A lot of hard work, which gets harder as the years go by!
How do you prepare ?
This includes: repairing any damage, cleaning wheels, lubricating axles/gear-boxes
and testing; cleaning/renewing the wheel and track cleaners; checking all the
ancillary and electrical equipment; loading the van (now how does it all fit
in?); double-checking everything against the check-list as it goes in the van.
Any particular issues with travelling to an exhibition ?
you often long journey, probably in winter weather on a Friday afternoon and then have to find a remote leisure-centre on the outskirts of a big city, all the time wondering what you’ve forgotten.
Setting up must give you a few headaches !
Assuming you’ve found the venue without too many wrong turns and too much bad language, you now have to unload the van and get set up. Most exhibitions are now in leisure centres or school gyms with ground-level access through wide fire-doors, so hopefully no more stairs and narrow corridors! All you have to do now is assemble the layout, connect the wiring, clean the track, check it
all works, fix the lights, place all the demountable buildings, vehicles,
figures, animals, cranes, trees and other details, and put up the name boards,
information boards, maps and photographs. At some point you will probably
collapse in a heap to have asandwich and a cup of tea when you run out of
energy. If any gremlins have got into the electrics or point-rodding you may be
there burning your fingers on a hot soldering iron until the exhibition manager
throws you out. Then you have to find the hotel/B&B in the dark, along
unfamiliar roads with the aid a sketch map of variable quality (and with luck
spot a good pub on the way).
Any comments on the exhibition and the visitors ?
Up bright(?) and early on Saturday morning for a full-English and drive back to
the venue by 9 am at the latest for last minute tweaks and setting out all the
rolling stock in the right positions to start operating. You may find you are
being watched while doing this if there were long queues outside and the doors
are opened early. You then have to face the public in all their vast array of
shapes, sizes, ages and personalities. Hopefully you will receive or overhear
lots of complimentary remarks and not too many criticisms. However you will
also have to answer lots of questions while operating trains in a reasonably
prototypical manner , it is always sensible and safer to have a spare operator to
answer the questions or take over operating while you do. With our big layout
which is over 20 years old, it can be difficult to remember all the details of
how we made this, and what make that kit is. It’s useful to have a file of
reference material and a list of all the obscure kits that we used. And this is
what makes it all worthwhile: listening to comments from genuinely interested
children, mums and grandmas who are delighted with the scenery and set-piece
groups of people and animals, answering questions from modellers who want to do
something similar, and best of all chats with people who live or grew up in the
area the layout is based on and hearing reminiscences from retired railwaymen
who remember driving or firing a particular engine. We remember these people
and try to forget the nit-pickers and rivet-counters!