Sunday 28 March 2010

Canberra Exhibition report 2010

I attended the Canberra Model Railway Expo yesterday and today. The exhibition was located this year at Kaleen High School in the northern Canberra suburb of Kaleen.

The exhibition used the hall, a stage, and some other general purpose rooms for the layouts and commercial stands. At first glance, it looked a little confusing with the all the rooms and the different pathways to and from the rooms (the exhibition organisers would have you believe that I am always lost and confused!). However, once I found my bearings all became clear!

The first things to say was that there was plenty of room to move around. This was because the layouts were given plenty of aisle width in the main hall. Layouts located elsewhere were not packed into rooms like sardines. This was excellent since mid-morning Saturday and Sunday had good crowds.

As usual, I bumped into many fellow modellers from Canberra, Sydney, and even Hawks Nest on the NSW mid-north coast. You can always rely on meeting a host of friends at an exhibition!

Now, to the layouts.

The class layout on show was clearly Sydney Terminal Station by Ross Balderson. This layout, in N scale, featured the magnificent Central Station building in all its splendid glory. The surrounding buildings and the park in the foreground were also brilliantly done. And the famous suburban "Red Rattler" trains maintained a steady procession around the layout, just like their 1:1 counterparts did over forty years ago. The following three photos give an indication of the overall display and the exquisite modelling.

The Sydney Terminal layout was a superb piece of architectural modelling; exceptionally well detailed, and exceptionally well lit. Full credit to Ross for his dedication and skill in building this layout. I expect the layout will be exhibited at the inaugural Bungendore Model Railway Exhibition (October 16-17) so make sure you can come along because the layout is a "must-see".

When I was not marvelling at Sydney Terminal Station, I was operating Willigobung on Saturday. Willigobung is a generic HO scale NSW layout set roughly on the Main South Line between Gunning and Cootamundra, featuring a station, goods facilities and a wheat silo.

Sunday morning saw me on my shift with the Canberra NMRA club's US prototype exhibition layout. We try and have a couple of operators out the front of the layout to let the kids learn how to operate the trains using the DCC throttles - a very popular option for "serious" young modellers!

Other layouts at the exhibition included the Illawarra Model Railway Association's Kelly River (HO scale, US) with the iconic bascule bridge, Smaldon Curve (HO scale, NSW) featuring a cement works, the small but effective Gum Tree Plains (HO scale, NSW), the ACT Model Railway Society's Twelfth Street Yard (HO scale, US), Canberra Monaro N scale Group's Australian N scale modular layout, Canberra Model Railway Club's Crestwood (HO scale, NSW), the German Mittelstadt layout (Marklin, HO scale), Victoria Mountain (HO scale, NSW) set in the Blue Mountains and featuring some amazing lighting effects, and an un-named US N scale layout with plenty of action and some great scenery that was near the canteen. Apologies if I have missed a couple of layouts but I didn't get a program this year.

More photos from the exhibition are below.

A 49 class on Willigobung waits in the passing siding for the all clear to proceed.

The cement works on Smaldon Curve.

Gum Tree Plains showed that good quality modelling is possible on a small layout; encouragement for all of us!

A Clinchfield Railroad steamer leaves the engine house on the Canberra NMRA club's US layout.

An express steam hauled freight train through Twelfth St Yard.

The Bascule Bridge, based on the Walthers model, on the Kelly River layout.

The commercial stands included Casula Hobbies, Gwydir Valley Models, On Track Models, Pallas Hobbies (where I got a great book (The American freight train by Jim Boyd) for $10 - thanks Dave!), and Runway 13. Also, there was a second-hand stall and a collector (Triang, Marklin) stand.

Peter from Runway 13 was also giving tips about airbrushing, while Bob Olde and Phil Badger were giving tips and tricks about model building. I must say it was odd to see Bob Olde on his own without his modelling buddy Graham Walker working beside him (Graham sadly passed away a couple of months ago).

Overall, the organisers must be congratulated for another entertaining Canberra Model Railway Expo. Get ready to do it all again next year!

Sunday 21 March 2010

Canberra Model Railway Expo 2010

Next weekend (27-28 March) is the Canberra Model Railway Expo. The Expo is put on by the Canberra Model Railway Club. In previous years, the exhibition was held at the National Hockey Centre in Lyneham. However, this year the show will be at a new venue, Kaleen High School, in the northern Canberra suburb of Kaleen.

I will be attending as both a visitor and an operator. I will be helping out on the Saturday operating the southside Canberra group's layout, Willigobung (Australian, HO scale). On Sunday morning I will be on shift with the local NMRA model railway exhibition layout (US, HO scale).

As usual, I hope to catch up with modellers from Canberra and Sydney at the exhibition.

And if you are coming to the Canberra Model Railway Expo from Sydney (or outside of Canberra, for that matter) make a weekend of your trip and spend some time at the National Gallery. The National Gallery will still be hosting the Masterpieces from Paris exhibition, featuring classic art from Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and paintings from other impressionist and post-impressionist artists on show. The exhibition is truly magnificent.

So, make a weekend of it you people from Sydney and Melbourne, and visit Canberra for the Canberra Model Railway Expo and enjoy some fine art as well.

Friday 12 March 2010

A few photos from Sandown

I have selected a few photos I took from the Sandown Exhibition to show here. I didn't have a great selection of quality images to select from, but the following images at least illustrate some of the layouts I particularly admired from the exhibition.

The first image is of steam locomotive N489 on the Florey Springs layout exhibited by the South Australian Railway Modellers Association from Adelaide. The N class of steam locomotives were built from 1925 (at the Newport Works) onwards for the Victorian Railways. N489 was part of a batch of locomotives built in 1949-50 by the North British Locomotive Company in the UK. Out of this order, ten of the locos were purchased from the Victorian Railways by the South Australian Railways and became the 750 class.

