reality, e.g. the plastic dinosaur peeping over a building, etc.


 


Terry (aka Victor Meldrew!)


 


 

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 Posted: Sun Oct 15th, 2017 07:04 pm
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col.stephens
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It has just occurred to me that movement does not have to be restricted to trains.  Yesterday, I saw an excellent 7mm scale industrial layout with radio controlled lorries supplementing the moving trains.


Terry

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 Posted: Mon Oct 16th, 2017 09:43 am
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Barry Miltenburg
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Ah Terry - now you get to my big failing in life - my layouts are correctly signalled but I can't make the damned things work :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops:

I am currently experimenting with various "RTR" signals and bits of wire attached to some Ratio kits that I've bashed together and they seem to be OK so the situation may change but as for the present Yarslow layout, its SPAD after SPAD after SPAD :sad:.  Its the one big thing I must change on the new layout.

I had forgotten about loco crews.  Good spot.  Even Pete Waterman's Leamington Spa has some driverless trains!!

Your Pendon comment is interesting - I wonder if we are attracted to it because it is not a model railway, its a model village with a railway in it???  Its bloody good, but its still a model village.  Do I like it?  Yes - I have been a Friend of Pendon over the years and only the long drive down keeps me away from regular visits.

Blast from the past - Borchester Market - either live or on YouTube, it's a good watch because it is designed for movement. 

Spurno, your first reply hurts - a lot of people have put in a lot of time and, for me they have fallen at the last fence.  For me, however good the modelling, it must run right.  I'm sure other opinions are out there.

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 Posted: Mon Oct 16th, 2017 06:32 pm
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Barry Miltenburg wrote:
Spurno, your first reply hurts - a lot of people have put in a lot of time and, for me they have fallen at the last fence.  For me, however good the modelling, it must run right.  I'm sure other opinions are out there.

I thought that's what i said.



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 Posted: Mon Oct 16th, 2017 07:04 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Spurno - that is what you said and I am agreeing with you.  It hurts that what you said was so true.  These guys have given it their best and I'm not satisfied.  That hurts.  :sad:

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 Posted: Mon Oct 16th, 2017 08:10 pm
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At least you have a lot of shows to choose from.  In New Zealand there are a much smaller number and usually based in the main centres.  The layouts on display are the same old, same old in various states of function ability.
The most popular seem to be the O Gauge "Toy Train" layout and the Marklin Club presentation.

Attendance at the various shows this year has been dwindling.  The hobby doesn't appear to attract the younger age group.  Some of the retailers who offer trade stands are not willing to negotiate prices whereas the one I help out at our local shows is prepared to discount and usually gets the bulk of the sales.

The model railway press has waxed lyrical on the future of our hobby.  I don't know what the answer is but if the trend continues the hobby probably will only last this generation.



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 Posted: Tue Oct 17th, 2017 02:29 am
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Hi Barry,

I've come to the conclusion that large shows bring out the worst (in) layouts. Big(ger) is not necessarily better. Give me a smaller layout with some semblance of operations and a realistic story line at the local club event in the church hall rather than a large racetrack with a gang of dozy operators behind the back scene.who communicate in grunts and hand gestures (as in talk to the hand...cos' we haven't a clue why it's not working and our electronix whizz-kid is looking at other layouts). I make it a point to complain to the organizers - I've paid good money to see trains running, not watch futile attempts to get electrickery to the track. .

Mind you, most layouts over here at big shows tend to be big, roundy-roundy affairs and noisy. Operations are for the home layout.

Think positively - that entrance money can go towards a new locomotive, or parts. I have attended Warley since 2006, but not this year.

Nigel



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 Posted: Tue Oct 17th, 2017 04:44 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Nigel

I've got Warley pencilled in, mainly because I am expecting great things!!

The wife is up for a trip to Birmingham for the weekend but the list of traders signed up promises to cane the wallet ;-)

Uncle Jeem - I am planning on being in NZ next year so its sad to hear about the decline in the hobby over there.  Is it because the islands don't have a rich railway history - or do they have a history that just doesn't attract people?

I guess we are really lucky in the UK with all the history, famous engineers, trains etc.  We've also got Thomas The Tank and, say what you like, he has probably bought a lot of kids into Model Railways.

B

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 Posted: Tue Oct 17th, 2017 04:57 pm
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Given the ability to simply produce laminated A4 cards, I'd like to see an 'explanation' for what is going on, perhaps a little easel with 'A setting back move to prepare the 1425 to Sometown followed by the yard being shunted for the afternoon mixed goods, watch the brake van being brought to the rear of the train....' .or similar.

More than once I have thought 'Hm, they are making it up or playing some arcane game that the viewing public have no need to understand. '

Doug



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This is topic ID = 15223     Current time is 02:23 pm Page:    1  2  3  Next Page Last Page    
You are here:  Your Model Railway Club > Model Railway Layouts. > Model Railway Shows. > The quality of shows in the UK
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