SHOW REPORT: World of Railways Virtual Show 3

BRM & WoR, together with the help of others including (but not limited to); Lawrence (of the MRC), Carol Flavin, Kier Hardy, and Tony Wright (who picked up Gold for BRMA Modeller of the Year - congratulations, Tony; it is well earnt!), put on a cracking show. It's been over a year since we all last visited a real exhibition, but these shows have helped fill part of that void. The work that goes into these is not dissimilar in quantity to real shows, but obviously is different in terms of the type involved.

Virtual shows in this format give us a chance not only to experience typical exhibition layouts and traders, but they also allow us insights into layouts that would never normally make it to exhibition; like garden railways, and huge permanent home layouts. What makes virtual shows pretty unique is the ability to see interviews and really get behind the scenes; not only of manufacturers both big and small, but also to find out more about what makes Britain's top modellers and creators tick. When you're at a real show, you don't typically ask an exhibitor these sorts of questions; so it's really nice to hear a more laid-back and genuine response.

I've tentatively given my highlights of both of the two prior BigWORshows, as I would any exhibition; but as I actually had time to sit down and watch the entire show this time around, I'm finding it hard to know where to start, and when to stop! Nethertheless, let's begin:

The Manufacturers

Something that I felt really came to the fore with the likes of Planet Industrials and Scale Model Scenery, is that these aren't just manufacturers. These are modellers, first and foremost. These are people with a genuine love for their craft, and thus they design, create, and sell stuff not necessarily because of profit or high demand, but because they look to cater for the unusual, niche categories that they find inspiring. As an example, I met James (of Planet Industrials) at ExpoNG in 2019, (and of course he built both locomotives for Sandy Shores) so I can tell you that the passion for these industrial workhorses is very much at the forefront of what they do. Their work with mixed-media kits is also clever and innovative. It's a similar story for Scale Model Scenery; I really got the impression that these are genuine down-to-earth people who have centred their business not around themselves or money, but around a love of helping modellers who long for more variety and detail.

Accurascale MDO commission by Planet Industrials
Photo courtesy of James Hilton/Planet Industrials

Planet Industrials have not only produced a myriad of multi-media kits (including a new Ruston 165DE), but they are releasing their first RTR locomotive (Victory class), and have commissioned Accurascale to produce a new industrial livery for their MDOs. And that's not all that's in the pipeline.
Just to clear up some confusion; Planet Industrials is their OO gauge brand, and Narrow Planet is just their narrow gauge brand. Both now run collectively (including other small manufacturers) under LRS (Light Railway Stores); which is now the 'shop front' for selling all the ranges; definitely worth bookmarking! With so many areas, I don't know how they find time to juggle all those projects, but they do, and do it very well.

Planet Industrials page on the Light Railway Stores website | Some lovely looking industrial models, including the RTR Victory class, various conversion kits, and the MDOs.

Elsewhere, I was really pleased that Hattons won a Gold award for their generic 4 & 6 wheel coaches, because that for me was quite a risky move; designing a whole raft of coaches, mostly from a period less-often modelled, and in a generic style. That could've quite easily flopped, but because they did so much to make these appealing (whether you modelled that era or not!) by adding lighting, chosing a vast array of liveries and styles, offering different packs, creating meticulous details, and most importantly engaging the public at every single stage; they were able to produce a product that, despite not even hitting the shelves yet, has generated an insane amount of attention. And rightly so, in my opinion. I'll certainly buy some for Coastguard Creek when the time comes.

