Can you believe we're already at the fourth instalment of the World of Railways virtual exhibition (BigWORshow)? Once again, the team, as well as regular and new contributors, have worked very hard to bring us a huge amount and variety of content. Content that is informative, interesting, and in many cases stuff that you just would not find at a 'traditional' exhibition. I'm not going to cover every single bit of content because... well, there aren't enough hours in the day!
As an aside, I did produce three videos for the show (as well as being involved in a really fun panel discussion), but for this report I'll focus on the other content on offer. You'll see two of my contributions in future issues of BRM magazine; so keep your eyes peeled next year!
Starting on Saturday, two of the early videos were interviews with manufacturers - Bachmann and Heljan. For me, what was great about these were not product announcements and updates (although sign me up for one of Heljan's little 02 shunters, please!), but actually getting some insight into the lengthy processes involved in getting these products to market. The juggling act is impressive, and I'm not sure us modellers have much right to moan about rising prices, especially when these manufacturers are trying to absorb some of the costs themselves in what is a very unpredictable and increasingly difficult period of time. Something which both these interviews (and the later interview with Pete Waterman) have proven is that models today are not only the highest detailed models we've ever seen, but they are incredibly reliable!
Above: One of Intentio's wonderful little laser cut kits on Phil Parker's diorama.
Of particular note was the interview with Intentio; how Philip produces his kits, and the philosophy behind them. I shall have to look at their range, as I've not come across Intentio before, but I really love the design ideas behind, and the final result of his kits.
Oh, and it's great to see Dapol investing in the UK, with brand new tooling machines that will surely help mitigate unexpected delays that we've experienced recently; not just with the dreaded pandemic, but also with manufacturing problems abroad. Good stuff.
Something I found interesting that was becoming apparent throughout the weekend is that a lot of model shops are much more than retail premises; offering weathering, detail, and building services. With regards to the TMC video, it was really good to see just how busy they were, and all despite being in (what appears to be) fairly crampt conditions. I actually used some of their weathered metal sheet wagon loads on my construction diorama for BRM; and I have to say they do look fantastic!
Getting the youngsters involved
Throughout the weekend, I noticed this very encouraging theme of getting younger people interested in the hobby and wider railway world. The short but interesting clip on the Severn Valley engineering workshop with its young apprentices was a really encouraging sign, and they appear to do some fantastic yet complex work!
Elsewhere, I always love listening to Pete Waterman because not only does he have great stories, but his enthusiasm for the hobby is infectious! I had to laugh at his mini-rant about mobile phones and DCC chips with more functions than you can ever use, because I must admit I feel the same way... nethertheless, his passion to get model railways into the forefront of the publics' mind is obvious, and it seems that, despite what I've just said, he is still embracing technology to 'level the playing field' and allow kids to control layouts with phones. No doubt this will help capture the excitement of model railways and relay that to children.
The focus on getting younger people interested into the hobby continued on Sunday with Jenny Kirk talking to Lawrence Robbins about how crucial it is to not only appeal to us modellers, but to also produce videos and TV programmes that encourage younger people that are just getting started. I've seen quite a few discouraging comments about Hornby: A Model World and similar programs, but Jenny is right; it is a very good way to secure the hobby for the next generation, as well as keeping it in the public eye. If all media was solely focused on the 'serious' modeller, then what does that really achieve? The answer, in my opinion, is a more niche and closed hobby! We need more people (like Simon George for exampl, and his COLOSSAL layout Heaton Lodge Junction), who are able to push the boundaries of what is possible in railway modelling and widen the scope of the hobby.
Above: BRM's very own 'big kids' get to grips with the Hornby Playtrains range.
It's easy to overlook it as just another product, but the videos on the Hornby Playtrains system showed that there's finally something to bridge that important gap of kids between 3-7 years and give them a reason to get excited about the hobby. The videos with Thomas and Erin were also rather delightful!
Unlike previous years, I will feature every layout, but I will start off with a few personal highlights, and then move onto one-sentence summaries for the rest. Otherwise, quite frankly, I'd be here all day! Many thanks to Andy York and others for allowing me to reproduce photos of the layouts to somewhat split up this essay of a blogpost.
First, a quick mention to Caroline Castle, a simple and lovely little layout, but with a tear-jerking underlying motivation for its existence. It must take a hell of a lot of courage to go through what Jeremy has been through - I hope that railway modelling continues to be a great therapy, and I'm so sorry for your loss.
It's really hard to move on from that without a breather and a tissue... but I would also like to give a mention to Carol Flavin's Edge Hey & Strines Railway:
Carol and I frequently talk via Twitter, and she is always giving me early sneek peek previews of upcoming videos that she's worked on, as well as updates to the layout. Her modelling is not only lovely, but very fast, and artistic; often using materials that aren't used by many other people, yet with fantastic results. On top of that, she is always only too willing to share her tips and techniques. To continue the theme of encouraging the next generation; she built it all for her grandkids. Boy are they lucky! Please do visit and subscribe to her Youtube channel. I really hope that we begin to see more women sharing their layouts and modelling because I know there are many more out there who are yet to share their creations with the world.
