Weekend on the rails!

You may have been wondering why all has gone quiet over the last week. Well, I’ll tell you: I was away from Friday taking my model railway layout to an exhibition in Nottingham. Those of you who have been following this blog for some time may remember that the layout, ‘Grove street yard’ was featured in Model Rail issue #143 as well as turning up again in pictures in last month’s issue.

I went with my friend Sam on the Friday and set it up ready for the exhibition proper on the Saturday. It’s quite easy to put up, as I made sure in building it that it was as simple as possible. A few bolts on a few bits of wood make up the legs and the tops just slot in and away it goes. Everything electrical is integral because I fear electrickery and consequently make it as simple and bullet proof as possible.

The exhibition was vast, with lots of stunning layouts that made me quiver at how amateur mine seemed in comparison. But Sam assured me that my efforts aren’t too bad. The Friday allowed for a little wandering about to see the other exhibits. The Nottingham exhibition is one of the bigger in the UK so it was going to be busy on the Saturday and Sunday and we figured that we wouldn’t otherwise get much chance to look around.

We were put up in a lovely hotel in Nottingham. Sam and I found ourselves in what appeared to be the Bridal suite on the top floor – we couldn’t believe our luck. We got a good view too. You have to love a bathroom that incorporates a steam room in one corner!

The Saturday proved to be as busy as I expected. We got a good feed at the hotel and headed over for a leisurely stroll around the trade stalls. I was surprised to find that people were queuing a fair while before the doors officially opened – some people really are keen! It is quite strange to watch the rush as the doors open – it’s rather akin to a tsunami made of people all hurrying to pick over the trade stands for the bargains before anyone else can get to them.

It’s a long day to be stood on your feet operating a model railway. I always take a rug to stand on as you would be amazed at how much pain a solid wooden floor in a sports hall otherwise causes in ankles. It still left us both weary by the end of the day. ‘Grove street’ performed faultlessly with a Hornby class 08 doing almost all of the shunting work. I feel that it is important to keep something moving all of the time, as I know from my own experiences of going to exhibitions that it can get boring looking at a miniature masterpiece where nothing happens for twenty minutes or more. There isn’t a timetable for the layout’s running (yes, some other exhibits do run to a timetable too – following the real railways). Representing a small industrial backwater, the shunting locos can and do shuffle around just moving wagons from siding to siding in what amounts to a strangely absorbing shunting puzzle.

Pete Waterman was there all day Saturday. I had already asked permission to get the box inlay for a model of one of his locomotives signed by him. He seemed quite an approachable chap, and I gave him a signed copy of ‘Bringing home the stars’ just to surprise him as a thank you. I wonder if he will read it and, if he does, get in contact to tell me what he thought of it.

The Sunday was very busy too. We suffered no major calamity except for sore legs. At chucking out time it was bizarre to watch how fast fully operational layouts around us started to get stripped down and cleared. Having planned for dismantling and erection when I built ‘Grove street’ we were packed and away in an hour flat; that even includes the time taken to eat the sandwiches!

All in all an enjoyable weekend where I got to meet and talk to many people, including a few whom I have known online for years but only now got to meet them in person.