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Arigna Town Exhibition Blog

David Holman


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.


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David, a great post, it certainly highlights the point that an exhibition display needs military grade resilience to stay the course. And a good checklist of how to keep her maintained.


Any chance of you coming over to this side of the pond in the next 18 months? Blackrock Oct'15, Cultra '16. I want to see Arigna in the flesh!

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If any organisers of shows are reading this & interested, I would be very pleased to take Arigna Town 'over the water'. However, am only too aware it would be expensive. For shows within about an hour of where I live, my costs are simply fuel to get me there, plus a second car for operators - hence £30-£50.

Further than that calls for overnight accommodation, though in the case of York, this is eased by the fact that Gordon Gravett is helping me operate and a fellow club member is travelling up with me in the car. So, fuel cost is a tank of diesel [£50], plus 6 nights hotel in two rooms. No idea what rates York have negotiated, but even at say £40, that takes the expenses up to nearly £300...

To visit Ireland [North or Republic], I am looking at a full day's drive to the relevant ferry port, the ferry cost itself [no doubt much more than the £40 or so it takes to cross the Channel on a booze run]. For a Saturday & Sunday show, I'd probably need Fri/Sat/Sun night accommodation, as the idea of driving back straight after a show doesn't exactly appeal over long distances. Hence could be upwards of £500. Because of this I'd be willing to cover any expenses in Britain, but also appreciate that it might just be too costly to justify. At least it would only be me & the missus to put up - I'd be more than happy to have guest operators, so set against the cost of a large layout [van hire comes into the equation, along with multiple operators], maybe it might be ok for a bigger show?

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Working my way through the 'to do' list for York. Fingers crossed, the turntable is working well now, with the centre spindle sleeved and an additional bracket to support the drive rod underneath the baseboard. The platform ramp has had a visit from a large file & since been repainted, while buffer locking on the cattle train was traced to wagons being in the wrong order, plus a stiff coupling chain. The cattle wagons are now numbered on the underside, so the rake should now work without problems.

Servicing the locos means a thorough wheel clean, plus checks [like the stock], for back to backs, wheel nut tightness etc. On the latter, discovered two wheels were loose, but the countersunk screws which hold them in place could not be tightened because the hexagonal holes [for an Allen key] had worn. Only way to replace them was to drill out a suitable slot to get a jeweller's screwdriver in. Not too difficult as it turned out & the new wheel screws seem to be of a much harder metal - so will hopefully keep their allen key holes intact.

Most layout preparation now done, so will turn my attention to the fascias pelmets, etc, plus the all important tools & sundries boxes. one job still to be done is to put some livestock in the cattle dock. The ones in the wagons are hand crafted & have been making some more detailed versions to go on full show. Hopefully will be some pictures in the workbench thread by the end of the weekend.

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With a day to recover after returning from York - how did it go?

The trip up was a bit of a nightmare: Satnav suggested 3 hours 50 mins without stops, but total travel time was a full seven hours, with two stops, because of Good Friday traffic, rain etc. However, setting up went well & there was a good night out with the Gravetts & others including Mike & Judith Edge [finescale 4mm kit makers]. York seems to be very much the place for the great & good, while everyone seems keen to talk. Voice pretty much worn out by the end of each day!

The layout ran pretty well, the only issues being the worm on the turntable drive, which started to slip [cured by a squirt of thin cyano], plus a failed solder joint in one of the baseboard connectors. Lots of interest for future shows, including Manchester and Warley. However, also just got a formal invite to Cultra in November next year so, fingers crossed, my ambition to take Arigna Town over the water will be realised - and what a venue too! Am already looking forward to seeing some of you guys.

The show finished at 4.30 on Monday and by 5.30 the layout was packed back in the car & I was on my way south again. Home by 10pm - a big improvement on the outward journey. Took out the stock and went to bed, leaving the rest of the unloading till the next day. The layout packs into my car well, while motorways are much better than A roads for driving - fewer bumps and less 'white noise' from constant vibrations over poor surfaces.

A small list of things to attend to over the next two weeks, before the process starts again with the Epsom show on the last weekend of April.

