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Adamphillip

How to Exhibit your layout?

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Apology accepted Angelsmith, but why do you think the two things are mutually exclusive?  You can build an exhibition layout, that is somehow different and still get enormous enjoyment from the building as well as the exhibiting.

 

All of my layouts have been built so that they can be exhibited.  This has stood me in very good stead since I have ended up moving several times and having a layout that is designed to be transportable has meant there was no heartbreak in how to break down a fixed, non-transportable layout.  One layout is now in its third country let alone property.

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Posted (edited)

A tricky point building layouts for shows. Yes you want it to get noticed ot get invites and hence why people do so but you also ought to be enjoying building the layout and exhibiting at shows.

 

Having built numerous layouts and exhibited for well over 30 years often doing over 20 a year (with various layouts otherwise that would get boring) we are now cutting back for a number of reasons one being that we don't have the people who are able to help us either due to illness, family commitments or just no longer interested. We have also had to decline a number of shows as they were unable to afford  the minimum number of operators we required despite being able to transport the layout and most operators in our own vehicle. We all have different threshold in operating / setting up our layouts but we should all be doing for enjoyment not to create a stressful time. We have found that sometime cutting back to tightly on operators, if one person then drops out due ot illness etc then it really makes it a hard weekend and then puts off your other helpers which has happened to us. May not be so bad if it is a club layout where potentially you may be bale to have help in reserve but you cant always expect to have friends keeping weekends spare just incase you call on them last minute.

 

We also try to keep things relaxing and reasonably flexible with helpers with a rough outline of when your relief should be back to take over especially around lunch times. Being too rigid and start having a go at your helpers will not help for future shows - I have been on the receiving end and also witnessed it and its not good for anyone.

 

One thing to try and do before each show is to at least visibly check your electrical equipment. One show a years or so ago a friend took his layout ot a show only to find a lot of his mains electrical  equipment had various breakages since the previous outing but we managed ot sort most of them. Have as many spare items as you can afford / fit in your vehicle.

Edited by roundhouse
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With my 'organisational' hat on, these two inputs stood out.

 

16 hours ago, Adamphillip said:

...the exhibition manager having retired from the role and no one has stepped up to take their place...

 

2 hours ago, Paul80 said:

...most of the organisers have moved away this year, and over the years have complained so much about all the hard work that unsurprisingly no one now wants to volunteer for any of the thankless jobs...

 

For there to be exhibitions, there need to be people capable and efficient in the hard graft of planning and executing the mechanics of exhibiting. It's always tempting to let some established diehard(s) of proven robust performance just get on with it, but sooner or later others will have to step into those shoes.

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As an exhibition visitor, I'm noticing so many layouts nowadays displayed with arches (I think proscenium is the word), curtains or some other similar barrier that often blocks the operators faces from being seen. I understand the desire to present the layout as neatly as possible, but doing so often makes it quite difficult to initiate conversation with the owner/operator.

 

If you have the luxury of more than one person running the layout, and if they're not actually operating it at the time someone/anyone approaches, a cheery "Hello" would be a good way to open up a conversation. I often imagine it'd be quite frustrating exhibiting a layout but coming away with no or very little idea as to what a lot of visitors thought about it?

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As our crossley scrap layout  was built for our modelling enjoyment,  but it also falls into the category of being exhibited  for the enjoyment  of the paying public at shows , the techneques  used in the scenery and of the likes of the scrap bales etc... or how to paint convincing concrete are often asked about and expained by us , or sometimes i will do a demonstration showing the public how to do it or the can try for themselves thus learning new skills . Whilst I could blow my own trumpet and glorify my own efforts , I don't , people will comment and like for what they see . Nearly all the shows we have done so far (about 6 - 7 ) we do not get paid for fuel , food etc.. so without the likes of our efforts there would not be an exhibition for the public to see , a lot of time goes into preparation days before , plus doing a two day show is tiring . Without shows to go to the layout would sit on its trestles covered in a cloth gathering dust ! 

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Just to reiterate, no offence was intended in my earlier post. My apologies if anyone took umbrage with it. As I said earlier, whatever floats your boat. If you’re ok, I’m ok. 

