Sunday, 3 January 2010

Bernie Cartwright, A Sad Loss

Sadly, I was informed today that Bernie Cartwright of the Whitewebbs Model Railway Club died this morning from a heart attack.

I’ve known Bernie well since 2002, as he was the exhibition manager of the Enfield Whitewebbs show, held every September near London. He was an ex-pat Northerner from Darlington who'd ended up down south, and I met him when was I making and selling clocks at model railway shows. We had a chat in Leicester, of all places, and he invited me to try out his show. I accepted, but Corail Images was struggling a bit and unfortunately I decided to close the business down a few months later. I rang Bernie and told him I had to cancel, and in his typically forthright manner, he said, “So what are you doing instead?”

I explained that I was experimenting with creating a range of ‘OO’ gauge signs and advertising billboards that I’d recently tried out at the annual DEMU Exhibition, but it was too early to say if it would work. Bernie said, “Okay, bring down whatever you’ve got on the day and I’ll give you a table. If you make any money then you can give a donation to the club; if you don’t – well, you’ll have a day out and we’ll feed you.”

That pretty much summed Bernie up really. No nonsense, tell it like it is and always a solution to hand. I attended Whitewebbs that year with much success, and indeed from that, Signs of The Times was born. I traded at his show until SoTT folded in 2007, at which point Bernie said, “So why not bring your layout down instead?” My final appearance would be in 2008 with a demonstration stand; Bernie regularly rang round his mates on the circuit to find out what they were up to and would offer you the chance of involvement at the show. He’d ring several times a year, just for a chat – imagine any other exhibition manager doing that!

Bernie was far more of a mate than an exhibition manager. Whether you exhibited, traded or demonstrated, to Bernie you were a person as opposed to a means of generating money. You’d be fed and watered, with bacon butties for breakfast and a lunch in the railway carriage – but if you were on your own, then lunch was brought to your stand. That’s what made the difference, and that’s why I supported the Whitewebbs Show until he stood down due to ill health in 2009.

Bernie’s wife Jan was always involved in the exhibition catering, and so I got to know her well too over the years. They made a great team and shared a wicked sense of humour that permeated the rather stuffy world of many railway clubs. Going to the show was always a day out and a bit of a jolly, with an exhibition and some trading thrown in. Bernie’s straightforward and no nonsense style will be greatly missed on the circuit; I’m raising a glass in his memory tonight and I hope that anyone who knew him will do the same in his honour. I'm sure that he wouldn't have it any other way.

Bernie Cartwright – One of a kind and greatly missed.

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