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Been working my way through the 'to do' list from York, with the aforementioned rail bus getting its loose wheel fixed and at the same time the motor being fixed to the gearbox. No idea how long it had been working like that, but it did at least run. Track and wheel cleaning also done, but need to seek out some stuff called Track Magic. Seems as well as clean, it puts down an electro-conductive layer which minimises future applications. It was very hot and humid at times at York, so this would certain help, though even so, we only did a wheel clean at the start of each day.

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Getting ready for a weekend at the Epsom show now. Always a good range of layouts here and the venue is exhibitor friendly, being all on one level.

The to do list has been worked through, so hopefully all will be well for Saturday morning. Was tempted to set up Friday pm till I realised that would be two trips round the M25 in the rush hour. So, an early alarm for Saturday instead.

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Ariana Town worked well again at Epsom, though less can be said of its owner.

Saturday morning was very wet and with the halls not opening till 8am, this left barely two hours to unload and set up. Unloading in the rain is never a good idea, though the scenic boards are last out of the car, so it had actually stopped by the time I got to these. Other boxes & stuff did get wet though, as it was about 50 yards from car park to front door. At least there were plenty of sack barrows available to help move things. my stand was end on to a wall and [very stupidly], I set up the sliding/rotating fiddle yard to close to it. Ten minutes into the show, it dawned on me that there was not enough room to turn the train table at the end of a sequence. I'd left myself about 5cm too close...

By then, there was already a large crowd in front, so could only suffer in silence for the rest of the day. Eventually, had to dismantle the lights, pelmets, drapes [and move all the stock], so I could separate the boards and move them, one at a time, a bit to the right. Sunday was much better, as a result!

The only other issues of any note were a loose wire on the LED lights which required re-soldering and a broken socket on the tender of the G2. The former fixed in situ, the other had to wait until Saturday evening when I got home and could fit a new one. This [and the lack of a train turntable], rendered the excursion train out of action for the whole of the Saturday, partly because of insufficient pick ups to make the loco reliable & also because I didn't fancy turning the loco by hand at the end of each sequence.

Everything else worked well, none more so than the rail bus, which runs much more smoothly now that its gearbox is firmly screwed to its motor. Hence, a very small 'to do' list before its next outing - a one day show in Gravesend next month.

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Did this show last week. A small affair, but very friendly, though not many punters, which was a shame.

Just the one day [saturday], so decided to 'fly solo' and did the entire show on my own, mainly because my usual operators were all 'otherwise engaged'.

All in all, everything went well, with no issues re layout or stock - just as well with no back up. However, one thing that solo exhibiting focuses the mind on is setting up and knocking down. Without help, the number of trips to/from the car double, while setting up/knocking down the layout inevitably takes longer too.

Several parts of the layout are held together with M6 bolts and wing nuts. If any of these are too long, the twirling soon starts to grow wearisome. The light posts, pelmets and tea shelf require 18 of the soandsos, so this week have been working on replacing them with flush mounts. These are small steel brackets, which are screwed to each item you want to join & then setting up is a simple matter of slotting them together. At around 30 seconds per wing nut, reckon I have saved 10 mins, while the purchase of a folding sack barrow has cut the number of trips to/from the car from 12 to 8. Hence around half an hour of setting up/knocking down time saved. Not bad methinks.

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Sevenoaks show yesterday [sunday], a medium sized show, with a nice balance of exhibiters & traders [shame no book stand] and very well organised. The hospitality was excellent, with goodie bags both for breakfast and lunch. Sensible opening times too, with a 4pm finish which allowed us to get home in good time for once.

The layout ran well, the only issues being a popped window on the bakery van and the driver of the G2 coming loose. However, the most important bit was seeing how my adaptations had affected set up/knock down times. Very encouraging is the answer. Arriving at 7.30am, the layout was up and running by 9am, so set up time [solo] has been cut by a good 30 minutes. With help, the layout was back in the car 35 mins after the show closed.

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Another outing yesterday to Bexhill on Sea. The layout has settled in well to being exhibited & [touch wood] only needs a general clean and service between shows. With one of my usual helpers a 6.30am start saw us arrive before 8am and the layout was set up and running before 9am.

