"Proper" exhibitions may be gone for a while yet, but we can have the next best thing; as witnessed during both the fantastic virtual RMweb SWAG "do" back in April, and the equally superb World of Railways Virtual Exhibition from the weekend just gone.
We all know the far-reaching effects that lockdown has had for us in 2020, and not being able to attend model railway shows may seem like an utterly trivial matter in comparison; but the truth is, these are the only times I really get outside of the house (notwithstanding the odd shopping trip). I'm really not a social person (that much is probably obvious!), but despite that, being at shows filled with likeminded people and examples of superb modelling are probably the highlights of every year for me.
OK, so virtual exhibitions don't really give us an opportunity for face-to-face socialisation, but when you have such fantastic layouts, videos, photos, and interviews... well, it's really easy to get completely absorbed by the content and completely forget that you're missing out on socialisation.
The World of Railways Virtual Exhibition
Where to begin? Well, the start, obviously, and what a start it was. 20 layouts of perhaps the highest calibre. In fact, they're all so good that I genuinely struggled to choose even the top 5 among them. I obviously have a soft spot for southern region layouts, but holy cow, when modelling is this good, any natural pre-judgement flies completely out of the window! The only downside is that because it's a virtual exhibition; I don't have any photos to show...
I could write a very long list of things I love about all 20 layouts, but you'd never read it all, so I'll tentatively pick my personal favourites, with the disclaimer that any not mentioned need not feel any less worthy of my admiration. What's surprising is that only one I've seen in any capacity before: The Clydach Railway.
The first layout you were greeted by was Worlds End (by Pete Goss). The sheer architectural craftmanship of the buildings is pretty incredible; I do love architecture, but I don't think I'd be much less impressed if I didn't care for the subject at all. The windows alone are so well modelled, but add the colouring and complexity of the stonework on the viaduct to the mix, and it makes me wonder...just... how?! How on earth is it so near-perfect? The attention to detail is nuts; I can see why it took 18 months alone to build the viaduct.
Then there's obviously a slice of southern joy for me; Sidmouth (by Richard Harper). If the setting wasn't enough for me, like Worlds End, there's a lot of exceptional architectural work and attention to detail. The weathering is also spot on; subtle, but look from a low angle, and you'd have a hard job to tell that it was a model! The roads and groundwork are also particularly nicely observed, and the trackwork is... well, quite remarkable.
We now move on to the quite frankly jaw-droppingly complex Penmaenpool (by Geoff Taylor); a rabbit warren it may be, but I've never seen a layout so huge look this harmoniously well-modelled in my life (and that's not an exaggeration!); it's stunningly picturesque, too. I'd love to see this particular layout "in the flesh", so to speak. And as for the cab ride? Well, I was utterly spellbound the whole way through. What's more surprising is that the scenic side(s) of the layout feel so spacious, and aren't crammed with track, yet they are interlinked by an immensely complex series of non-scenic loops, storage sidings, junctions... you name it!
Being a man with 3 layouts featuring 009 (OK, so 2 are little more than baseboards, track, and basic scenery, but that's by-the-by...), I can't help but be overjoyed at the sight of the Clydach Railway (by Richard Holder). What originally drew me to the layout was the photographic backscene, and I can only imagine what a headache it must've been to get it to match the scenery so perfectly. Shots where you look dead-on at the background are especially convincing. It's the sort of layout I wish I had room to build, and I would imagine it must be a joy to be able to watch two trains traverse the various gradients, the viaduct, and then pass each other at the stations. I'm very jealous!
Finally, another "Holy cow!" goes to Bournemouth West (by Roger Sunderland). Yes, again, it's southern so of course I'm going to be slightly biased; but just look at it! The trackwork is impressive for starters. The smooth-running, smoke-emitting, nicely-weathered stock is another huge plus. The buildings are again fantastic, but it's the operation that astounds me the most; you don't see many layouts that have a station pilot, as well as a timetable so hectic that it requires absolute precision and teamwork from the operators. Oh, and then there's the beautifully bouncy signals; what a nice touch!
