My blog post last evening expressed the positive aspects of the Sandown Model Railway Exhibition that I attended last Saturday in Melbourne. However, there are a couple of improvements to the Sandown Exhibition that I would recommend organisers look at for next year.
Firstly, layout lighting needs to be improved. Not all layouts had their own lighting and it was very noticeable that these displays were "in the dark" compared to the others. However, even most of the layouts that had their own lights really needed more lighting to really showcase their displays. Poor layout lighting was one of the disappointing elements of the exhibition.
The second issue related to barriers around layouts - for the most part non-existent. This has pluses and minuses. On the plus side, people can get close to the layout to see what is going on. On the downside, it is also very easy for some people to touch and knock over things on a layout, much to the consternation of exhibitors. One poor old chap was leapt upon by a frustrated layout operator after bumping the baseboard and causing a train to derail. It was totally accidental (and probably not unusual given the crowd and no layout barrier), but the poor chap was really quite astonished at the terse response!
Along one narrow aisle, between a row of commercial stands and a couple of layouts, there was no room for a barrier. In fact, the aisle was so narrow that there was little standing room unless one wanted to block a steady stream of patrons walking through the corridor or wanting to browse the commercial stands. Aisle width and barriers need to be addressed.
Lastly, there really needs to be some improvement to catering at model railway exhibitions. I say this because standing for thirty minutes or longer in a queue for lunch, served by a couple of overworked catering staff, is not good enough. Moreover, the wait was worse for people only wanting a can of drink or a cup of tea! Perhaps there could be a separate drinks line in future.
These comments are meant to identify some improvements for the next show. They reflect my "customer experience" and, from some comments I overheard at the show, were not unique.
As to the quality of the layouts on show at a public model railway exhibition, they were generally very good. Kids were well catered for with rides outside the exhibition hall, a U-drive layout, and a very imaginative "layout" featuring SylvanianCity figures and buildings. The train component involved an oval of track with a rather generic steam engine and a couple of carriages going around in circles. However, the "ambience" of the scenery and the figures was really quite engaging for young girls dragged along to a model railway exhibition with optimistic fathers!
An excellent idea was an area for young children to do colouring-in of line drawings of trains. Whenever I passed by this area of the exhibition, there were plenty of kids scribbling away attentively with coloured pencils. The more options young kids have at model railway exhibitions to do something interesting, and not just get dragged along (literally in some cases) by parents, the better!
Of what I considered high quality layouts, Totternhoe Mineral Railway, Dolly Varden Mines Railway, and Florey Springs were standouts. The Union Pacific/Rio Grande layout was spectacular because of its size and constant flow of train action, while the under-construction ANP Switching District demonstrated what can be achieved in an average-sized bedroom. Victorian-prototype layouts like Murranbilla, Benalta, Broadford, Cardinia Rail Link, and Coliban Valley catered for local prototype interests. Naturally, opinion is subjective and I am sure all visitors to the exhibition found something of special interest - and this is a good thing.
Overall, the Sandown Exhibition was a very good exhibition; showcasing a nice variety of model railway layouts of various scales and featuring a range of qualities. In addition, there was good commercial support, as well as a couple of excellent practical clinics and modelling demonstrations.
A small selection of photos will appear in my next blog post.