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JST

The Running of Exhibition Layouts

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Johnster , I think we've both been to the same grumpy old man school!  Completely agree.

 

I'd add Chirping Class 20s at max volumes to list

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7 hours ago, Legend said:

Johnster , I think we've both been to the same grumpy old man school!  Completely agree.

 

I'd add Chirping Class 20s at max volumes to list

Thanks for that, Legend!  Should point out that I’ve held these views for many years, so was at one time a grumpy young man...

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The OP states that he views layouts on youtube.

IMO. model railway videos tend to over-emphasise speed.

 

We found this on our club exhibition layout that we had been running for many shows to many compliments regarding overall speeds and smooth starting/stopping.

Yet on videos - it looked like the trains were running quickly.

When it was videoed - outside the confines on an exhibition hall - we slowed down the operation.

It then looked very slow to the naked eye, but looked right on the video....................

 

My current layout is a 24'x10' double track continuous run with a shed/depot/yard at the front.

We (my team) try and have something moving without too large a gap as we have found that the majority of exhibition visitors like to see some movement without too large a gap. (Opinions will vary, but that's the way I see it).

 

With such a size of layout, it does take time for a train to traverse the circuit, so there will naturally be a gap in one direction. We often try to minimise this by timing the trains, so that as one disappears in one direction, then a few seconds later, one is travelling the other way. Although having two trains passing - particularly the two HST sets - does look very good - but doubles the gap between trains!

On the occasions when I am shunting the depot, I will stop and let the mainline pass, resuming shunting again to keep the public entertained occupied until the next mainline train approaches.

 

As for comments about untrained operators in previous comments - it is difficult for me to arrange a full running session as I do not really have anywhere to fully assemble the layout and in some case, even if I did so, arranging operator training is problematical due to the geographical spread of my regular band of volunteers.

 

But after a few shows, the usual team are now quite used to knowing what they - and the layout - are capable of.

I just have to make sure they don't get too carried away for the mad hour on Sunday

 

I will have an operator that's unfamiliar with DL at Ally Pally, but that won't be a problem as he's generally pretty good at picking up operation of unfamiliar layouts (I hope he doesn't read this, or I'll never hear the last of it) 

 

 

 

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In defence of 'some' exhibitors.

 

You will have to see the (so-called) bad layouts, to see the 'good' layouts. The  situation of the graveyard above the tunnel has actually happened in real life, on the Keighley & Worth Valley, where the road gang broke through the tunnel roof. 

 

It's normally called 'detatched professionalism' by the operator, who will know things like fouling points, line of sight, stopping distances, accelerating a train, and slowing down the same.  

 

I count my blessings to have taken part in the real thing. Only a few (and, a diminishing few) will ever see an approximation of the real thing. Perhaps the changing demographic will want to see things like this. 

 

You & I, young Johnster, are the lucky ones... 

 

Ian.

 

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On ‎03‎/‎03‎/‎2020 at 15:38, The Johnster said:

Rant over, but I think I have some valid points.

 

Johnster - I really enjoyed that posting; made me chuckle.

 

We have several MRCs locally, and one of them exhibits at the school my son attends, but I've only made the few hundred metres stroll to attend once, because their members specialise in layouts of the kind that you describe ......... I've never seen so many sub-miniature LEDs assembled in one place at one time. It just doesn't do it for me, but if the guys who build them enjoy it, I'm not here to tell them they shouldn't.

 

One thing this thread has made me realise is that I don't take much notice of moving trains on layouts at exhibitions, which may sound a bit odd, but its true. If I think back over the hundreds of layouts that I've seen and enjoyed, in no single case do I think "that was really good because of the moving trains" ....... they're there, and they animate the scene, but they aren't the things that attract my attention. I'm more into studying the scene, and studying the trains when they aren't moving. There are one or two layouts around that really major on well-modelled trains moving through what is really a fairly plain environment, like trainspotting from a fence-line, and they attract big crowds, which I don't join.

 

It seems that a lot of very careful effort by layout operators is largely wasted on me. Sorry!

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If there's a common theme that always pops up on layout operation threads that appear with regularity.

 

It is:

"You'll never please all of the people, all of the time"

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That will be because everyone has a different opinion on how a layout should be operated and what constitutes a 'good' layout. 

 

Our wonderful hobby is very diverse in that respect and I personally think it would be poorer if there was just one option and one opinion. We'd certainly have fewer lively debates here for example :) 

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Is Electroluminescent wire the new LED...?

IMG_20200123_182643.jpg

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In further defence of exhibitors, building and stocking a show layout that is not only realistic but also operates reliably is a fairly big ask, even before you factor in dodgy leisure centre floors, freezing, or overheated venues, varying dust levels and humidity, manning the layout with trained and competent operators who also have to be provided with breaks for refreshments and looking around the show themselves, and maintaining that level of operational competence and reliability over 2 or 3 days while stress levels are ramped up. 
 

