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Blog- Show visits 2014 - Stafford 2014

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The first weekend of February has produced my first model railway exhibition visit of the new year. I have been looking forward to the Stafford event all week as it is one of my favourite events of the whole year. It guarentees three large halls of exhibits with a host of large and impressive layouts to enjoy and plenty of trade to try and part me from my cash. Once again it did not disappoint. The show was excellent!


My dad and I arrived at around 10.20, just twenty minutes after opening, and were greeted by a rather large queue. Clearly the show remains popular. Credit goes to the organisers who managed to keep the queue moving and, despite the numbers, we were in the hall in just over five minutes. Very impressive.


At £9.00 per person the show is not cheap, but is definitely well worth the money. The show guide, at £1.00, was excellent value and, I think, cheaper than last year. The guide remains a good read and reference for the exhibits on show. Ok, Kenton, not too many track plans - but not everyone needs them!!


This year the show featured a number of micro layouts in the "Sandylands" suite, providing plenty of inspiration to those with limited spaces. The pick of these models was "Ingleton Sidings" which is only 4ft x 1ft in size and is displayed on an ironing board. This takes the form of a shunting puzzle with a short headshunt and three sidings. The wagons are displayed on cards and then the cards were shuffled and five selected to form the train. The challenge is to shunt the wagons, in the short space, to achieve the sequence shown on the card. These layouts often received mixed reviews, but they are fascinating to watch. Set in a brewery sidings there was plenty of detail packed into the limited space with the additional touch of a video screen showing a live feed from a small camera hidden in a crate on the layout. This excellent model always seemed to attract the crowds.


There were several layouts I had seen before including the N gauge "Melton Mowbray North" which aims to accurately represent the station and surrounding area. This is a superb model with key features including the "Home Ales" sign on the overbridge. The modern image "New Bryford" was on display. This is another excellent model with plenty of "yellow" on show. Peter Cullen's "Mannin the Middle" which represents the Isle of Man railways is an interesting circular shape.


Scanning through the layout list before the show there were some layouts I was looking forward to see. The Hornby Magazine's "St Stephen's Road" has recently returned to the exhibtion circuit. It features an unusual triangular baseboard layout with Western and Southern region lines. The model did not disappoint with a number of sound fitted locos. The sound fitted and weathered Bachmann "Dukedog" was superb as was the sound and smoke fitted Spamcan. The highlight was the sound fitted model of City of Truro which looked a picture as it appeared, majestically, from the fiddle yard.

BRM's "Black Country Blues" attracted a large crowd throughout the day and entertained with a procession of slow moving blue diesel hauled freight trains. The layout was superbly lit and the scenics were offset by a fantastic photographic backscene, one of the best I have ever seen!


There are always models which have the "wow" factor. At Stafford that was definitely "Gresley Beat" which provided a constant flow of LNER action amongst fantastic scenery. This included a 70 odd wagon freight, hauled by an 0-6-0! A brilliant model and well deserving of the large crowds which gathered throughout the day. Mind you this did not stop the "picky" merchants having a moan. A gentleman next to me, loudly, bemoaned the lack of crews in many of the A4's, whilst my Dad criticised it for falling foul of his "pet hate". He hates bridges which go nowhere. Those bridges that end abruptly at the front of the baseboard always draw his (not mine) criticism. Even my own layout does not escape this! At times it was a little embarrassing to listen to my dad and the aforementioned gentleman "pick flies" out of such a superb model. For me it was the best in show!


Mind you there was one or two layouts which did draw my criticism. The excellent N gauge model "Dentdale" did impress me. This excellent Settle and Carlisle model featured a couple of superb viaducts set in brilliant scenery. Sadly it was let down a little by the use of of two 8F's, both numbered 48773, within moments of each other. That is a cardinal sin in my opinion!


Stafford does often suffer from the weather with heavy rain and snow causing trouble in past years. This year the recent rain did leave the car park very muddy. We were lucky to find a space on the hard standing and, therefore, had no problems. My father in law was not so lucky and got stuck in the mud!!!


All in all an excellent show. Congratulations to all of the organisers. Here are my "awards" for the event. Remember these are only my humble opinion!!!


Top layouts (the ones which kept me coming back for more)

3rd: St Stephens Road: Plenty of sound fitted locomotives set in lovely off the shelf scenery.

2nd: Inglenook Sidings: An enjoyable shunting puzzle in a limited space, with the opportunity for the public to have a go.


1st: Gresley Beat: No contest! Plenty of scale length trains with lots of LNER action. Superb!


Best scenic item

Runner Up: The viaducts on "Dentdale",


Winner: The photographic backscene and lighting on "Black Country Blues" - just excellent.


Best model loco

It could have been any of the sound fitted locos on "St Stephens Road" with the Dukedog and Spamcan being strong contenders. For me the pick was the sound fitted "City of Truo". It looked and sounded superb.


And finally - the not so good.


Runner Up: The doubling up of 8F 48773 on "Dentdale",


Winner: I am not going to name the layout. All I will say is one model featured a card built model of a "cafe". This was falling apart, with the card roof clearly very bent. The colouring on the model looked like it had been done by one of my less able 6 year old pupils!!


A great show though, thoroughly enjoyed it!!!


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