You will (probably joyously) realise that this segment is short; truth be told as I was editing the whole time whilst the show was on, I didn't actually get around to watching much past the layouts; certainly none of the trade videos, and only a handful of the interviews...but...For me, especially now that I've made 3 dioramas for BRM and know just how much time, effort, and complexity that building, filming, editing, and presenting such a project takes; the feature (or should that be 11 or 12 features!) I enjoyed most was of course Phil Parker's layout build, Ferness Quay. I genuinely doubt the vast of majority know just how much effort that project took; I can tell you, it's way more than you'd expect! Here's the thing though, not only has he made a really informative set of videos, he's ended up with a really well-modelled layout, whilst also providing plenty of humour (for starters, I hope you spotted the two Loch Ness Monsters!).
That said, the interviews that I watched were also really interesting, and there are several more that I should probably be watching now instead of writing here! The "Highley Detailed" video was also very entertaining and filmed really well; and I think it's a really good idea to get people to take a closer at the real world around them, and give them ideas as to how they can model it.
Oh, and of course the puzzles and spot the difference images were also fun, even if I never found that missing downpipe on Worlds End! For this spot the difference, "Worlds End" may be a bit of an over-the-top name, but "Wits End" might be more suitable!
Attending as an "exhibitor"
Producing a video (or 5; OK, so only 3 got shown, but...)Having produced a couple of videos for the SWAG virtual show in April, and three dioramas for BRM in the past year, I was asked if I could contribute a video for the show. Usually, I produce a video to go alongside each diorama build solely for BRM readers, but I hadn't quite finished the last (a farm) diorama, so it was a mad rush not only to finish the diorama, but also to film and edit the video! This actually took the best part of a week to film, despite being only 12 mins or so long; due to noisy neighbours, unexpected visitors, horrendously hot weather, and also continually cocking up lines! (Whilst I do write scripts, I never read directly from them as it will just sound unnatural; and my memory is not particularly good at the best of times!)
In any case, I decided to produce a much-extended video for the show; mostly because viewers would have absolutely no context as they won't have read the article (which will appear in the September BRM, by the way!). What I didn't realise at the time is that the video I made for the construction site diorama (appearing in the August BRM) would also be shown, but to be honest I think the farm diorama needs far more explanation due to the variety of features it has; so it worked out well in the end.
As for the 3rd video, well that was a blooper reel, which you can find here:
(You can tell that at some points I was getting pretty tired of making mistakes!)
(...the other 2 videos should be useful, and will be debuted soon!)
A couple of days before the virtual show, I realised that I could probably make a couple of videos on layout photography; I must've been crazy to attempt to in such short notice; and in the end I got 7 hours sleep in 2 nights and worked on the edits from 9am - 3am both days! Needless to say, I missed out on uploading in time for the show by a few hours, but they will be shown hopefully soon by BRM. If nothing else, I'll upload them via this blog, and/or my RMweb blog in due course.
Anyway, whilst no expert on photography, I think a lot of people would find at least some of the tips useful to some degree. One video focuses on the steps from start to finish of taking photos (including useful equipment and how to get the best out of it, composition, and talking/demonstrating lighting techniques), whilst the second shows how to take these photos and perform a few very basic edits with free software. Oh, as well as how to stack these photos to form maximum depth of field; again, with free software!
So, there we have it, yet another thoroughly enjoyable virtual exhibition; especially as we get to see layouts that would never make it to any exhibitions given their size/location. The interviews and practicals were also something totally different, and very interesting indeed.
Finally, I really hope people enjoyed my videos, and if you want to find out more about those two dioramas, they will be making their appearances as "How-to" features in BRM very soon:
Construction Site Diorama - August BRM
Farm Diorama - September BRM
Got any questions/comments? - Feel free to leave them either below, or over on RMweb!