Photo: Ian Kay

DOGA on the Tele

by Paul Jupp

The last edition of the journal featured a photograph of myself being filmed by a TV crew for a programme to be shown on the BBC. (See above). Many DOGA members tuned in to BBC 4 to watch James May’s Big Trouble in Model Britain, but people have asked how we got involved. A visit to the Hornby Visitor Centre on a Saturday morning in late September last year with fellow DOGA member Philip Snowdon was the initial contact we had with the camera crew. The Hornby Visitor Centre had announced an ex-display sale and out of curiosity we decided to make a visit. Phil was on the phone to the chairman asking him if he was interested in certain Hornby products at certain prices (not that cheap by the way!) while a Camera was focussing on him and the conversation he was having.

Once we had both selected our purchases, we then queued up to pay for our merchandise. As we stood there, the camera crew made their way over to us and asked us what we had selected and why. I was asked if I was a collector? The camera crew were under the impression that people were buying products as collectors and that they would be put into a collection and never used. My response to the Cameraman was that I was firstly “A Railway Modeller” and then a “Railway Enthusiast.” Phil and I then went on to talk about what we had bought and that we would be running the rolling stock on a model railway layout. We got round to mentioning DOGA and that The Chairman’s layout “Batcombe” would be going to the Great Electric Train Show in Milton Keynes and the film crew mentioned that they were going too. They then asked if they could see us preparing the layout a few days before the Show, we said that we would mention it to the chairman because  it was his layout and it would be down to him to allow the camera crew to visit his home. The Chairman considered the request carefully and allowed filming to take place of pre-exhibition preparation which consisted of repairs to some of the Batcombe scenic boards, soldering, fitting of brass gates for the station and track cleaning. The crew filmed all of this.

Friday 12 October 2018 was a sunny but windy day. Members of the Batcombe crew gathered at the Chairman’s house in the morning to load Batcombe into the van. With the van doors open and with a brisk breeze blowing, the first board was loaded into the van. Unfortunately the wind caught the board causing it to fall on its scenic side which even though having a protective covering managed to destroy the yard crane. Once loading had taken place, I went with Richard East to get a replacement yard crane from his layout. We arrived at the venue in Milton Keynes in mid- afternoon. I went into the venue to find out where Batcombe was due to be located and the reception desk, I was greeted by the Camera crew. We were then followed into the venue carrying layout boards and all our other equipment and rolling stock. We found out that we were on the second balcony level so a long walk to the top of the venue.

Once we had all of the boards on the floor and ready to connect I noticed that one of the D plug connections had been sheared off which meant more repairs would be required. (more on that later!). Having set up the layout I then was asked about the show and I admitted that I was “excited and buzzing.” I explained that when the public come through those doors at 9.30 am the next morning, we had to put a show on for them. The public will want to see trains running so we need to be ready and operating.

But first, the D Plug. I found out that this had sheared off completely and that it was needed to connect to the main control panel in order to isolate the sidings in the goods yard. I should explain that Batcombe is run to a timetable and there are several train movements where goods trains will shunt and then have to be clear of the mainline so that the next passenger service can arrive at Batcombe station. With Gerard Pearson alongside me, we set about in working out which wires connected to where. While we were doing this, the Chairman realised that he had left the station buildings at home. He then made for the exit with Phil Snowdon in tow.

I then get asked by the camera crew, “Where’s Colin gone?” And “Are you in charge of repairs, Paul?” to which I repaired “no, we work as a team! And we have to be ready to go for 9.30 am tomorrow!” With Gerard deciding to strip new cable with a Stanley knife, I used the quicker method of using my own teeth to strip the cable which was just as good. What was shown next on television was clever editing. The Camera Crew liked the idea of the soldering going on and then edited the filming to make it look that we rewired the isolation switches etc. What really happened was that I noticed the point at the front of the goods yard was an insulfrog point. Therefore, we did not need to reconnect the wires after all as throwing the point to the mainline would isolate the goods yard. I then gathered the remaining team members together and explained the work around that we would use for the weekend. We then taped up the remaining loose wires (which was in the programme!) and suitably impressed with our handy work and problem solving abilities we had an evening meal and then reconvened in the hotel bar. Later that evening, the chairman returned from South East London carrying the layout buildings and we filled him in on the point issue and other matters. After leaving the hotel bar in the early hours of Saturday morning we looked forward to the show.