Next up, we have Woodside:
Above: I love this view looking towards the left hand side of the layout, with the covered conveyor leading up to the higher level. Everything just looks so believable! (Photo: Andy York)
This is a well-observed and compact layout, which rather unusually features autumnal foliage and a split-level which makes the most of the vertical space available. The foliage is also laid on thick, is incredibly well modelled, and is instrumental in obstructing scenic exits; also helping to momentarily hide trains from view. This provides intrigue, particularly on the high level line. Of particular note however are the low relief industrial buildings on the left hand side - I'm usually not a fan of low relief buildings, but by combining it with the sheer amount of vegetation it is extremely effective! I really like how the conveyor draws the eye up to the high level area. By the way, the weathering and detailing is also spot-on throughout the entire layout.
Pont-y-Dulais is an obvious choice to highlight for me, especially because I'm a huge fan of James' work.
Above: James produces his own locomotives, and even sells kits and accepts commissions; both for rolling stock and even entire layouts! (Photo: James Hilton)
In fact, his locomotives are the sole reason I have a layout that has trains running at all! I've been following the build of Pont-y-Dulais on his blog, and it's also amazing to me how he manages to provide so much atmosphere in the smallest of layouts with the sparsest of details; truly a "less is more" modeller which I really respect. He has also nailed the art of weathering and colouring. Please do check out the Light Railways Stores; there are some exceptional kits available!
Harlyn Pier was a layout I immediately fell in love with when I saw it in the same issue of BRM that my farm diorama featured in:
Above: A classic Southern Railway scene; I love everything about it! (Photo: Tony Wright)
Yes, OK; so it's a Southern layout so immediately it wins me over, but it contains everything I look for in a layout; countryside, seaside, beautiful buildings, rural life, short trains and push/pull stock, well-placed cameos... the list goes on and on! Just like me, Peter has been inspired by Lymington Pier, but also loves Cornwall. The resulting hybrid is incredibly believable, and I just love that signal box which is also a mix of two prototypes. I hope I don't offend people by saying this, but for me personally it's rare to find an O gauge layout that makes the most of the increase in scale by adding more detail and texture on the scenery side of things; but this layout does that, and more.
Whithorn was an unexpected bonus; being a prototype area I know nothing about, but I'm a huge fan of bucolic sleepy branch lines, and this layout fits that category nicely:
Above: With weed-strewn sidings, it's surprising to see a sudden hive of activity in the yard. (Photo: Andy York)
The colouring and weathering of the layout is really well-balanced and observed, and the short pick-up freights with their mix of wagons really screamed rural branch line to me. The large sky really gives a sense of space, and it's one of the most effective painted backscenes that I've seen. I also loved the small fan of sidings with their weed-infested ends, and the slightly undulating terrain. The burn/stream on the far end of the layout is modelled beautifully, as is the stonework on the bridge. The rolling hills have superb texture to the vegetation, as well as some of the best colours I've seen on a layout. Cracking job!
You may be forgiven for thinking that because I produce content for BRM, it's obvious that I would pick Andy's layout. The truth is that Keyhaven was, and still is a huge inspiration to me. Aside from anything else, it was built in 2008; and I remember talking with Andy about the layout back when I was still a teenager. I can confidently say that this is the layout that really kicked me into improving my modelling. I would perhaps go as far as to say it is the reason I produced my first proper layout; Calshot. I still think that the concrete surfaces are some of the best I've seen, and the compact nature of the layout was always surprising considering the photos make it seem like a much larger layout. Setting the layout close to my chosen layout stomping ground also means that it appeals on a 'local front' as well; so it ticks all the boxes!
With so many amazing layouts, please forgive me for being so brief with the rest of them, but I had to at least give them a mention. These are listed in order of their appearance on the website:
Modbury Torr - A charming layout in an unusual scale which obviously required some creative modification of kits.
Peterborough North - One of many HUGE layouts on show, with some particularly impressive architectural modelling on display.
Kepier Colliery - Some delicious industrial grot, as well as yet more skilled architectural modelling to enjoy here!
Diesels in the Duchy - What grabbed me about this layout in particular was that the scenery (especially the buildings and foliage) are fantastically modelled.
Retford - The sheer size and scale of this project is nuts; and with modelling skill to match.
Wuppertal - I think the word I'd use here is "unique"; it's certainly a fascinating and unusual prototype to model!
Knot Littlefield - This looks like a layout that I'd love to operate; there's so much track with the potential for hours of fun!
Making Tracks - An impressive high-quality speed-build that celebrates an engineering great; whilst aiming to get the public excited about model railways.
Hartley Poole Too - A really interesting and unusual layout that features a power station, and a wealth of interesting cameos; not least a plane that has crashed into a house!
Little Burton - Not my usual area of interest, but it's exceptionally well modelled, and very consistent across the entire layout. The scenery is of particular note.