 

Incidentally, I agree 100% with making any layout transportable, exhibiting or otherwise. You never know when you may have to move from, say, the garage to the box room. My late father’s layout will sooner or later face certain demolition because it cannot possibly be moved. 

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2 hours ago, Titanius Anglesmith said:

I’ve noticed several times on this forum that some people start a layout build with the specific objective of exhibiting it. A case in point above, building something different in order to get noticed?? Whatever happened to building the layout you want for your own amusement? (and if someone else likes it enough to invite you to exhibit, fair enough). Is the hobby railway modelling, or is that just a means to an end, the end being having something to exhibit in front of people?

I agree that building just for others isn't going to entertain you so will probably end up not being as much fun but if people do it for the wrong reason that's their lookout ;) Doing something different can be the slightly oddball project you've never quite got around to, a great idea at the pub or in the bath :) 

Exhibiting can be a lot of fun and it can also be the catalyst to press on with a project, deadlines motivate some of us and can turn a home lifetime project into something realised much faster ;) . My latest layout can only be set up in its entirety at a show or if I hire a hall. I can set up the three parts and run them at home but a show gives me the opportunity to run the full layout. It will one day be rebuilt into a room at home but the runs between stations will be smaller and only a couple of people will fit in with it. At a show we can have four trains running and operate more like a real railway. So it's not just about 'showing off' it's an opportunity to do something different and share the fun you get with others. I've made quite a few friends after chats over a layout and with others operating their layouts who borrowed tools or provided them to help us out. For all the moaning and negativity that you can get the banter and support you can get at a show make it well worth the effort :) 

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I have found the best way to get a first invite is through your club. Let club members know you have a layout you want to take out . Club members know people from other clubs and often get asked if they know of any available layouts.

Approaching managers at exhibitions with photos and details of your layout might work but I have never really tried this.

Putting photos, videos etc on here and various Facebook groups has worked for me.

The acid test is your first exhibition. If you get invited to other exhibitions then you have a good layout. If you don't get any further invites when you take it to an exhibition you have to ask why. It could be because the right exhibition managers weren't there (this does happen) or it could be because the layout isn't good enough. I usually get at least a couple of conversations about whether I could attend an exhibition when I take my layout out. Surprisingly the worst exhibition for getting further invites for me has been the Warley NEC one. Medium sized exhibitions seem to be best for getting further invites.

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3 hours ago, OhOh said:

As an exhibition visitor, I'm noticing so many layouts nowadays displayed with arches (I think proscenium is the word), curtains or some other similar barrier that often blocks the operators faces from being seen. I understand the desire to present the layout as neatly as possible, but doing so often makes it quite difficult to initiate conversation with the owner/operator.

 

If you have the luxury of more than one person running the layout, and if they're not actually operating it at the time someone/anyone approaches, a cheery "Hello" would be a good way to open up a conversation. I often imagine it'd be quite frustrating exhibiting a layout but coming away with no or very little idea as to what a lot of visitors thought about it?

Ah! There are a couple of problems here.

First the Proscenium arch is a great place to put the lights, layout name etc. 

Then the backscene (sky) helps to hide the beer and curry stained tee- shirts of the operators.

Next when operators start talking, the trains stop moving or even worse start crashing and getting damaged.

Ideally a spare operator should be at the front of the layout. 

This person should be knowledgeable about the layout or have the information to hand (we have a large A4 folder to hand with common questions answered, ie how did you do the grass? What year is it? Where is the station building in real life? etc. This person is also responsible for (God forbid) the unlikely event of a derailment to put back onto the track (and reporting of it in the fault book)).

They are also there to make sure that operators haven't fallen asleep, or can help to fix problems that may occur. This person is called "The Fat Controller".

Unfortunately many exhibition managers are so keen to cut down on operators that the Fat Controller has become a luxury especially on larger layouts, where hotel and food costs can soon mount up.

 

So my list of things includes rostering a fat controller, a book of facts and a fault book.

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So how many times do see  the same layout at various exhibitions with the same faults?

I recall one layout where trains regularly derailed on the same point. This had become so regular that the operators held their hand ready to catch each train as it arrived.

The answer is a fault book. 