On Saturday Morning, we had an early breakfast and then went into the MK Arena to add the finishing touches to Batcombe. The station building was put in place and new crane added to the goods yard we were ready to go. Being located on the second balcony, we had a great view of the main hall and watched as hordes of people came into the venue. Around 7,000 people in two days!

A word on the operation of Batcombe: the fiddle yard curves from the right hand scenic board behind you in a U shape. The front operator has the fiddle yard operator to his right and the operation is all about communication between the two of you. It is important to have a pair of operators who have an understanding with each other. As Batcombe works to a printed timetable, the front operator and fiddle yard operator are continuously in contact checking which train is due out next or back into the fiddle yard. Phil Snowdon and myself were filmed operating with the public standing 3 to 4 deep in front of the layout. I was asked to commentate on the trains arriving and departing from Batcombe.

The Camera Crew also filmed the DOGA stand and the programme even got the association some well earned publicity. Phil and I were then asked  if we would wander around the show and point out the things that had caught our eye. We visited Accurascale where I had the chance to hold and inspect their prototype CEMFLO wagon (which was cut from the programme) and then on to Hattons where we looked at the prototypes of the new class 66 which does look stunning. This was included in the programme and used as a hook for comment about Hattons being a  Hornby Retailer but also a manufacturer.

A few days after The Great Electric Train Show we were contacted by the film crew and thanked for our time in Milton Keynes, this came with a “but”. They were pleased with what they had filmed and wanted more from us. This is when Gerard was filmed in his garage with some of the scenic boards of his layout Bee Road set up. This piece ended up at the start of the programme, so all is not in the order of how it was filmed.

So what did you not see?

There must be somewhere in the region of 30 hours of footage that ended up on the cutting room floor.

After Milton Keynes, the Film crew attended a Model Railway enthusiasts’ get together at the London Theatre in New Cross where interviews took place on reviewing the Milton Keynes show. The Chairman and I mentioned that we were going to Warley and were asked what we were looking forward to seeing. Consequently, the chairman and I were interviewed at Warley and we showed the camera crew products that we had seen and particularly liked. The Train Tech working platform destination board being a favourite of mine. We spent a fair amount of time being interviewed at the Accurascale stand after they had announced their new Deltic Locomotive.

There were lots of questions directed to everyone that was filmed asking about Hornby’s future and did we think they would go bust. Certainly not was our response.

The bits you won’t see!

While at the chairman’s house, being interviewed a loud thud was heard. I just carried on and said. “Nothing to worry about that’s just the cat falling off the Settee” to which the camera man and sound man fell about laughing. The Chairman’s dog also high fived the cameraman with his paw! When Phil Snowdon and I went to visit Hatton’s, the cameraman while following us took a tumble on the stairs again edited out.

The bits that you see and then don’t see!

Some editing that shows a few errors, When Phil had gone back to London he is shown still at Milton Keynes helping make repairs to Batcombe! Secondly, a picture on the wall of the chairman’s home will appear and disappear again!

Overall, I was happy with what the public saw. I have received a lot of positive feedback from people not necessarily Model Railway Enthusiasts who thought that we came over as a group of passionate, ordinary guys who didn’t take ourselves too seriously. My aim from the beginning of filming was to make the hobby come across in a way that was fun, accessible to people of all ages and if we have done our bit to promote the hobby in a positive manner, then our efforts were worthwhile.

All material Copyright the Double O Gauge Association 2022
This article first appeared in The Journal  Volume 25 Issue No 1   Summer 2019