A couple of friends rang me after my previous blog post and asked me why I thought Muskrat Rumble and Bowen Creek were such great layouts.
Since I can't upload the photos I took from the exhibition yet (internet at home still not working), I will have to explain.
I liked the way both layouts were professionally presented. Both were well lit and both were constructed to showcase quality modelling. The scenery on both layouts was superb, yet completely different from each other. Bowen Creek was sparse and lightly vegetated while Muskrat Rumble was full of trees in a swampland, super-detailed buildings, and rich cameo scenes. The scenery was integral to the presentation of the layouts AND emphasised the time period and the location the layouts represented. The scenery contributed to the feeling of authenticity.
Now, since I am more familiar with the Central West of NSW than Louisiana in the USA, you will note I said that the scenery felt authentic. This is very important for exhibition layouts because most of the audience will not have much personal experience of the actual locations, fictionalised within a real environment, or not. Therefore, authenticity is important to the maker of the layouts (personal fulfilment and representing a prototype) AND to the audience (having a sense of believability and credibility).
Geoff Nott (Muskrat Rumble) doesn't hide the fact that he loves to build scenery and dioramas. His group effort with logging layouts like Red Stag is testament to that. For Geoff, the moving train is subsidiary to the rest of the scenic elements within his dioramas (layout). On Bowen Creek, the sparse countryside, single line running, and simple track arrangment meant that train movements were limited to running through the layout, and maybe passing another train (or rail motor) at the station. There were no lineside industries as such and shunting would have been limited to the goods shed.
I mention this because operation is so important to me and the two layouts from the Epping Exhibition I have lauded were not run "for operation" at that venue.
Firstly, I appreciate that the focus of exhibitions is not necessarily to provide prototypical operations and that constant train movement and variety of trains are usually preferred. Secondly, I can appreciate many elements of a model railway even if the operational side of things is not as challenging as I might personally like. Indeed, Ian Millard told me that the intention with Bowen Creek is to run the layout with prototypical operation. Thirdly, I can certainly appreciate certain qualities and skills used in many model railway layouts that do not have to conform to my own personal preferences - that's certainly something an armchair modeller can really understand!
In other words, I can always find something of personal interest at exhibitions that I can simply admire. And I can look for some aspect of a displayed layout to enhance my own thinking and my own home layout. That's why I go to exhibitions and read model railway magazines - to enjoy AND to learn.