Sandy Shores @ Narrow Gauge South 2024

 The weekend just gone was quite intensive! Sandy Shores was once again invited to Narrow Gauge South in Eastleigh on Saturday (run by the Wessex Narrow Gauge Modellers), then, Sunday saw my annual pilgrimage to the RMweb 'SWAG do' in Taunton - the finest and most laid back small exhibition in all the lands!

Today's post is all about the former, NGS 2024, and what a fantastic day it was! Though as always there is something to fix on the layout before it's show-worthy. At the end (thankfully) of Sandy Shores' last appearance at Romsey, the point motor that leads to the engine shed headshunt from the 'mainline' developed a fault where it failed to throw in one direction. Looking at the point motor in situ, I couldn't see any obvious problems with wiring, nor any tell-tale signs of coil failure or failed solder joints - so off came the point motor. I was just about to replace it with one of my spares, when I decided to inspect it much closer and take off the plastic coil cover. That's when I (just about!) realised that the failed coil was actually just an unsoldered joint - parobably worked loose over time with the impact of the SEEP firing. It's happened before, but this one was very hard to spot indeed:

Above: Even a close-up makes it very hard indeed to see the failed connection. Still, I did thankfully spot it, and after a quick soldering, it was back to full working order. I like simple fixes!

With everything else working and looking good on the layout, it was packed in the car ready for the short journey to Eastleigh.

Things started off even better than usual as I was put into the cosy and less intensive canteen space in the adjoining school building. A much quieter space (in volume terms, not necessarily footfall!) than the main hall that I was in 2 years ago.

Things got progressively better from there, as I was soon joined by the lovely Peter - who, despite the many quirks of operating my layout, took like a duck to water and operated Sandy Shores really well for quite a number of hours. (Peter - if you're reading this - thank you once again, and you're more than welcome to operate the layout at future shows. Do consider joining RMweb and/or NGRM-online!)

In any case, this help meant, for once, that I could acually eat my sandwich without having to stop after every bite to operate the layout. I'm really annoyed I didn't ask for his surname, but Peter was not only great at operating the layout despite the confusing wiring and section switches that turned off the wrong parts of the layout(!), but he was also really great company, and seemed very happy to take control of the layout with very little help required.

Aside from the obvious bonus of having a helping hand for only the second time ever, Peter originally introduced himself to me asking if I could run his new acquisitions on the layout, which of course I always say yes to. So Sandy Shores had some very lovely and quite interesting locos and rolling stock appear throughout the day. It certainly was a good test of the limited clearance on the layout - the water tower took a bit of a beating, and the motion on one of the locos did clout the beach hut promenade a few times - though much to my surprise, the locos somehow squeezed into the loco shed! In any case, here are a few photos (taken only with my phone) of the layout, with some rather different stock than usual. I'm afraid I have no idea of the origins of any of the stock, so you'll just have to imagine that there are photo captions...

The comparison between my tiny stock and the large visiting stock was quite apparent at times! Though I'll be the first to admit that I absolutely LOVE the balcony coaches and, despite rarely running any passenger trains due to the incredibly short length they travel, I'm now thinking a single balcony coach would look right at home on the layout. I really enjoyed travelling on the balconies on similar carriages on both the Welshpool & Llanfair, and more recently the Brecon Mountain Railway. So I will now have to go and research/consider some options!

Which leaves just one more thing for this post. I did say my day at NGS got even better the longer it went on, and just before closing, a group from WNGRM, with Andrew Burnham (PECO) alongside, gathered around me clutching a cardboard box. Somewhat bemused and equally confused, I let Peter carry on operating the layout and they announced that every year they give out an award for Best in Show, and that this year the group had decided that Sandy Shores was that layout.

I never expect to win awards, but to be given one at such a big event with 30 other incredible layouts was very shocking to me, and I'm humbled yet very grateful that my little slice of whimsy has gained another award. Thank you so much to the WNGRM team and also PECO for the award. It has taken pride of place on the mantelpiece at home. A shame that in two years I will have to give it back, but it's probably for the best as, after all, I did mention that I was after a balcony coach for the layout! 😆

What a very happy end to a very enjoyable exhibition. I have I think another 3 exhibitions over the next year, and I will release more details as and when everything is finalised. If you ever see the layout at exhibitions, do say hello, and feel free to grab the reins and have a go at operating. Likewise, I'm always happy to test 009 rolling stock and/or have visiting locos and stock to the layout.


  1. Congratulations on winning - a real artistic layout, I hope to see it in real life one day.

    1. Many thanks, that's very kind!
      It would be great if you ever got the chance to see it. There are a few exhibitions lined up this/next year; Poole in October, Southampton in January, and possibly one near Salisbury in April next year.


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