I just turn up as a punter these days!

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Dare I say this, I prefer seeing a good photo spread of a layout than see it for real at an exhibition.  Exhibitions are tedious, the popular or well publicized layouts cannot be enjoyed when people are three or four deep trying to see it and many of the venues are cramped.  Yes I know you are supposed to enjoy the running aspect but as I am a builder not an operator the operating finesse, or lack of, is somewhat lost on me.  I like to understand what inspired and went into a layout not really it's five minutes of fame at an exhibition.  As mentioned earlier in this thread I have exhibited my own layout and was involved in a couple of shows of my club way back in the eighties but more recent experiences have lead me to the aforementioned conclusion.

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Everyone is entitled t their view and its great that we are all different.  For me you can't beat seeing a layout running to know what it is really about and how good it really is. You can build the most wonderful model railway but if it don't run well its a fail so far as I am concerned. All layouts will have their moments when things go a bit belly up but some just aren't good enough. 

 

Whilst I generally like to see layouts running correct stock in a sensible way I see nothing wrong with the tailchaser running impossible train formations. If the layout builder justs wants to run trains because thats what he likes doing and has no interest in the prototype then that's ok so long as that is the intended concept of the layout. Also I'm not too worried if there are a few layouts that are less than scenically wonderful at a show. Some visitors will think "I could do something as well as that" and get started on layout building. If they only saw brilliant layouts they might be put off having a go.

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Chris, your last point is well made, we all get inspiration from seeing what is attainable by others, be it in the flesh or just pictures.

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I recall, long ago exhibiting in Nottingham, we were next to a layout that had real water on it, the hall itself was over an old swimming pool.  We had no end of problems from the dampness of the hall, as indeed did some of the other layouts.
..... and as for exhibiting next to a live steam layout............
Not many exhibition halls now have sprung floors, but I recall Stafford back in the 70's (at the time of petrol rationing), we wondered why we were having such variable performance from the stock, struggle, fleeing, it was people walking past on the sprung floor - wave effect :blink:

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3 hours ago, Chris M said:

Also I'm not too worried if there are a few layouts that are less than scenically wonderful at a show. Some visitors will think "I could do something as well as that" and get started on layout building. If they only saw brilliant layouts they might be put off having a go.

 

This is something I have advocated for a long time. The grand club layout may have taken 10+ experienced modellers several years to build and the first reaction from the average punter is "I can't do that". The "serious" modellers are only about 10% of exhibition attendance. The other 90% is dad, possibly mum and 2.4 kids who want to see that blue tank engine.  Exhibitions have to show the stepping stones between the "train set" and the club masterpiece.

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On 07/02/2020 at 13:26, JST said:

Some of them take off like a rocket, stop dead on a sixpence from about 80mph and jerk about all over the place. I

 

The 08 I used to get cab rides around Birkenhead Docks (in the 1970s) in used to do exactly that ! - especially when loose shunting, ie uncouple some wagons, run forward, stop dead and the wagons continue on their own, often with a shunter shouting all sorts of doubts about the drivers parentage as he pursued them down the siding.

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To be honest I find exhibiting is actually getting more stressful the older I get (which stands to reason I suppose?)

The thought of dismantling the layout - getting it out of the shed - loading it into the car - unloading and setting up - operating for two days straight - then the prospect of dismantling on a Sunday at 4.00 or 5.00pm - loading into the car - then back into the shed ...etc etc.. I can't say with hand on heart I find that enjoyable. At least not at the moment.

Then there is the pot luck of the hall or venue - too hot, too cold - too near the Thomas the Tank layout (never again!!!) - no barriers ( a real bug-bear with me) - parking issues.. etc

 

Hats off to those who enjoy putting their layout on show but after a commitment I've made to show my layout in 2021 (its actually a new local model show) I'm not sure I'll do many more...we'll see.

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Oh there are certainly annoyances when it comes to taking layouts to shows. Being up at the crack of dawn to drive to a venue and set up on a Saturday morning isn't the best part. Similarly knocking everything down then having a long drive before unloading the other end because the van needs to go back first thing Monday is another.

 

However, I personally find enjoyment from operating at an exhibition and getting good comments from people about the layout too.

 

I suppose anyone who doesn't enjoy the operating side would get far less enjoyment from shows. Hence why they aren't compulsory, if you don't enjoy it then you don't have to do it :) 

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Has anyone bothered to ask if they could see a layout back at "home" away from the rest of the visitors. Amazingly enough it can be done..then you can get a better feel for how well the layout operates.

 

Of course as Mick says some layouts are only put up for checking/fixing prior to and after shows.

Baz

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Its the interaction between folk which is important at exhibitions. The way people react to my layout is the best part of going to a show. Having said that I plan to take my new layout to about half a dozen shows and no more when it is ready. I have really enjoyed exhibiting but I've spent more than enough weekends away without the other half. Even after 40 years of marriage I would rather be with her than away at an exhibition.