The next image is of the stone-loader on the Florey Springs layout. I liked the whole stone-loader complex and associated buildings as a good-looking lineside industry. The model looks like an adaptation of the Walthers HO scale New River Coal Mine.

The angled shot of the station and yard on the Totternhoe Mineral Railway gives some indication of the way the railway has been displayed. The actual model railway sits on a curved "ribbon" on a black-painted baseboard, within a black frame, and with rear black curtains to maintain an integrated and theatrical layout presentation. I first saw this layout a couple of years ago at the Sydney Model Railway Exhibition but the layout has not been widely seen on the exhibition circuit despite the layout being built over fifteen years ago!

The Dolly Varden Mines Railway is a wonderful narrow gauge layout (in On30) that was up for sale at the exhibition! Here we see an example of the detailed scenery as a diminuative steam loco hauls a couple of wagons on this exceptionally detailed model railway layout.

The UP/Rio Grande layout was huge with four(?) continuous loops allowing for plenty of train movement. The layout was built and operated by the La Trobe Valley Model Railway Club in Victoria. If I heard correctly, this giant layout took only 12-18 months to build! This image shows a steam locomotive hauling a mixed freight over one of the many steel girder bridges on the layout.

The ANP Switching District layout was a great example of a shelf style switching (shunting) layout that could fit into most standard-sized bedrooms. In fact, that's where this layout lives when not at exhibitions. The layout was unfinished but had all the trackwork and wiring completed, and several lineside industries had been constructed in styrene but also unfinished. Operation was with DCC. I actually think there should be at least one operational but unfinished layout at every exhibition to show the average show-goer that exhibition layouts just don't magically appear out of nothing!

The final photo shows the Murranbilla layout. I first saw this layout last August at the Caulfield Exhibition. For Sandown, the layout was a little unusual since it had both a barrier fence around the layout and a good set of layout lighting (in what looks like grey aluminium guttering).

I will finish my "review" of the Sandown Exhibition by saying that I enjoyed the exhibition but feel the quality of presentation of some layouts was sometimes let down by poor layout lighting. Perhaps it was the overcast day and the rain; perhaps it was my eyesight! But I can assure people that excellent layout lighting really showcases quality modelling and must be considered as a major component of any exhibition layout.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Further thoughts on the Sandown MRE

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.

Monday 8 March 2010

Sandown Exhibition

I just returned home today after a very enjoyable weekend in Melbourne attending the Sandown Model Railway Exhibition on Saturday and visiting a couple of hobby shops in the Melbourne CBD yesterday. The Sandown Exhibition was held under the grandstand at the Sandown Racetrack and was my first visit to this exhibition.

The exhibition opened at 10am but I arrived about an hour or so later. There was not much of a queue to get in, which was a nice surprise, but there certainly were lots of people inside! The exhibition "program" was contained within an eight page centrefold section of issue 7 of Model Railways in Australia (available for free at the exhibition entrance). There was a floor plan and legend showing the location of the exhibitors, as well as basic information about the layouts and traders in very tiny print.

I must say that information about layouts within an exhibition program is really very important and should be given greater emphasis from organisers to enhance the whole exhibition experience. I was pleased to find, however, that some exhibitors provided their own information leaflets, including track diagrams, that gave additional and valuable information. Thank you indeed!

Inside the exhibition, I did my usual reconnoitre of the exhibition space, paying particular attention to the commercial displays of interest to me. There were some familiar faces at Auscision Models (Sydney), Casula Hobbies (Sydney), and Orient Express (Adelaide). And of course, there were many Victorian-based commercial outlets including Airport West Hobbies, Train Hobby, Victorian Hobby Centre, Brunel Hobbies, the Railfan Shop, Puffing Billy Railway, and ARHS Victoria Division.

Of the layouts, the South Australian Railways Modellers' Association (SARMA) had a wonderful HO scale layout on display, called Florey Springs. Models of the South Australian Railways predominated. The layout featured a double track main line, a station scene with lineside industries, and a wonderful model of a stone-loading facility. I will have some photos available when I get around to downloading the images from my compact camera [note to self: must get a proper macro lens for my SLR since the quality of the compact camera images leave a lot to be desired!]. I hadn't seen Florey Springs before, but I had met a few of the operators at previous Modelling the Railways of South Australia Conventions.

Other layouts that caught my eye included Totternhoe Mineral Railway (7mm scale running on 9mm track); Midsomer Norton (4mm scale British); Dolly Varden Mines Railway (On30 logging railway); Latrobe Valley Model Railway Club's extra-large UP/Denver & Rio Grande HO scale layout; Coliban Valley (HO scale Victorian Railways); Murranbilla (HO scale Victorian Railways); and the Kangaroo & Cockatoo Railway (1:22.5 scale on G gauge track). I also liked the L-shaped shelf layout (that was still under construction), based on a US shunting locale around San Diego, California, called ANP Switching District, and modelled in HO scale. I had a good chat to the father and son team responsible for this layout. I was impressed with the planning and construction of the layout, including the white styrene industrial buildings.

Despite the devastating storms on Saturday in which Melbourne was deluged with rain and hail, the Sandown Exhibition managed to stay relatively unscathed (unlike Flemington Racecourse where the races were called off mid-afternoon). Nevertheless, I had to ask a chap for a lift from the exhibition to the highway since it's quite a walk back from the grandstand to the Princes Highway in the rain!

I hope to have a full report on the exhibition with some photos in my next blog post.