Saturday 14 December 2019

By Train to the Trains

Full-size exhibit!

The Warley National Model Railway Exhibition

Model Railway Exhibitions vary enormously. There are local club exhibitions held in village or school halls all over the country, bigger ones run by bigger clubs in exhibition centres or at places like racecourses (some of these are commercially sponsored and are quite large as a consequence), and then there's this one, the Warley National. It is Warley club's exhibition but is held in Birmingham at the National Exhibition Centre in one of its large exhibition halls. In spite of the size of the hall, it was crowded when I visited this year and must have had a huge number of visitors. (The whole NEC had rather masculine slant since the other major show there, taking two large halls and some other spaces, was a motorcycle show - there are ladies interested in motorcycles and model railways but they are heavily outnumbered by men!)

So the morning after coming home from Canterbury I was off to Stamford station for a train to Birmingham New Street where I would change for Birmingham International for the NEC. I had through off-peak tickets and went for the 09:05 train, feeling that an early start would be a bit much after the travels of the two previous days. By Nuneaton the three-car Turbostar train's seats were full and there was a large crowd waiting for the train, almost all of whom had to stand, for few left the train there. The guard apologised for the crowding which he attributed to the strike by West Midlands Trains staff, taking place every Saturday for several weeks, which was diverting passengers onto other services, although I could not see how it would put many onto this one.Still, that was how it was and when I arrived at New Street I was cautious about what sort of service I might find to International. There was a handful of West Midlands Trains services operating, but on the line I needed, so I boarded a Virgin Trains London-bound Pendolino which was due to stop at Birmingham International; so had several others, but although the vestibules were packed like sardine cans, there was a lot of standing space completely empty in the interior of each coach, so that was where I stood, excusing my way through the crowd just inside the doors. It is a swift ride to International and then I excused my way back out, then followed the throng up the stairs and eventually to the exhibition hall.

MDMRC members operating Woodcroft
The ticket windows for the exhibition were right in front of those entering from the car parks, but from the station could not be seen without asking the way! The queues for paying by card were immense, but by gathering together enough cash I was able to join one of three much shorter queues and soon paid and was inside.

I began by making my way right across the hall to where I knew my fellow members of the local Market Deeping Model Railway Club were exhibiting our layout Woodcroft which I had been helping to restore and repair after the notorious vandalism of our own exhibition in May.

By the time I had chatted to my friends there it was lunch time and I went to one of the many street food type kiosks around the hall for something to eat and then, after some searching, found somewhere to sit and eat it!

Then a long walk up and down the hall trying not to miss any of the layouts, which varied from tiny one-person shunting or loco shed scenes to huge, multi-operator complex systems with lots of trains moving at the same time.

A Rhatische Bahn station in HOm gauge
I also needed to look at some trade stands and did come away with a few bits and pieces for my planned layout based on the Alpine Rhatische Bahn. I even bought some snow ...

When all was done I paid a final visit to my local friends and then wended my way back to the station to begin the trip home. Again, of course, there were fewer trains than usual because of the local strike, but I did manage to get a Virgin train to New Street before very long, and even to sit down this time. At New Street I had a short wait for my Cross Country train home, but it was time for tea anyway, so I bought something suitable and awaited the boarding time for the train. It was busy, but not overcrowded and before long I was at home unpacking the newly-bought items for the planned layout, the magazines and book I had bought (the book from the Swiss Railways Society, which I joined this year) for technical advice on the Rhatische Bahn and on modelling Swiss railways in general, and the advertising material I had taken from companies whose products may be useful when building commences.

It was a tiring day, but very useful and very interesting. I hope that soon I shall be there exhibiting, either the club layout or even perhaps one of my own.

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