 

Baz - that's an interesting point. Of course those of us in the garden railway fraternity have been having little get togethers for many years and most enjoyable they are too. Entrance fee is usually a pork pie or a doughnut. 

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Although I am not involved with any clubs or organisations over here in the US there are occasional Layout Tours organised whereby people with fixed home layouts agree to accept visitors during certain hours over a particular weekend.  It's usually a Train Show or Swapmeet weekend which may have out of town visitors.

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Been thrown in at the deep end at all of the exhibitions that I’ve operated a layout at. 
 

I was for a couple of years a member of the ‘Desperados’ - a gang operating the County Gate, Cliffhanger and Bratton Fleming layouts. All three were nominally computer controlled for realistic operation, but I’m glad to say that I was able to step in to manually run trains when the inevitable error occurred (although I should add that such errors were honestly less frequent than that last sentence makes it seem). 


It took a moment or two to get a hang of what I was doing, but once that was achieved, getting the trains to ‘look’ realistic going around was not too tricky. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I achieved prototype practice, but nothing jarred at all.

 

A little time to consider, some excellent design work on the part of the builder and a decent overall set up goes a long way to making the lot look good and run well. 

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I agree with the OP's observations in general.

 

I can live with speeds on the high side so long as it is not extreme, for example, a BLT service running at 200mph. Also too extreme, for me, is an express train crawling along at a scale walking pace to demonstrate its "slow running qualities".

 

I accept that some operators can stop their locomotives on a sixpence. Why then when coupling up to a train can they not stop at the train instead of pushing it half a carriage length along the track?

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Actually I suppose realistic coupling with TLC, Kadees or anything that requires some resistance to couple would be better if the brakes were on.....as they presumably would be in real life.

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While I usually attend exhibitions in some 'working' capacity (be it operator on either one of my own layouts or someone else's, demonstrator, steward, or even exhibition manager) and only very occasionally as a punter, I'm in general agreement with the OP, along with the comments from Clive and that excellent post from The Johnster.

 

I've seen great layouts (including some top-end 2mmfs/P4/S7) really let down by shockingly poor running and operation, while what would otherwise be fairly average (or even mediocre) layouts lifted by faultless and very well observed running.

 

I think there is a balance between the pulls of 'entertainment' and realism and that balance will shift depending on the audience the show is aimed at. For the family-oriented show I'd dial down the realistic ops to increase frequency of movement while at the specialist shows I'd expect the more discerning and knowledgeable viewer to accept that a train every 2 minutes along a sleepy branch line is just plain silly.

 

I would also strive (with my own modeling) to make the overall scene believable, interesting and realistic even without any trains 'on stage', so that , there's enough on my micros to keep the viewer interested for the 30-60-or-so seconds between trains while I'm fiddling. (All my micros are solo-operated, fiddlestick to scene, so there will always be a short gap while I remove the outbound and set up the next inbound)

 

I operate my micros from the front and they are table-top height (plus about 8" on simple risers) so I do get good interaction with the viewers - I also have my reference folder containing the inspiration, build, sources, etc., on the table in front of the layout for perusal, another way of maintaining viewer interest between trains. Ideally, where space allows, I like to have a few chairs in front so the interested can sit and watch. It also means I can let viewers young or old have a drive, if they so wish (under a modicum of supervision) which I believe is a great way of encouraging people into the hobby.

 

And, being micro layouts, my set-up/break-down time is usually 10-15 minutes ;) 

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As a past operator of a large club layout I always made sure that with the co-operation with the person controlling the up or down portion of the fiddle yard that something was kept moving in both directions and at an appropriate scale speed. So for example the Down Midland Pullman in theory heading towards Manchester Central would sweep around the layout from right to left at a suitable speed to convey the sense to the viewing public that it was indeed an express train; the following train might well have been an express freight like the I.C.I. bulk company hopper train either with an 8F up front or a green Type 2 (25) taking advantage of the faster running of these wagons compared to the next freight train a part fitted or unfitted local or long-distance freight formed of suitable freight wagons - this would plod around the layout. The next train out might well be the local stopping passenger service formed of a small tank or tender steam locomotive or in later years a green DMU unit. Again operated at a suitable speed and allowing for a controlled stop for the station. 

 

I have of course despaired when fellow operators have simply just whizzed trains around and given them a bullocking when stock has come adrift and derailed especially when it is my stock or friends stock - it is not there to be whizzed around and abused and damaged. I don't think they would appreciate me knackering their locos, coaches or wagons up in the same manner.

 

Sometimes when short of operators especially at dinner time some aspects of our operation are suspended for example the signalling and so the signal box is in effect 'switched out' until the signaller returns from the exhibition canteen suitably refreshed. The yard and branch to the works would also be on dinner break too but the trains keep on passing at regular intervals on the main lines.

 

No excuse not to do the same on an end to end layout either and with DCC of course this is even easier of course keeping something going.

 

Cheers Paul

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