A day or two ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Taunton Model Railway Exhibition in…Taunton (!) Pricey to get in, and pretty packed with all sorts of middle-aged gents quietly indulging their innocent little hobby, and, I'm happy to relate, young families, perhaps with the modellers of tomorrow. But it was a treat – the detail in the layouts on display was astounding – the modellers are indeed artists in what they do.
And the modellers have a great sense of humour. It's worth spending a good half hour, at least, gazing at each model, and striking up a conversation with its creator if the said creator is willing and in the mood, as hidden in the various little nooks and crannies are all sorts of little cameos, little jokes and pithy observations on life.
For me, model-of-the-day was Northbridge, a tiny 6'8″ by 1'4″ OO-scale shunting layout by Mike Kelly. Set in the British Railways London Midland region of the 1960s, it invoked every inch of atmosphere that once existed in the steam railway of that era. The whole layout was beautifully lit, conjuring up the mood of a dark autumn evening, while all along Northbridge's platform were little cameos of people up to all sorts of tricks. In the yard stood a little blue police telephone box, the sort of tiny structure put there back in the 1960s by the local Plod to enable the private citizen to contact the law while out-and-about – loooooong before the days of private mobile communications, other than jumping up and down, screaming and hollering, that is. Mike flicked a hidden switch and a small blue LED on top of the box began flashing on and off. And every visitor to the layout with even an inkling of knowledge about Dr Who immediately mused, “hmmmm… Tardis.” I certainly did!
Mike beckons me around to the side of the model. “Here, have a look at this…” I peer closely. OMG – there's a bloke in a tiny outhouse sitting on the loo! Mike flicks another secret switch and on comes the light in the loo. The bloke in the loo has his car parked at a crazy angle, and I cannot be sure I didn't see a small whiff of exhaust coming from it. Bloke must have been pretty desperate! Mike beckons my gaze once more, to a spot close by – another bloke has not been so lucky with the comfort of a cosy outhouse; he is busy “inspecting” (and probably watering!) the axle box on a coal wagon… Meanwhile, in a flat by the mainline overbridge, an artist is engrossed in his painting. Tremendous detail at every glance – Mike certainly deserved my vote. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the scene of the local constabulary raiding the local premises of ill repute!
There were many, many opportunities, dear reader, for capturing the mood and atmosphere of the model railway. I close with a selection…