Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Jolly Good Show

I'm not a clubbable sort of chap when it comes to my hobbies. Perhaps I should be, I'm sure it would improve the quality of what I produce. Having said that I believe many local  clubs do a great job and deserve to be supported. Especially when they can put on a really decent exhibition, like my local Leamington & Warwick club did this weekend. Here I have to confess that despite the show being held virtually on my doorstep at the Stoneleigh NAC this is the first time I've remembered to put the dates in my diary and actually go.

I like Stoneleigh as an exhibition venue. I miss the Assoc of 16mm modellers show not being held there. Compared to many venues space never seems to be an issue and the catering is quite good. It also hold many many memories from the days of the Royal Show and trips on the original Echills Wood Railway.

There were some good layouts this year. As usual the lighting was a challenge and once again I was aware when taking photographs of the lack of decent backscenes.

I was rather taken with Earls Court, a layout I've wanted to see for a long time and which really makes the best use of a limited space. The real attraction for me though is the modelling of the shops, like the barbershops above, which I've kept in colour because it reminded me of an Edward Hopper painting.

Loch Tat is one of those layouts that I always think would benefit from being displayed at a higher level where individual scenes like these would predominate over the birds eye view.

Staying with 2mm scale I probably should have spent more time watching Wansbeck Road

Moving up to 7mm Weydon Road had some nice set piece scenes

I've been known to admit being tempted by an American HO layout one day. If I ever did go down that route I think it would be something like Wiley City. The prototype is rather endearing and the modelling really showed HO in a good light by being suitably restrained.

Lack of restraint is still one of the things that I find spoils the illusion of reality for me, and there were a few layouts at the show that simply didn't know where to stop. Eaton Gomery for example is one of those layouts where you struggle to find a scene that looks like everyday life and not like a historic reenactment on a preserved railway.

On the other hand I can see why people would find Foundry Lane a little too plain. I don't think it was helped at this show by lighting that didn't bring out the texture of the retaining walls.Personally I liked it a lot.

Richmond was exquisite and provided an opportunity for my favourite shot, looking down the track through a station. Unfortunately I failed to notice when taking it that someone's hand was very visible fiddling about in the fiddle yard, so instead it is represented by my alternative trademark cliche, the solitary Toad.

I was also very taken with the trackwork on Bodmin. This is what I would like to aspire to.

Ah yes, talking of trackwork...the nice thing about a show like this is that unlike Warley you can actually get close to some of the trade stalls. That means I came away with everything I had on my shopping list, including a replenished supply of C+L bits and pieces so turnout construction can resume as soon as my EMGS jigs arrive.

I also got a chance to chat with the extremely helpful Geoff from Comet and as a result my to do box now contains their chassis kit for the 57XX.

Last but not least I picked up a copy of Marcher Railways from Roger Carpenter and three postcards of the Tanat Valley that I'd not seen before.

If you want to see some more shots in colour then I did manage to make some of them presentable


  1. A very nice selection of photos James, black and white works so much better when taking shots at exhibitions and for layout photography in general when I come to think about it.

    On the rare occasions when I attend shows I prefer the smaller events where you can move around at a more gentle pace and examine what the traders have to offer at leisure.

    With all your shopping done lets hope those jigs arrive soon so you can get cracking :-)

  2. Geoff.

    B&W at exhibiitons reminds me of the shows of my youth.It does a lot of favours to some layouts as well.

    Looking through these shots I can't help thinking a weakness across many of them is the relationship of the backscene to the layout.The more I think about it the weakness isn't at the actual junction between the baseboard and the backscene but about the elements further forward. Neither, I suspect, is it about the quality of the modelling.

    I can't help comparing the shot of Eaton Gomery signal box to a typical shot of your signal box on Penhydd. Both, as far as I know, are parallel to the track and the backscene and a similar distance from the backscene, yet in the one case it destroys an illusion whilst in the other I think it reinforces it. I wish I could put my finger on why.