Bexhill club's hospitality was excellent - endless tea & coffee, plus bacon butties first thing, a nice ploughman's lunch and lots of home made cakes. However, the perils of running an exhibition in the summer [especially in a seaside town] became clear as the day went on. A bright sunny day, though there were plenty of punters to begin with, it tailed off noticeably after lunch and by the last hour there were more exhibitors than visitors. A big garden show down the road can't have helped, so certainly hope the early visitors enabled a profit.

Overall a very good show and well worth visiting if you are in the area next year, while Bexhill itself is a lovely seaside town, with Battle Abbey just up the road too.

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Apropos nothing in particular, was in the local Halfords recently [uK national motoring shop/chain] & they are selling packs of lock together [jigsaw like] floor mats. Each one is 60cm square [two foot in old money] & are marketed as kneeling aids, floor coverings etc. Ten quid for a pack of six, so bought one, with the aim of having a row of them to stand on behind the layout at shows. When you are standing up most of the day, operating & talking to visitors, the feet take a bit of a hammering, so a bit of cushioning won't go amiss. Will have the additional advantage of covering up extension leads where necessary, plus can also be used to act as barriers inside the car, when the layout is loaded. Am sure a roll of old carpet works just as well, but these mats are a bit more flexible in that they can be arranged to suit your needs.

Worthing show next, just over two weeks time, so will report on things then.

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The Worthing show went fairly well - a 6.15am start not withstanding on the Saturday morning. The venue was a modern high school, so good, flat floors - always a help. Most of the show was in the main corridor, which made a very quiet day, rather than the background noise you get in big hall.

All went well on the Saturday, but I'd managed to get hold of some Track Magic for rail cleaning and though this works well, it turned out not to be a good idea to clean the wheels with the same stuff as adhesion suffered somewhat. Indeed the excursion track was inoperable with the G2 slipping to a standstill. A few other bits of remedial work are required for the next outing at Beckenham in three weeks time, including a new set of wheels for the railbus, as its drive wheels have become badly pitted.

One sobering experience was driving on the A27 past the Shoreham air crash site - still very evident a month afterward.

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Slightly more remedial work needed between shows this time. I decided that it was time to replace a badly pitted rear wheel on the rails. Perhaps because it is a wagon wheel, it has not reacted well to being used to pick up power from the track. An easy job to do though, as the wheel is just a press fit. So, undo body from chassis, pull off old wheel, prise off the sliver of pneumatic tyre, glue on to new wheel & press back on axle. A couple of adjustments to pickups & the bus is working fine again. Hopefully the wheel will stay cleaner too.

The G2 2-4-0 & excursion train also needed attention. I think I over used the Track Magic rail cleaner & had to retire the train on the Sunday at Worthing because the loco was slipping to a standstill. Back home, found that a couple of the coach axles weren't running freely - clearly not helping the situation.... A bit of work with files soon eased this, but the G2 was still slipping, so stripped down the chassis, gave everything a good clean and then added some liquid lead [with 5 min epoxy to the firebox. This has added some much needed weight low down between the drivers & [so far] the train now runs properly again.

The other main item was the Y point to the cattle dock. This suffered a damaged tie bar. The copper cladding had peeled away from the paxolin base. Only option was to replace it. That meant prising off the wooden covers hiding the 'wire in tube, removing the old tie bar & soldering in a new one. A bit fiddly as getting the operating wire to hook into a hole in the tie bar was not easy. However, all now complete & once the insulation gaps were cut everything is operating normally again.

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An undoubted treat this weekend will be hosting Gordon & Maggie Gravett, who are taking their Pempoul [Reseau Breton] layout to Beckenham. For me, perhaps the finest exhibition layout on the circuit [yet to see one better], I hadn't realised quite what a undertaking it is to exhibit. My layout takes just over an hour to set up, solo. Pempoul needs 3 hours! Setting up at shows is often a good time to see how others manage things & though I've previously listed what I take with me, thought that some of you might be interested to read how it all goes in the car. I have a set routine, which goes as follows:

- remove rear seats from car & any stuff from the boot

- two sheets of hardboard on boot floor, then

- briefcase [with all electrics & admin folders] & tool box behind/under front seats

- baseboards 1, 2 & 3 slid in on their back scenes

- plywood plates then bolted to each end of boards to secure them together

-longitudinal trestle beams go one side of baseboards, pelmets the other

- two more sheets of hardboard go on top of baseboard unit

- fiddle yard goes across top of baseboards, crossways, behind headrests of front seats

- one trestle, folding seat, light posts & LED strip go on top of fiddle yard

- sundries crate, stock boxes and cross beams go behind fiddle yard

- other three trestles and tea shelf stand behind layout, just inside tailgate

- still room for a front seat passenger and overnight bags!


