Arigna Town is about to embark on a series of exhibition dates, starting with the three day show at York over Easter. Hence thought it might be of interest to record my experiences in the coming weeks & months as, after York, there is Epsom [25/6 April], Gravesend [May], Bexhill [Aug], Worthing [sept], Beckenham [Oct] and Tolworth [Nov]. York will be the layout’s 4th outing &, as usual, following the previous one at Orpington in January, there is a list of things to attend to.
However, before having a look at this, I would like to share a few thoughts about exhibition layouts generally. Have attended a couple of shows recently as a paying customer & it seems to me that some layout owners are missing the point of why they are there – ie to entertain the paying public. To me, that doesn’t just mean keeping the trains running [realistically too if possible], it also means ensuring there is a decent standard of presentation on the layout as a whole. Things that bugged included one layout where the backscene seemed to have footprints on it, while others had baseboards joints so obvious they were more like earthquake cracks. Then there was the diesel motive power depot where every loco was fitted with sound and ALL of them were running on tick over – there were over 20 of them & the resultant white noise made me feel sorry for the layouts either side. However, would any self-respecting shedmaster waste fuel in that way? One loco on tick over would have been enough, and undoubtedly the effect would have been so much better, also enabling the full start routines to be used too.
Anyway, enough of the soapbox, because I’m only too aware that things do not always go as planned at exhibitions, as the list from my last outing shows:
• Wiring between baseboards two and three needs replacing, due to a serious short
• Loco turntable spindle requires a brass sleeve to improve operation. Likewise, pickups to turntable deck need adjusting
• Austin 7 car – three of the wheels need re-fixing [just one still on then…]
• Bakers/dentist shop had come adrift
• Several items of stock are fouling the platform ramp
• Suddenly, some items of stock were buffer locking, esp cattle wagons going into the cattle dock [turns out what order they are marshalled can cause problems]
• Extra foliage needed behind the Miner’s Welfare building, as found it was possible to see the point lever supposedly hidden behind
• One buffer & set of steps to repair on Brake van 2
• New ‘excursion train’ requires fresh info label for the fascia.
Sadly, none of this is particularly unusual where exhibition layouts are concerned. Compared to home based [fixed] layouts, they lead a hard life. Every show means the baseboards are split up, crated & loaded into a car/van/trailer, then bounced & vibrated over often quite long distances [York is a 400 mile round trip for me], only to be set up again, operated intensively for 8 hours a day over 1-3 days, before being split up once more to be returned home.
Owners & operators also go through it. The long journey to York means I am given Friday night accommodation [could have the Monday too if I’d wanted], but one day shows often mean you have to be there early in the morning to set up. Arigna Town needs about two hours, so a 10am start means being at the venue before eight, which can mean a 5am alarm call, or earlier. Packing up is usually quicker, because stock starts being put away in the last hour, but it is usually up to an hour after the show before I am driving home. Indeed, I often leave the layout in the car overnight [i do bring the stock in], because experience has taught me that tiredness causes all sorts of unwanted bumps and scrapes, to the layout and me, for that matter.
So, one thing I always take with me to shows is a notebook, into which every fault/problem is recorded. It is therefore an unbreakable rule that these things get fixed before I go out next time. Because exhibitions give you an extended amount of [quite intimate] time with your layout, you often notice things that you might not see at home. Any electrical or track faults that might get ignored at home have to be sorted at a show, or you face the embarrassment of being seen with a duff layout – though there are a few who seem quite blasé about this. From time to time, I like to join the punters at the front of the layout, to see how things look to them, while seemingly simple things like a sticking three link coupling can be extremely frustrating when you have 20 people watching you struggle. Hence, it is better to get it all sorted before the layout goes out again.
As well as working my way through the Orpington ‘list’ recently, a few changes have been made. These include painting the gates on the Georgian house & signalman’s cottage [they’d previously been left bare white plastic], removing the buffer stops beyond the turntable, touching up the backscene [mainly to cover up dirty marks made in transit], plus making new stock boxes for the excursion train. The last couple of weeks leading up to the York show will see all locos and stock serviced and repaired/repainted where necessary. Track, wheels and pickups all get a thorough clean, while all the ‘support items’ are also checked. Lights, toolbox, soldering iron, drapes, fascias, pelmets , controllers etc. There is a list of these in the back of my notebook & I shudder to think what I’d do if I forgot a key piece of equipment.
Hence, watch this space, as I intend to add to this blog after each show, so you can get a feel for how things have gone and [with a bit of luck] an insight into some of the other layouts that catch my eye.