In the past, the Chatham show was one of the premier exhibitions in the country, attracting some of the very best layouts and many finescale traders to the Historic Dockyard in Chatham. However, since they left the old Ropery building and moved by way of a leisure centre and tent (!) to No5. Covered Slipway the show has been decidedly hit and miss. Last year I attended on a whim as I found the day free and left unimpressed, the year before I helped operate a friends layout and spent the day shivering in the cold.
2013 saw the show move to a new venue and upon inspection, the list of visiting layouts didn’t do a huge amount to excite me, having seen many before at local shows. However, as its local and Mostyn was attending I decided to give it a go. My initial scout around the hall left me feeling a bit empty, with a large number of box shifters attempting to shift their wares while being comprehensively undercut by The Signal Box who, as per usual, had some excellent deals to be had on RTR stuff. I know they pay the stand rent and its a difficult balancing act, but when The Signal Box is in attendance there is really no need for any other box shifters in my eyes. On the plus side there were a good number of specialist traders, many of whom are regulars in the south east and some who are unusual visitors. I was particularly impressed with the German stand selling rolling roads, with many different styles available all with varying levels of Teutonic design (complexity) included – perhaps the best being the road that suspended your loco upside down to allow easy oiling!
Layouts wise, Mostyn was the obvious stand out, aside from this the only others which really grabbed and held my attention were Brookford and Kew Bridge. Brookford made one of its first show appearances at Tonbridge a few years back and it it refreshing to see a layout where the grubby and unkempt railway is blended into the green and pleasant land surrounding it so effectively. Kew Bridge has some delightful structures and details which hold your attention, but suffers from the usual tram layout issues; shuttle units and everything looking glossy…….
Other than that, aside from a nicely presented OO inglenook and large scale narrow gauge layout, little held my interest – I find it hard to get excited by 395’s racing round setrack curves over ravines on non-electrified lines passing peak hauled private owner tanker wagon trains…… Or huge O gauge constructions which are obviously great fun to operate with bells and levers but feature nothing in the way of scenery past the ballast shoulder….. Or DCC sound layouts that short out every time you look and then all the locos go through start up procedures again only to short out once more……. you get the picture!!
I will keep an open opinion ahead of next year, hopefully the Chatham club can pull something out the bag now they have a much improved venue and get some better quality stands back in – I for one wont be complaining if the show returns to its 90’s glory days.
Mostyn (including its somewhat capacious fiddle yard):