Get all operators to log each fault as it happens. Not just take the stock off and leave it one side hoping that someone may fix it. (How can you fix it if you don't know what is wrong.) nor at the end of the day/ session or next week as they won't remember.

The book (A4 pad) is best divided into three columns (you can do more or less, there is no rule). These are;

Column 1 - what affected. List the wagon or loco failing. ie Loco 76010 jerking. or Coach 123456 derailed.

Column 2 - detail this should contain more detail so the incident can be repeated. ie.e 76010 on move 5 west pulling coach set XYZ with S1234S at lead. or wagon coupled to 54321 in front and brake van 333 on train derailed at point 4...etc.

Column 3 - This is filled in later when you can investigate and fix the problem. ie. 76010 found ok on test. Previous move had controller on different setting causing loco to get poor feed, Have added note on operator card to reset controller. or Back to back on wagon to tight and catching on point check rail.

 

The advantage is that you can record all the faults and how you fixed them.

You can also check for faults that reoccur and so be able to look for alternative problems. For instance we found that we did have wagons with back to back incorrectly set but we also found that the derailed at the same place and found that a check rail on a turnout was loose.

 

But for this to work its really important to look at the book and fix the faults well before the next show.;)

 

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20 minutes ago, brightspark said:

Ah! There are a couple of problems here.

I'd have marked this with "Informative" and "Funny" alongside my "Like" :good_mini:

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I've never exhibited a layout but would emphasise the usefulness of making one transportable.  Mine was originally in the spare bedroom at my current house but when I was able to have a building/shed put up in the garden it wasn't too complex a task to get it downstairs and outside with minimal damage (only to some OHLE).  Two of the boards in fact came from my previous flat and although now much modified are in their third home.    I also think independent supports are worth considering - upstairs mine mainly had to rest on bookcases but now I use Screwfix trestles and they certainly give a good solid base, which has to be vital given that I don't have much woodworking experience - I went to a school which considered itself a bit above teaching useful subjects like that, but at least my father knew something about DIY and was able to pass it on.

 

[No doubt other trestles are available but I saw these recommended either here or in a magazine article so that is what I bought and found their service exemplary ].

 

IPW 

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Posted (edited)

Think about;

  1. Making you layout "self contained", own lighting, legs/supports, etc. 
  2. What sort of height should the layout be for good viewing of the work you have put in and also for comfortable operating.
  3. Secure/safe storage for transporting the stock.
  4. Allow plenty of time for travel if going any distance.
  5. What sort of shows you want to do? Are you planning to do local shows with a proportion of family visitors who will be more interested in unusual features rather than prototype accuracy or larger shows where the modelling  and operating "accuracy" is a bit more important.
  6. If you need help from friends to operate, make sure control panels, etc. are easy to understand and use.
Edited by Jol Wilkinson
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Posted (edited)

Build the layout for yourself and feel privileged if invited to a show. :good:

 

I have exhibited 5 of my own layouts, 2 only done one show each, one because the baseboards were used for an improved layout and the other because I moved home and gave it away. 2 done loads of shows each, both featured in the model railway press, and then never got invited to another show. :unsure:  The present one has done 4 shows including Ally Pally, but has only one more invite (and that is still waiting confirmation). All were built for my own use with "should I be invited to an exhibition" added in the design stages but not as an exhibition layout, I hope that makes sense.

 

Have fun making your layout, have fun operating your layout and if invited to a show have fun.

Edited by Clive Mortimore
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1 hour ago, Clive Mortimore said:

Build the layout for yourself and feel privileged if invited to a show. https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/uploads/emoticons/default_good.gif

 

 

 

For an individual, I think that is good advice, even if it means operating the layout from infront.

 

It's a bit more difficult with a continuous run where the view of the layout for the owner will be totally different from the viewpoints that the public are getting and may, or may not, work well.

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3 hours ago, Joseph_Pestell said:

 

For an individual, I think that is good advice, even if it means operating the layout from infront.

 

It's a bit more difficult with a continuous run where the view of the layout for the owner will be totally different from the viewpoints that the public are getting and may, or may not, work well.

Not so Joseph, I build my layouts so they are viewable from both sides. I have helped with too many layouts where it was designed "for the public" and the operators view was really naff. My present layout Pig Lane (Western Region) is not only viewable from both sides but can be operated either side. 