Cosy, but in many ways better than stuff being loose and rattling around.


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Enjoyable day at Beckenham, marred only by the fact that the church was cold and it rained while loading up afterwards. Thankfully for the latter, the Yeti's tailgate is a good umbrella and could park right next to the entrance. Gravetts very good company & Pempoul is still as stunning as ever.

Ariana ran well, though the turntable mechanism is starting to slip. Traced it to the polystyrene tube that connects the crank hand to the drive shaft. Makes the former removable for transport. Hence either need to find some 3mm i/d tube or maybe find a collar that can be held in place with screws.

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So, Tolworth this weekend and another show to prepare for. Hopefully have given the turntable mechanism a new lease of life in the form of the innards of a chocolate block connector. Stripped off the plastic coating and beneath is a brass block with two screws that nicely take 3mm steel rodding which forms the under baseboard drive shaft. Hence should now get a good, non slip purchase from the crank handle.

Meanwhile, the Austin 7 needs a wheel fixing and everything else is due a pre-show clean up - track, wheels, pickups etc. Then it is an early start on Saturday for an 8am arrival to set up before the show.

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Decent weekend at Tolworth. Was very lucky with the weather - it started raining about 10 mins after I got the layout unloaded on Saturday morning & began again soon after driving away on Sunday. There were some pretty big layouts there this weekend & all of a high standard. We were backing on to the Guildford club's 0 gauge Normandy layout, a vast tail chaser that could have easily held a small exhibition within it. They certainly kept things running, never less than 4 trains circulating all weekend. Made for some good train spotting when I wasn't busy, but very noisy at times, when 10 coach expresses were crossing 30 wagon freights. Hard to hear what people were saying.

The rebuilt turntable crank eventually worked ok, though lost a screw from the chocbloc connector & the only substitute I had fouled one of the frame's fixing bolts. Hence the 'table clunked its way round till some judicious work with a file shorted the bolt...

Had problems with the Y point to the cattle dock too. For some reason, the wire in tube became almost impossible to push & pretty stiff to pull. Hence took the decision to leave well alone on the Sunday and not run the cattle train. Better this than one end of the run round loop being put out of action, as this would have stopped everything apart from the railcar. Not a major issue in terms of running trains though, as the goods shed siding holds ten wagons, so we simply swapped 5 for 5 on each pick up goods.

Generally, everything else continues to run well, though I notice some of the metal stock is beginning to show signs of bright metal appearing through minor paint chips. Chimneys and any sharp corners are always vulnerable, even after using metal black as a pre-under coat it seems. That said, the layout has had a pretty strenuous year. Starting with Orpington in January [60 mile round trip], then York [450 miles], Epsom [100 miles], Gravesend [30 miles], Sevenoaks [50 miles], Bexhill [120], Worthing [120], Beckenham [70] & Tolworth [110].

So, that is over 1100 miles travelling, being loaded in & out of the car 18 times & operated under the public eye for a total of 15 days. By & large, the layout [and indeed its operator] seem to have survived well. The baseboards have proved robust enough to withstand the extensive handling, as has the Ulysses sub-structure of beams & trestles. That is it for the year now, but 2016 promises to be even busier, with St Albans & Pontefract in January, then St Neots, Alexandra Palace, Reading, East London & finally Cultra, plus a coupe of others in between. Will aim to continue the diary as the layout goes even further afield in the new year.

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Fixed the cattle dock turn out last week. Had to not only replace the tie bar, but also the operating wire, which had developed a slight kink in it, resulting in a very stiff action. Happily, this was easy to do - simply cut off the L shaped end [which attaches to the tie bar] and pulled the wire out of the tube. Then unsoldered the tie bar and replaced it with a new one, making sure the space underneath was clear of any crud which might impair its movement.

Rather than drill the new tie bar to take the end of the 'wire in tube', I filed a slot in the end. The new operating wire [with end bent to an L again] slides into the slot & then a washer was soldered over the top to hold it in place. Future replacements will be easier than trying to manoeuvre the tie bar over the operating wire, now than the scenery is in place.

