Another One Bites the Dust
On Saturday evening, as I headed up to Nottingham to collect my wife from another visit to her mum's, the legendary Queen song that has leant its name to this entry came onto the radio. I could not help but think it was a rather poignant choice. Not only could some of the lyrics rather brutally refer to the fallen soldiers who had been remembered earlier in the day, but the title could also refer to Weston on Trent Model Railway show. After all another one had just bitten the dust. This time it was definitely the show that nearly did not happen - and, more than likely, had been the very last one.
The day had been another epic. I was up at 5am, after precious little sleep, and hastily packed Skaleby West into the car. With welcome help from fellow RMWeb member, Andy Sharpe (leopard), I had avoided the job of putting up road signs on the drive to the school.
Andy had proved to be a real gem. He also gave up his Friday afternoon to come over to the school and help me set up the hall and clear the classrooms. I was indebted to my new boss for releasing me to go over to the old place during my allotted planning time. The Friday set up proved vital as it helped to iron out a few flaws in the floorpan.
Since I had left the school the renovations to the building had been completed, and this led to some last minute alterations to my plan. Relocated fire doors, plug sockets and large pieces of furniture all caused some difficulties.
On the Saturday morning I arrived just before 7am and was relieved to see that the old boss was true to his word - the school had been opened up on time, although it was the caretaker who had performed the task rather than the big chief. Unfortunately he had forgotten to unlock the side access gate to the hall. Fortunately I was able to locate the key much quicker than last year and this exhibitors, who had been waiting on the doorstep, could get in to set up.
Having commandeered the school stage blocks the previous day, I was able to get Skaleby West set up much more quickly. The staging once again provided the support structure instead of the usual trestles. This meant I simply had to sit the layout onto the blocks and connect it up. Once again Andy stepped in to help and fitted the drapes that hang down beneath the layout.
Set up raced by with all layouts ready in plenty of time. There were very few grumbles about the request to move cars to the nearby pub and we were able to get the school car park as clear as possible ready for the public. The only pre-opening issues came from the non-completion of a couple of jobs allocated to the staff earlier in the week. The secretary had failed to print off and envelope up the lunch passes, whilst another staff member had not completed the signs pointing the way to the new classroom. The cleaners had also failed to deal with an unpleasant mess in one of the children's toilets. Ironically my replacement on the staff stepped up to sort out the first two jobs whilst I dealt with the toilet!
The show opened to a small queue at 10.30am and I started to worry. Due to my difficult working situation I had not publicised the show between December and June. Leaflets went out in a rush from the summer and we did what we could to promote the show as much as we could. I worried that it had not been enough. Fortunately the arrival of the 11am service bus brought a mini-rush and things picked up from then on with further mini-rushes brought in by the 12.00 and 1pm buses.
At 11am the show paused. My hard working helper, Chris, left her kitchen duties to signal the start of the Armistice Day silence by ringing the bell at 11am. Despite the show being sprawled across seven different rooms, the bell brought about a perfect silence. You really could hear a pin drop across the whole school. A big thank you to all the layout owners for quietening their sound fitted locos and the visitors who showed the appropriate respect. As I bowed my head behind Skaleby West, with an Ivatt 2 tank paused in the platform, I have to admit to having a lump in my throat.
The rest of the day flew by. We were never packed, with the classrooms seeming quiet at times. However the main hall always seemed busy and there was a nice buzz about the place. A friend from church was exhibiting a layout too, and their teenage son took a break from duties there to relieve me on my layout. We actually had a bit of banter about who could solve the card generated shunting puzzles the quickest.
The layout ran well and proved enjoyable to operate. Unlike its previous outing at Sheffield, it ran with the river bridge extension. It was further embellished by the addition of an EFE made Barton's bus that had been a gift from the school's parents when I left. It was altered to carry my name and class' name along the sides with the village name added to the destination blind. Sadly very few parents and children from the school were there to see it. This seemed to be the poorest turn out from within the school community in the show's history. The fact that few children seemed to be aware of the show when I visited on Friday may have had something to do with it. It seems the school had not bothered to promote it from within. The show did not even warrant an advert in their latest newsletter!
Despite the lack of school advertising, the numbers through the door were comparable to previous years - maybe slightly less. The combination of ticket sales, refreshments and raffle sales helped to bring in a total profit of £956. This means that in six years the show has raised around £5,500 for school funds.That it something I am very proud of.
And what of the head teacher I hear you ask? The person who I hold solely responsible for my decision to leave, the person who will benefit from most of the money raised had rostered himself to help out for the whole day. He finally arrived at 3.15pm although I did not see him until nearly an hour later when I was in the hall giving out the best in show trophy. The reason for his absence changed from one story to another - I definitely smell a rat.
I am not concerned by the ex-boss' apathy however. I am very proud of what the show team achieved. The ladies in the kitchen excelled themselves again. Their friendly service and the quality of the food received countless praise throughout the day. I am just putting together a compilation of the positive feedback to pass on to them. Many visitors also praised the varied exhibits on display. With a record 25 layouts on display we certainly had something for everyone. One member told me that he felt the show was better than some of the larger exhibitions he had attended. That really is welcome praise. Many said that they hoped that the show would not prove to be the last........
And so what next?
I cannot believe what has happened. Back in February 2012, after visiting a local church show, I had a fledgeling idea that we could stage a model railway show in our school to raise funds. Four days later, whilst visiting the Severn Valley Railway, I allowed the idea to grow and put together a full plan for the show whilst I sat on the train. That "business plan" was shared at a staff meeting and the show was given the go-ahead. The first event used the hall and one classroom. It led to the birth of this blog. Since then the show has grown year on year culminating in this year's event which filled the hall, corridor and six classrooms.
And now it appears to be all over. I have reached the end of the journey.
Six years ago I had no idea how to organise a model railway event. I really did learn "on the job". This blog is a record of that experience. It has been an unforgettable experience and one that I am very proud of. I would dare to say that organising the Weston on Trent show is one of my proudest achievements and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I would like to thank everyone who helped with the show whether they have been exhibitor, trader, visitor or helper. If my time as an exhibition manager is at an end, I will miss it. Thanks to everyone who has read and commented on this blog.