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On 31/08/2019 at 20:55, Clive Mortimore said:

Not so Joseph, I build my layouts so they are viewable from both sides. I have helped with too many layouts where it was designed "for the public" and the operators view was really naff. My present layout Pig Lane (Western Region) is not only viewable from both sides but can be operated either side. 

 

On a continuous run layout, how would you cope with backscenes and/or low-relief buildings?

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3 minutes ago, Joseph_Pestell said:

 

On a continuous run layout, how would you cope with backscenes and/or low-relief buildings?

Design the layout from the start to be viewable from both sides. Do things like minimise low relief buildings. Have a flexible backscene that can be removed, and fit on the other side, or have a second ‘exhibition’ backscene. It’s not difficult it just needs due thought in the design process.

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Appologies if you find the below a bit of a rant...

 

Although You are not on show, the layout is, you should be presentable to be seen by the public. You don't have to be in a collar and tie these days, but clean uncrumpled, unstained Polo shirt and trousers should not be a problem.

Me I wear a kilt, but then it is a Scottish highland layout..

 

Many smaller shows hand out a sandwich pack, + unlimited tea and coffee. This unfortunately often means eating at the layout, being able to duck down behind a layout curtain, while you stuff your face IS also about presentation.

 

Remember Not just every exhibitor, but many visitors are potential "spies" for another show. Being pleasant to everyone, not packing up one or two hours before the end of the show will be more likely to bring invites.

 

Design your layout for easy strip down and pack up. I particularly like some layouts I've seen using cassettes even if they have fiddle yards. Run the train off onto a cassette, pop a top on , whole train put into transport case. Much easier and quicker than individual wagons. ( The top having foam underneath to stop wagons moving)

 

The increasing popularity of laser cut layout kits of the letter box type I find a problem, they are often just 18 inches tall on top of their stand, meaning those too tall or too short see a blank wall of painted wood and if you stand back to see, someone stands in front of you.  My layout is just about 3ft 6 inches from the ground so wheelchair users and children can see it.. But the prescenium arch bottom edge, is at 6ft so most taller people can still see the layout..

 

There are those who go for 3 link couplings for more realism.. Sadly a dirty great hand of God destroys that realism if used  on a shunting layout, OK for fixed rakes though.. On top of that shunting all day with 3 links.. it's a nightmare... got co - opted onto a layout with them ONCE...

 

Keep things moving, while us model railway anoraks may appreciate running to a time table, nothing moving for the next half hour will get you ignored. The public will wander off and everyone will notice how unpopular you layout is....

 

 Take rubber mats to stand on if you like standing all day, I use those interlocking ones. If you need to sit take something of appropriate height. I have an adjustable height Ironing stool. So even sitting behind 4ft height of layout and backscene I'ts all visible..

 

Security,

Visible to the public fiddle yards can be interesting to the public,  but the errant hand coming across and wandering off with a loco can happen (it did at Spalding last year) Perspex screens can help with this..

 

 If you have perspex screens, make sure you have a cleaner and duster handy to keep them clean..

NOTE, I said cleaner.. NOT polish, polishes contain silicon which gets in the atmosphre when you spray it, this is attracted to live metals and will form an insulating layer. For this reason Silicon polishes are banned from many Sensitive electronic areas.

 

Using a solid brief case may be an attractive rolling stock box (especially for N gauge), Paint it Bright, Paint it with your layout name, any non exhibitor wandering out with a plain black brief case will not be noticed.. This goes for any box that may be picked up and taken away easily.

My Travelling solid suitcase had my initials in two foot high letters on it..  making it much less attractive to thieves at airports etc..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 25/08/2019 at 21:29, Tim V said:

Do something a bit different. There are far to many layouts that are very similar to each other, almost clones, but if you have something that stands out from the crowd, it will get noticed.

 

Is it a model of a real place? Don't just think 'model railway show', village shows can be quite welcoming, you'll also get a very different kind of experience.

 

Above all have fun - enjoy yourself. I've lost count of seeing miserable faces behind boring layouts. Do not let yourself get, like I heard layouts described - straight out of some dusty loft.