Needless to say, the point now works smoothly again.

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Visited the Reading Trade Show yesterday. No layouts here, just a splendid gathering of many of the key 7mm scale traders, large and small, something that gets rarer and rarer these days because of internet sales. Indeed, am wondering if you folk over the water have anything equivalent & to be honest, there is not a lot similar in other scales over here. Only the biggest shows like Warley, York, Ally Palley etc have anything like the trade on show yesterday. As well as an opportunity to catch up with old friends, there is the all important chance to see/discuss before buying.

Overall, there were around 100 stands, including the big firms like Slaters, C&L, Eileens, Tower Models etc, plus purveyors of high end stuff like Masterpiece and Loveless. These last two produce state of the art, ready to run models, for folk with deep pockets, while the rest of us stand, look, dream and dribble...

You also get to see folk who rarely attend exhibitions. Hence was pleased to see Ragstone Models and pick up my next loco kit, a Clogher Valley Sharp Stewart 0-4-2T. it will of course be built to 21mm, though not until I've completed my current projects as per the Workshop thread.

Another thing about Reading is the abundance of really specialist traders like Northant Models, who do a huge and ever increasing range of white metal castings. So, buffers for my two coaches & interesting to see that the SLNCR used ones very similar to Midland Railway types. The Beyer Peacock large tank too. For the latter, a visit to see Laurie Griffin [who was a Chatham Club member many moons ago], to raid hid vast store of castings. So, Sir Henry will at last get his chimney, dome & safety valves, plus [whisper it quietly] a full set of working inside motion. The thought of the latter scares the bejaysus out of me if I'm honest, but there is such a clear view between the frames I decided I had to give it a try.

The above amounted to my current 'needs', so hopefully well set for the next few months. If I'd gone for the 'wants', then the bill could easily have topped five figures. Dream on, my wife says!

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Did the St Albans show this weekend. Always a fine show, the quality was very much up to standard - hardly surprising with the likes of Adrian Colenutt [uckfield] & John Doyland [ex Colchester] part of the organising team. The Club's systems were fully tested on Saturday morning when a fire alarm meant for a complete evacuation ten minutes after the show opened. As it happened a false alarm, so all was well & the procedures worked really well. Am reminded of my headteacher days, when I'd play unpleasant tricks on the staff when doing fire drills. A favourite was to 'hide' a couple of kids just before we set off the alarms in order to see if they were picked up on roll call. Happily, they always were, but only goes to show you can't be too careful.

Another interesting moment was the sight of a visitor in full Muslim/Arab dress on Sunday afternoon. Certainly not something you see very often at a model show, indeed cross dressers are much more common [yes, really]. My real point is that [in England at least], the hobby appears very 'white/Caucasian', with Asian/Afro-Carribbean visitors few & far between. With India & Pakistan in particular having extensive rail systems, I wonder why we don't see more of these backgrounds at shows?

Anyway, as you may have seen on my Workshop page, it was a rather mixed experience. Sir Henry's debut went extremely well & 'he' ran beautifully all weekend, covering the mixed & excursion trains, as the two new coaches are not finished yet. Am hoping they will be ready for Pontefract in two week's time. However, on Saturday, we had a persistent fault on the short piece of track between the turnouts for the turntable & cattle dock sidings. Every loco stalled, unless driven a speed - hardly ideal, to say the least. Tried all sorts to remedy the situation & only when I tried tweaking a rail to eliminate what might have been a slight dog-leg did I discover the fault. A semi dry joint on a Peco rail joiner was the culprit, with the joint only failing when a loco was actually on it As soon as it moved beyond, the thing was fine again. Tweaking the track made it fail completely & then a quick visit from the soldering iron & everything was fine. Am wondering if it was the layout spending Friday night in the car [in sub-zero temps], as opposed to my centrally heated workshop, was the culprit...

Sunday was a much more relaxed affair, albeit a slightly hazy one followed convivialities on Saturday evening at the hotel [a surplus of red wine], plus the usual 3000 calories 'full English' for breakfast AND a full roast for lunch! All ok till the G2 was damaged that is...

Will be making all my boxes more secure for Pontefract.

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