Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Peterborough Exhibition

What with my work and weekends at The Nene Valley Railway, if there’s one place that I visit frequently, it’s Peterborough. This weekend was no exception, as for the first time since starting this blog, I was finally attending a model railway exhibition. My role was that of demonstrator attached to the Ten Commandments trade stand, so naturally I was primarily utilising products from the range and showing visitors how to get the best out of them. I had prepared a good selection of varied models to build / paint / detail in order to keep myself as well as the public interested. I’m pleased to say that there was a pleasing amount of ‘sensible’ interest and very few nutters about pointing out that the Ford Transit had the incorrect type of hubcaps for that year (Shipley 2007 for that particular gem).

The factory buildings that I have mentioned previously were the stars of this show, and my demo on painting in the windows was particularly well received – just shows how an accidentally found technique can be a winner. The Scenic Rust was popular, along with basic landscaping, road building and detailing road vehicles. There was a lot of interaction on the stand, which made the time pass by more pleasurably and quickly.

Peterborough is a new show that debuted last year, although I wasn’t able to attend as I was sorting out my sock drawer and cross-indexing my Y-fronts. As I couldn’t get out of going; I mean, having volunteered to demonstrate this year, I was looking forward to try out this recent addition to the circuit. Held in the new purpose built exhibition centre at The Showground, the venue is an out-of-town, easy to reach location and the exhibition hall is superb, with plenty of large doors opening onto flat ground making loading and unloading a doddle. A welcome change from the venues chosen by some exhibition managers, who clearly think that operators and traders alike are auditioning for a part in Rapunzel.

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, throw down thy Deltic and a Stanier 8F!"

The show is organised by Warners Publications, a professional exhibition and events company who also publish a variety of magazines, including British Railway Modelling. I don’t read this august journal, not even in the reading room at my local library called WH Smiths, so in the interests of fairness I won’t review it here. Obviously if I liked it, found it well written and presented with relevant articles and news that was topical sometime between Noah’s Ark and The Crimean War then I might read it – but make your own minds up. I don’t want to come across as biased.

As professional events organisers, organisation by Warners is generally good. They turn up when they say they will and even let you in, so if they’d like to take over Ashford Show, then that’s fine by me. On the other hand, they don’t know the difference between Evening Star and Evening Primrose Oil, so the show plays it safe and only books layouts that have appeared in the magazine, rather than going out onto the circuit to look for something new and exciting. Can you imagine the Clothes Show Live taking this approach? “Tell that Vivienne Westwood if her stuff hasn’t been in The Littlewoods catalogue, we’re not interested.” Quite.

Something that you might not unreasonably expect from a publishing company is a show guide in English. The A4 glossy full colour guide was included in the £10 entry fee, but each submission had clearly been written by the layout owner / club /trader – some of whom could write in English, and them others what like cuddent even spel simple wurds and who seemed to think that their grammer was the old lady in the lounge watching Corrie innit. Warners proofreaders had presumably been having an off day, and by rights should now be down at the jobsentaPLUS, and let an amazing number of howlers through. I had highlighted several to share with you here, but thanks to Dave giving away my exhibition guide on the Sunday (without telling me) I now have no reference material. Thanks.

The choice of layouts is entirely subjective, but I felt that the quality of this year’s exhibits was probably the best I’ve seen from Warners for a long time, and it was pleasing to view some layouts that I haven’t seen before – the benefit of taking a break from the circuit, I imagine. I was expecting to view Stoke Summit as it attends almost every Warners event with the inevitability of a participant in Strictly Come Dancing being ‘on a journey’, but it wasn’t there – I believe that it is finally undergoing a long overdue overhaul, and will reappear after refurbishment in a post-privatisation guise featuring overhead catenary with GNER class 91’s and EWS class 66’s taking centrestage as it strives to attract a fresh audience. Bring it on.

I was hoping to give a rundown of my favourite layouts, but as I mentioned earlier, Dave gave my exhibition guide away on Sunday afternoon and it had all my notes in, so that isn’t happening. Probably for the best ...

I will therefore throw in my gallery of some favourite bits at the show. These are all from memory, so if there are any factual errors I apologise and will correct them if notified. I must apologise for the rather poor quality of the pictures – it was a busy show and I was kept on the go over on the demo stand, so the photos were something of a rush job on Sunday morning before opening time. I didn’t get round to see every layout due to time constraints, and just snapped a few models that really caught my eye.

The beach scene on Westcliffe, I particularly like the 'shortcut' path running down to the beach - delightfully modelled on this well observed model.

My favourite scene on Runswick Leamside is the realistically modelled roadworks and contraflow on the dual carriageway. Well, I say realistic - more progress has been made with these roadworks than their real life counterparts on the A1 at Blyth. Maybe the Highways Agency should employ Presier workmen? Just a thought.

My personal favourite layout - Harbourne. I always like to see small, beautifully detailed layouts that ooze character and operate impeccably such as this. It's the sort of layout where very little happens and life is at a slower relaxed pace. In between trains, you have time to take in the scenery and savour the craftmanship that went into building it. Charming.

If you like big layouts, they don't come much bigger or grander than Gresley Beat, based on Kings Cross. Wish I'd had more time to watch it, there was so much going on. The buildings are superb, for a more detailed look at them I'd recommend reading this article on Iain Robinson's modelling blog, which also has some much better pictures that do the model justice.

Staying with the 'make it large' theme, this model of Barmouth Viaduct immediately caught the eye. The 'O' gauge layout was themed around the famous viaduct at Barmouth, and running almost at eye level meant that it looked as imposing as the real thing. The backscene was amazing, all handpainted. Operation was staged so that sequences would begin with the GWR and gradually work up to Regional Railways DMU's - a nice idea that added much variety to the scene. A good photo album of this layout may be seen here.

There was much more, but I was just to busy to see it all!


  1. Very amusing, Martin! You and I obviously share the same reading library...

    That Barmouth Viaduct looks really good. I like the added feeling of weight with O gauge and this would have accentuated that with the viaduct. How was the "Plank" received by the ever-discerning public?

  2. Oh, I forgot to say - it didn't go as it was too big! A fact I rather overlooked when building it. I had a 5x2 table, and with various models and working space, there was no way it could fit. Oops.


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