The Layouts

Now, on Saturday we were treated to an interview with Rob and David Waller of Bron Hebog. Whilst it wasn't a featured layout in the line up, it was a remarkable layout that had escaped my radar, and what followed was a Twitter exchange between them, Phil Parker (of BRM), Lawrence (of the MRC) and myself. We talked about, whilst it's possible to make a small layout feel spacious, it's easier to have the space to have a layout where you don't necessarily need clever design tricks to make a layout feel like part of a wider landscape. I briefly dreamt about what it would be like to have such a large layout, until Phil and Lawrence reminded me that a layout that big will require a team at exhibitions, not just a solo modeller like myself! Then I had flashbacks to "The Old Road" - a 16ft x 12ft layout that I started, built the boards for, and then immediately dismantled when I realised I had no space to set it up, and not enough rolling stock (and that's before we even think about exhibiting the damn thing). What I'm rambling on about is that it's nice to see that a layout can generate discussions not just at real shows, but at virtual ones, too.

Bournemouth West by Roger Sunderland - BRMA Gold 'Layout of the Year' | Well deserved, too!
Photo courtesy of Andy York/BRM

Having scooped Silver last year in the BRMAs, I was delighted that Bournemouth West won the Gold Award this time around. We saw it at the first BigWORshow, and my comments from then still stand; it is a shining example of a consistently realistic layout (of course, the fact that the prototype isn't that far from me helps)! Elsewhere, something very specific that appealed to me is the swing bridge scene on Boston Frodsham (see photo below). As far as I'm concerned, (and don't take this the wrong way - I've long had a soft spot for this feature on the prototype) I'd be happy if that foot long section of the bridge and its control box was the only part of the layout on show; it's such an inspiring and well-modelled scene. St. Ives was another beautiful little layout, and I especially enjoyed the video; using a drone to capture the backdrop and other particulars is very novel! Oh, and who doesn't like the seaside?!

Boston Frodsham by Mike Knowles | I just think this view is absolutely fantastic!
Photo courtesy of Andy York/BRM

Most of the other layouts were on the large side, and much like Bron Hebog, left me longing to have a big barn, and a layout within it big enough to set a railway deeply in a landscape. Just being able to sit back and watch the trains run through these layouts was lovely - including, but not limited to; Over Peover, Lime Street, Barmouth Junction (boy was I glad to see this return!), Black Country Blues, Malham, Hills of the North, even the modern image Oulton TMD and Hornsey Broadwey were all particularly inspirational show-stoppers in their own varied ways. (I say 'even the modern image' because I don't model it; so it's rarer to find something that inspires me!)

Barmouth Junction by Geoff Taylor | I can't think of a layout I want to see 'in the flesh' more than this!
Photo courtesy of Andy York/BRM

Incidentally, if you'd like to see the full story behind Black Country Blues (see photo below), then there is a full guide (100+ page bookazine) on the layout for £2.99. As with all links to products, I'm not recommending this because I've been asked to, and I certainly haven't been paid to; I recommend them because I can see and appreciate the hard work that has gone into it. In BCBs' case, it's yet another masterclass in railway modelling, and another layout I hope I'll one day get to see. (Looks like I need to get out and about to some of the larger exhibitions!)

Black Country Blues by the Staffordshire Finescale Group | The (once?) thriving industrial beating heart.
Photo courtesy of Andy York/BRM

Of course, I can't not mention the ever-wonderful Pempoul. This is probably one of the most well-known layouts just because of the sheer quality of modelling on display. Just look at the photo below; not a train in sight, but I could still sit and look at that scene for a long time. Normal layouts rarely capture your interest with so little happening (not even a cameo - just pure scenery)! 

Pempoul by Maggie & Gordon Gravett | Just outstanding! Nothing else I can say...
Photo courtesy of Andy York/BRM

Honestly, I could go on all day about the layouts at the show; all were of the highest calibre. I always feel bad only mentioning a selection on here, and to chose favourites is quite pointless in many regards, so I think I'll leave it at that for this section and move on!

The Interviews

I've talked about some of the interviews, but I must give a quick shout-out to some of the others on show. The talk with Paul Birkitt-Grey about the hidden underground stations was fascinating, and very cheerful in outlook. The LT museum is dedicated to helping preserve these abandoned areas, and also holds tours (for now, virtually), as well as having a huge selection of exhibits at their Acton site; that includes full-sized sets and tube trains.