 

On 25/08/2019 at 21:17, PaulRhB said:

 

Build something that’s fun to operate for hours. 

 

Test it by running it for hours so any problems rear their heads at home. 

 

Test all the stock, take spare locos,  and if something causes problems put it away to sort after the show. Consider how you transport it so it’s easy to get stock out and away easily and fast. Just use the inner packing rather than the card outer can speed things up a lot. Or use commercial stock boxes. 

 

A spare controller is a good idea. 

 

Lighting is preferable because you can get put in a dark room or one with strong contrast light. If the lighting is good then you don’t have to use it. 

 

Make sure it it fits in your car or intended van with all the stock before the day https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/uploads/emoticons/default_wink3.gif I had to saw 6” off the lighting rig on an old layout as the van was shorter than any previous one!

 

Take a lightweight plastic dust sheet to cover the layout if it rains getting in and out of the venue. 

 

Take enough operators that you can take breaks but don’t ask for too many or shows won’t afford to invite you. 

 

Keep expenses to a minimum, share cars for operators and avoid hiring vans if you can. Some layouts need it but it might be possible to design it to fit two cars instead and get the operators in too. 

 

Put on a good show, that tends to get you invites from people wandering round who belong to clubs or it might be their show manager. 

 

Have a brief info sheet that interested parties can take away with a picture, so they remember which layout it was,  and contact details even if it means setting up a free gmail address to keep your main one private. 

 

Enjoy the show :) 

 

Run until closing time. 

 


I agree with all Paul's comments but perhaps TimV's first paragraph comment is the most relevant because remember there are visitors at exhibitions, especially at the larger ones like the Warley Show at the NEC or Alexandra Palace in London, all with different tastes and preferences.  Plus of course the many families who just want an entertaining day out.

My layout 'Crewlisle' is a DCC 00 gauge layout based on the WCML between 1955 and 1985 ending with the APT.  When I built it many years ago I never dreamt of it being exhibited anywhere.  I just listed the features I wanted and built it to fit my second bedroom - 2.6M x 2.3M.  The only problem is all the 5 baseboards are all different sizes!  One is 2.6M long x 500mm wide.  Using my woodworking skills I made a cradle for 3 of them; the other 2 were stand alone.  Lesson 1, make your baseboards all the same size for easy transport as I have to hire a long wheelbase Transit van to take them anywhere together with all the stock (52 locos and over 160 items of carriages and wagons) and scenery.

'Crewlisle' is on three connected levels with a 4 platform terminus on the high level for 6 coach expresses together with steam shed, turntable, diesel shed and goods yard.  The mid level is the continuous run WCML with OLE and a through station.  The low level is the reversing loop with a cassette exchange system in the central operating well.  Visitors can walk around the layout to view it from three different sides.  I have lost count of the number of visitors at exhibitions who have looked at my layout and said things like, 'I was going to build a terminus to fiddle yard or a branch line to fiddle yard in this size space but you have completely changed my thinking'.   The ultimate accolade was from C.J. Freezer at an exhibition many years ago.  He was the editor of Railway Modeller for many years and author of many railway modelling books and track plans, who said after studying my layout for about 15 minutes said, "You have a lot of railway in a small space but it does not look out of place".  If you want to see the track plan/layout Google 'Crewlisle'.

There are four of us in my team - 2 operating, one having a break between operating duties and myself answering questions on 'How did you do so and so'.  My two operators run a minimum of two and sometimes as many as four trains simultaneously with one in the central operating well and one on the outside who also acts as my PR man.  He allows children to move locos onto the shed, operate the turntable or run a train on the main circuit with one finger hovering over the stop button just in case!  Lesson 2, very few layouts allow this so it is a real family attraction.  Operating a train on a layout at the exhibition makes their day.

A layout does not have to be super detailed, based on a prototype or run to a timetable to get invited to the larger shows.  But it does have to entertain the visitors.  Send photos/track plan of your layout to the exhibition manager to ask if he is interested.  After a few local shows I thought I would stick my neck out and get in touch with the Warley NEC Show.  I have since exhibited there 5 times and will be returning there next year for probably my last exhibition as the base boards and stock seem to get heavier each year!

 

Peter

Edited by Crewlisle
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