It all started with sound logic. The plan made perfect sense, Mark Tatlow had been invited to “Rail 2018” in Utrecht, Holland. Mark has always, religiously, hired a van around 10 times larger than required. This van was usually a classic long wheel base Sprinter, in which Portchullin had received many a war wound on the motorways of Great Britain by being allowed to slide around freely in the rear while the vehicle was driven like it had been stolen by a middle class mad man from Sussex.
Portchullin requires around 5 operators, 1 to operate and 4 to spend the weekend fixing it, so to make the proposition of 5 of us on the beer in Holland more appealing the spare space in the van would be taken up by SQ. So a sort of free layout for the exhibition manager.
That was where all logic ended.
The first issue was everyone’s ability to read the same 2018 Calendar. 4 weeks out we only had 4 of the 5 operators signed up and 1 of our party was convinced the show was the week before and that the organisers and everyone else had got it wrong.
We hadn’t. Chris had planned his entire March around a show that didn’t exist and had made plans with his wife. The sort of plans that when asked to change lead to a raised eyebrow. The plans were kept. The mission just got a little more complicated.
Version 2.0 now meant that Mark, Pete and the van would arrive in Deal on the Thursday morning, load up SQ with Portchullin and drive to Holland. Because of Chris’ plans, him and I were now booked on the 0200am ferry Friday morning. So he could complete his arrangements, drive to Deal, drive to Holland all for opening. This meant a 4 hour dash across Europe at 0430am Dutch time. The organisers had said if we didn’t get through Antwerp by 0730 all bets were off.
The plan reached version 4.3 before 2.0 was settled on for the only workable solution. We also stuck with 4 operators. Because no one else was mental enough to agree…
Imagine therefore my joy at seeing the van Peter had organised turn up and reveal itself to be a normal wheel base Vauxhall. Portchullin wasn’t so much as swinging around freely rather than packed in like sardines.
We had to unpack half of Portchullin to wedge in SQ and then after making an impromptu lid managed to stack everything else on top. We were luckily left with just about enough space for Mark’s pants.
I was now convinced the layout would be timber and ashes by Holland with Pete seemingly having learnt to drive during an undeclared season racing stock cars. With instructions given to Pete and Mark, the sense of doom was replaced with the sure knowledge that definitely something tragic would befall the layout.
Now I love Mark and Pete with all my heart but they are a cross between the chuckle brothers and Terry and June.
But they got there safely and set up SQ….
So its 0200 in the morning and the beast from the east is slowly edging it’s way to Britain and it was cold enough to make me realise that what we were doing reeked of madness, the next level up from full blown eccentric.
“Antwerp by 0730” echoed around our heads as the ship’s bow opened, late, to the pitch black endless plains of the European mainland. It was now 0455 as the grey German tin of Chris’ BMW roared off onto the lumpy French motorways in a sort of reverse Blitzkrieg we knew we were against the clock and the Dutch rush hour traffic.
Now there is something you should know about Chris and that is his obsession to never rely on satnav. He honestly believes that the use of it is the harbinger of society’s collapse. For instance if you were to use a such a thing to say go from your house to the local shops within the next five days we would be living like Mad Max. Therefore Chris has to autistically remember every road and junction from the ferry to the show. He also refuses to share this information any more than one direction at a time, so after saying ‘what road are we looking for?’ and him saying ‘E17’ 47 times we sat joking about old cars and girls, content with eating packets of extra strong mints.
We made Antwerp at 0700, and left it behind in smug competence.
Arriving at Utrecht in good time it was apparent instantly that Holland was colder than the south pole, but we’d made it to find SQ with a building detached, the backscene split and the layout too low. But hey it’s life on the road and the lads were in good spirits. Let’s get smashing…
What’s happened since?…
The layout is slowing edging its way toward the 2.0 version, things have been ripped up, changed, modified and tidied up….
Look for SQ, loads of new stock and plenty of laughs during the GCR’s model event in June.