"Hidden London" | A really interesting interview talking about the many now-redundant tube stations, shafts, and other structures in London. Well worth signing up for one of the virtual tours.
Photos courtesy of Paul Birkitt-Grey

 Donna & Mark Mitchell were equally enthusiastic and warm when talking about their garden railway, the Glebe Valley Railway - and it's remarkable how quickly they've built it, too. For more information, buy the latest Garden Rail (April 2021) - on sale here. It's a lovely little railway, and I think if I showed it to my dad, we may have a big problem on our hands as I can imagine it's a railway we'd love to build. Trying to convince the "domestic authorities" that garden railways can be both pretty, and partially removable may be a little easier with this layout, but I doubt we'd get away with it unfortunately!

Glebe Valley Railway by Donna & Mark Mitchell | I think we all secretly want a garden railway; and this one is a particularly attractive example.
Photo courtesy of Donna & Mark Mitchell

Finally, it was nice to hear from the Severn Valley Railway that despite the harshness of Lockdown, they have not only been able to find ways to gain additional income (such as providing a testing ground for the new Class 69s) but are also looking forward to a thriving railway in the years to come; with big events already planned as soon as lockdown ends.

The Practicals

First up is the lovely Carol Flavin; despite having only been a modeller for 4 years, she's already made a name for herself! I enjoyed her practical demonstrations, particularly on the castles of Edge Hey and Strines; I was very surprised to learn these started off life as aquarium pieces. From now on I'll be following her progress, and I'm sure her grandchildren will be "chuffed to bits" with the layout! You'll be seeing plenty more from her in the future, trust me.

Another video that captured my interest was the travelling crane built by Howard Leader. A simple, but lovely detail that was well modelled. It was just a shame that white plasticard doesn't lend itself well to photography/filming!

Phil Parker's tractor; and this is BEFORE it was lovingly covered in shi... I mean, mud!
Photo courtesy of Phil Parker/BRM

Finally, as I built a farm diorama for BRM that was inspired by memories of my grandparent's old farm, it's Phil Parker's muddy tractor video that really called to me. It was really interesting seeing these powder and pastes in action (I ought to try these sometime), and the results were brilliant. The video itself was quite entertaining as well; the same of which can't much be said for farming itself! Anyway, had the tractor been in 1:76 scale, I would be indefinitely 'borrowing' it from Phil for my diorama...


So, once again, it was a truly fantastic event; my thanks to everyone that had a hand in it. My thanks also go to those, especially Andy York, who graciously allowed me to use their photos.

I must admit, I put a lot of work into my three videos (months, in fact!), so it was really nice to hear how well-received they were, and particularly that people found them useful. Above all else, the show, like any excellent exhibition should do, has given me a drive to start work on my latest layout, Coastguard Creek - so once my studio has been finished, watch out for updates!

Look out for my articles in future issues of BRM; where you'll see my workshop diorama (above), and a full feature on how to light your layout with 12V LED tapes. Check my Twitter for updates.

If you missed the show, you can do no better than to buy the show guide, which includes the layouts and video content for only £2.99. Considering the entry cost of shows, and the sheer amount of effort that went into this virtual show; I'd say that's a bloody bargain!

Please do post your comments below; I'd love to know what your favourite aspects of the show were.


  1. Thanks Jam, I’m glad you and many others enjoyed my interview. I enjoy talking about what Steve and I do, and why, and happy the passion came across on the small screen,

    1. You're welcome, James!
      I'm very happy to see you continuously expanding your range(s) with some beautiful looking industrials; and I look forward to seeing what you have next in the pipeline.

    2. Hello Jamie, thanks for the positive feedback on our show – great to hear you enjoyed it and as always, thanks for providing us with great content to share with readers and viewers! Howard Smith

    3. My pleasure on both counts, Howard.
      I'm already looking forward to the next one!


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