The Exhibition Experience

Well I’ve managed to survive Queens Wharf’s most recent exhibition outing. To be perfectly honest, I find exhibiting my layouts at model railway exhibitions to be a real mixed bag: there are the positives, such as hearing people say nice things about QW and catching up with old friends, but I must admit that spending 3 days on my feet watching the same locos run back and forth starts to wear a bit thin by about Sunday afternoon. Thanks to my good friends Bruce, Anthony and Peter we managed to keep trains running all weekend and the overall reaction was extremely positive. My brother in law brought his grandson along to see the show and he reckoned that QW was the most photographed layout there. I’m not exactly sure how he was in a position to make this assessment as he only managed to spend 30 seconds at the layout before his grandson dragged him off to see Thomas 🙂

As you will have seen on the blog, I’ve posted a bit of footage of the Ixion Models Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0. Any faults you can detect in the footage are entirely my doing. As the sole camera person and editor of said footage I take full responsibility for the rather jerky appearance. Those jerks and jumps are not the loco but my less than perfect camerawork. I decided to put the footage of this loco up first as this was the little 0-6-0’s first public outing. One of the partners of Ixion happens to be a friend of mine (well two of them actually but only one of them was at the show) and he came across to ask me how to plug in a DCC decoder so that it didn’t fry. Outwardly displaying more confidence than I actually felt we plugged the decoder in and the next thing you know the Hudswell Clarke was happily shuffling back and forth. The footage makes this colour scheme look a little pinker than she looks in person but I understand that some models are still available commercially. I’ll post a link to Ixion’s web site when I get done writing this.

Overall QW’s design proved itself once again with the layout dismantled and packed in the trailer well within one hour. The car and trailer were parked a good 30 meters from the entrance and it still took no time at all to pack it up. In fact about 80% of the packing was done on my own. It was only in the last couple of stages that I needed help to lift the coffin into the trailer.

More and more I’m coming to believe that weight is a key factor in the “success” or otherwise of portable layout design. If a layout is too heavy it’s not just hard to move and manoeuvre: it’s also more difficult to transport, store and work on. Even though the layout sections of both QW and my new layout Morepth are relatively light – where I can move them pretty much on my own – I still hesitate to move them about unless I really have to. This means that they tend to get less of the vital refurbishment work they need and I tend to reduce the number of exhibitions they attend. I’m convinced that the heavier the layout becomes the more pronounced these tendencies become.

Successful layout design is about more than just the radius of curves and the width of aisles in permanent layouts: it’s about maximising enjoyment and utility in the interaction between a layout and the people who construct and run it. If you don’t enjoy working on it (in addition to enjoy running it) then in my book it’s poorly designed. This includes everything from wiring it up, moving and exhibiting it and working on the scenery. Portability and ease of access should be key design considerations right from the start. If these factors don’t play a leading part in your thinking as you set about planning a layout, then I guarantee the layout won’t survive as long as it should. Simply replacing one heavy, bulky layout with another one will not solve the problem.

I may not enjoy exhibiting layouts all that much but this has more to do with me being lazy than it has to do with QW being a difficult layout to operate and display. If she wasn’t a pleasure to set up, run and pull down I know full well that attendance at exhibitions would be rare events indeed.

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