From the Chair

by Colin Snowdon


The exhibition season is well under way and the Easter high point with the major shows at York and Alexandra Palace has just passed. As you can imagine I tend to visit many shows both with the DOGA stand and as a member of the public. I find the standard to be generally very good and a credit to the hard work put in by the organisers. No exhibition manager deliberately sets out to create a boring lack lustre show, but a lot depends on how well a show is received by what the paying public wants to see.


As a member of the “Frank Dyer school” of railway modelling I tend to prefer the “view from the line side” type of model. To be good in my book a layout must present a believable railway like scene. I also expect to see correct operation with trains signalled and running in the manner of the prototype. So in the case of a goods train I would expect to see the signal clear and a train appear at an even pace appropriate for that type of train on the correct line. The layout does not have to be a continuous run to hold my interest, in fact I have a problem with this kind of layout if I see the same loco going to London or where ever and never coming back!


I’m also not a great fan of real time timetables particularly on branch lines. The almost total detachment of some operators from the reality that they are performing for the paying public is at times alarming. I~eople who have paid to see how well the trains run and not stare at the scenery for 20 minutes are sadly disappointed. Then again I do not believe that an interesting layout has to have frantic activity at every moment or that it has to be at least 15 metres long. There are a good number of layouts which strike that happy medium of operation and viewing time very well.
There is also the question of detailing the scene.


There seems, to my mind, to be a fashion for overdoing the cameo scenes. I’m starting to loose count of the number of fire scenes, electric welding set pieces, Police blocks, flashing yellow lights and flashing red lights, all accompanied by sound effects based on two tone horns. Coupled with the pollution from smoke units in chimneys, bonfires and burning houses. My senses are being assaulted in a manner I’m not sure I quite like. Apart from which, being a chronic Asthmatic the amount of smoke oil vapour I can tolerate before a major attack is not great. It does seem a bit thoughtless when I go to a model railway exhibition and the scenery corpses me before a train passes.


There are places for the cameo on every layout to extend its interest beyond just the running of trains and to emphasise the scenic work, hut the cameos are not the reason for the creation of a layout. The spotting idea where a short list of things to spot is given can be quite fun and does promote interest from younger enthusiasts. This ruse is a good way to get people to look closely at the scenery and is ably carried out on Jack Richards “Belmont road” layout. The number of people who have spotted Montmerency the shed cat, Dick and Dave the loco spotters and Ernie reading his paper must he legion hut still they do it. Actually I do it as well before I take over on the layout to give Jack a break, because you feel an absolute prawn if a baffled spotter can’t find Montmerency the cat and your directions are false because Jack has moved him. Having said it’s a good idea, there is always a layout which has “reams” of rabbits,” herds” of herring gulls, robins and spiders all of which pin down the modeller with his family for an hour or so until all have been spotted.


I’ve told you what I’m looking for at a show what are you looking for? I look forward to the letters page and so I’m sure do several exhibition managers.


What do you want?


This article was first published in the Spring 2005 Double O Gauge Association Journal
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