I’ve been going to the Warley model railway exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham for years now. It’s a big commercial show with huge crowds rather than one of the more friendly local or specialist shows, but it’s size means it’s a also a gathering of people you haven’t met for years.
There were a lot of great layouts in all sorts of scales, eras and nationalities. I know some people are only interested in layouts in their own gauge, or aren’t interested in anything outside of a certain region or era, but that way you can miss out on some great modelling.
“Aberdare” was one such example. This was a pre-grouping Taff Vale in finescale 4mm, with a very interesting track plan, and the strange loco depot design with two separate engine sheds because of the narrow site in the Welsh valleys. Another one I liked was the compact HO Danish layout “Havnegade”, set in the late 1960s, reminding me of a family holiday in Denmark around that time, with GM Nohabs in the original maroon livery and those distinctive 5-axle diesel railcars. Closer to my own modelling interests was “Loch Lochy”, making it’s exhibition debut, Scottish blue diesel N, very nicely modelled. And in 7mm scale, a massive “parade of trains” style layout of Barmouth Bridge. Somewhat truncated of course; the real bridge is nearly a mile long!
I also loved the TT3 layout – This was very much not a detailed finescale model, but very typical of the sorts of layouts people built in the 60s and 70s. Indeed, it reminded me very much of a layout I built around that time! My TT3 stock is still in my parents’ loft somewhere!
One of the big hits of the show was “Blackmill”, a large contemporary layout based on Blackburn in Lancashire, so popular you couldn’t get near it all day. Even at 4:30 in the afternoon, at a time when the crowd starts to thin out, it three deep in front of this layout. Ditto the Model Railway Club’s massive “Copenhagen Fields”, 20 years in the building and still far from finished.
While I’m not really into narrow-gauge steam layouts, Bridport Town is one I’ll make an exception for. While fictitious, it has a verisimilitude that all too many narrow gauge layout lack. I think one element, apart from the superb level of modelling, is that all the locomotive fleet doesn’t include anything that’s uniquely associated with a specific British line. For example, the 4-4-0T is (I think) a proposed but unbuilt design by Hunslet for the Lynton and Barnstable. And those ex-War Department Baldwin 4-6-0Ts ran on a great many lines.
Sadly my bank balance too a bit of a hammering; Messrs Dapol and Bachmann had too many shiny things on sale, including the new Mk1 coaches and some weathered Silver Bullets.