Port Eden - What this layout lacks in size, it more than makes up for in character. A delightful little challenge layout with an unusual subject.
St. Ruth - A large N gauge layout with stunning lighting effects displayed in a theatrical manner. The beach is also delightful (and much more detailed than that on my 1:76 scale Sandy Shores!)
Heaton Lodge Junction - A layout that needs no introduction. All I will repeat is: 50kgs of static grass, 200ft in length, and 50 baseboards. Let that sink in!
Great Train Robbery - Good to see a diorama in the list (albeit one a metre longer than my layout!). Really great modelling of this infamous event.
Madder Valley Railway - Some will probably kill me for not giving this iconic layout and its' pioneer builder more room! Truly the grandfather of railway modelling.
Boston Frodsham - We saw this lovely layout in the last BigWORshow, and I'm still envious of the swing bridge scene.
Alderford - Working route indicators and impressive catenary make this modern image layout rather special.
Black Country Blues - We also saw this fantastic layout at the last show, but it remains such an ambitious but beautifully modelled layout.
Blueball Summit - This layout was also shown previously, but it still drops my jaw in awe when I remember it's not O nor even OO gauge; it's N gauge!
Burnden Park and Ingleborough Junction - An impressive complex layout, with some mighty buildings, beautiful countryside, and full length trains on display. A real monster of a layout.
Practicals & demonstrations
Elsewhere, I was pleased to see Phil dispensing more practical tips; where the heck has glue 'n' glaze been all my life! I shall have to remember that for the future. And the servo gate video - fantastic! I planned for a gate and warehouse door on my next layout; so now I know what to do to make them operational...
Above: Phil's video on using servos was giving me all sorts of ideas for animations on my new layout.
I also enjoyed his video about wagon weathering basics. I still haven't got myself any weathering powders, although I've been eyeing up some from War World Scenics, so I may have to put an order in as I have a small collection of OO gauge locos and rolling stock that are far too clean.
Tony Wright's video about mental health and the detailing and weathering applied to some of his stock was lovely; a real frank look at the importance of hobbies, as well as giving ideas for simple detailing that you could add to improve rolling stock. And of course, I would love to spend a few hours watching/filming trains at Little Bytham...
Phil's trip on the Crewe Heritage Centre miniature railway was delightful - it makes me want to take a ride on my local miniature railway (Moors Valley). I must say though, the turntables looked to be a bit nerveracking as the loco jumps onto it and the whole thing wobbles - I bet Phil was perhaps a little relieved that the loco steamed off the table without incident after he had turned it; I know I would be! And if the turntable gave me chills, then Phil having a go at driving 'Scamp' the 'Pocket Rocket' was even scarier! (Although after the initial shock, I bet he had a lot of fun.)
Above: Phil Parker takes a 7 1/4" loco for a spin. Literally!
Along similar lines (no pun intended!), it was nice to see the There and Back Railway - my dad and I have taken our 5" gauge locomotives and portable track to shows and have done something similar (albeit not for a number of years sadly). The only thing I would say is that the way Steve unloaded his van gave me the jitters! Also, it may look like a wobbly ride on 7 1/4" portable lines, but wait until you try it with 5" ones...
As a Southern Railway fan, the video on the MNLPG and the work involved in keeping Clan Line going on the mainline was very interesting, and I can only imagine the hard and dirty work that goes into it; not to mention the logistical nightmare of running on the modern mainline!
Above: The 'Steam in Lights' was a sight to behold, and incredibly well filmed.
The 'Steam in Lights' video filmed at the Severn Valley Railway was a particularly exceptionally well-filmed video (and that's not just because of the lovely drone footage!). Really beautifully done, so well done to whoever filmed and put that together!
And last but not least, Howard and Phil's christmas shopping video had me laughing, and with me being very nervous about weathering locos in particular, the gifts were apt. Certainly not your "run-of-the-mill" gifts (that's a good thing), and the "QVC" vibe of the video was great fun; that, and the bells on Phil's hat jingling every time he made a slight head movement!
As you can tell, I had a thoroughly good time at the virtual show; in fact, I did nothing all weekend but look at the content on offer and write this report, and that is clearly a sign of the high quality! What's more, whilst it will never truly replace a physical show, it has fulfilled the same function of being entertaining, informative, and most importantly; really given me the mojo to get on with final plans of my new layout. I'm raring to go!
Please do comment your favourite elements of the show below, and also let me know what you would like to see for future virtual exhibitions; and I'll see what I can do to provide, or help to provide such content.
My utmost thanks to everyone who has contributed to this free event, especially considering the hard work involved in the month(s) running up to the event, and during the weekend itself by the team over at BRM/World of Railways.
Above: I can't show the videos I made for the virtual show, but I can show this behind-the-scenes image. It's very hard solo filming; especially when you're carrying 5kg of gear along steep cliff paths... then there are the tourists that disturb you! If there is interest, perhaps I will make a short video to show a little more behind-the-scenes stuff...