    Actually if I could work out what it is it would also go some way to explaining why so few of my exhibition photos include trains. I used to think there was something about the way model rolling stock moved that spoilt the the illusion, and I'm sure it often is, but looking at some of the 2mm scale layouts in particular I've begun to suspect it is something else. Indulge me for a moment. Both the buildings and the stock on Wansbeck Road were built to a high standard, in fact perhaps a little too precise for my liking, but it was if the buildings were a normal photograph whilst the rolling stock was an HDR image.. Individually both were exquisite but the combination didn't work.

    I do highly recommend the Leamignton show. I talked to the OO9 guys at Warley and they were very positive about their recent symposium. I've recently got back from one of our big conferences in the USA and what struck me was that in the UK people go to conferences to get confirmation they've done the right thing, whilst in the States the audience is more open to being questioned. I have a strange feeling I sold more ideas over breakfast and in the bars than I did in the formal sessions I was presenting. Likewise one of the great things about the smaller exhibitions is that you can have an actual conversation with both traders and exhibitors rather than just sucking in the spectator experience.

    I'm looking forward to the lighter evenings, I've never been one for Winter modelling, so I'm hoping to make some real progress over the next few weeks. I'm oddly excited about the arrival of the EMGS jigs. I suspect it is because I know once I've got them I don't need to worry about making an irrevocable mistake. I'm sure that is what stops many of us from making progress

  3. James.

    Looking at the photos again I think there is too much going on where the layout merges into the backscene resulting in the eye being drawn all over the place and that spoils the illusion. I think low horizons,big skies, a muted backdrop and uncluttered foregrounds create a feeling of depth and spaciousness. It is all too easy to get carried away adding unnecessary detail when perhaps a mere suggestion and a little restraint is all that is called for.

    Modelling perfection might look fine for a museum piece but comes across as too clinical and cold in model railway layouts. Colour is another subject which can make or break a model, it needs to be restricted and toned down and even more so towards the backscene.

    I've always been a fan of the smaller quality shows and society expos where there are no barriers, I've never been to Warley and have no intention of ever making the effort, the Wigan show used to be rather good but sadly it's now also been struck off my list due to it's size. So I'm now reduced to visiting Scalefour and Expo EM North, Wells and Camrail also appeal when I venture back home to Somerset.

    The lighter evenings also suit me and like yourself I expect to make more progress as we enter spring. I think the fear of failure and making a mess of an expensive kit is why so many never get built but until you try you never gain experience, railway modelling can be a very expensive learning curve !

  4. Geoff, Interesting observation. I'm sure there is something about arresting eye movement before it has a chance to move to the boundary.

    In the last year I have become more aware of layouts that try to model natural messiness in a very precise way, and it doesn't work. I suspect that is why some layouts look less realistic when a train appears. It isn't that the the train isn't well modeled, in fact it might be almost the opposite. The stock is hyper realistic.

    Warley is worth visiting every now and then. I think with the right attitude you can almost superimpose yourself on the event, seeing it through different lenses than many of the visitors. I went through a long period of not going, but now I wouldn't miss it.

    There is something key in the fear of failure and in the learning experience. I can't help thinking that our branch of modelling has got it wrong somehow. Our conventional intermediate steps are actually retrograde ones.that encourage modelling what is available, not what is ion front of our eyes.

  5. Some interesting observations from you as well James,

    I feel that one of the reasons for layouts looking less realistic when trains appear is simply down to a miss match of modelling standards. For example nicely built and detailed etched items of stock stick out like a sore thumb unless the surroundings are of an equal standard. On the other hand lovely scratch built buildings and superb scenery looks at odds with out of the box RTR.

    Exact attention to detail is not always a good thing and sometimes a mere suggestion of it works far better, leaving your imagination to fill in the missing bits. Modelling consistency is surely the key but not easy to achieve, personally as my skill sets improve I go back to earlier models and try to bring them up to my current standard but somewhere you have to draw the line.