Model Rail (UK)
Inside track with Ben Ando
For smaller companies like Revolution there is a genuine thrill in seeing one (or more!) of our products ‘doing their turn’ on someone else’s train set
y the time you read this, Revolution Trains – or rather Mike, Mike, Gareth and I – will have attended Model Rail Scotland in Glasgow, organised by the AMRSS, and we’ll be preparing for the London Festival of Railway Modelling at Alexandra Palace at the end of March.
Pre-covid we’d got into a happy routine of attending roughly five shows per annum, and after the hiatus of the last two years it feels good to be back on the road.
While I know there are many who quietly enjoy their modelling at home and are happiest disappearing into their own private space, loft, shed or, for the very fortunate, dedicated railway room, for me exhibitions are an absolutely vital part of the hobby.
The opportunity to share the enjoyment of building a model railway – and just playing trains – is lots of fun and all exhibitions – whether in a national arena or a village hall – can be a wonderful showcase for the hobby.
For manufacturers, an exhibition is useful and enjoyable in a variety of ways.
First and foremost it’s a chance to meet both existing customers and new ones. No manufacturer would last long if they didn’t value their customers, and it is a great time to have face-to-face conversations about existing, upcoming or possible future models. Believe it or not, we do value input from fellow enthusiasts and we are often far more indiscreet about our plans when chatting in person than we would ever be online or in print.
Secondly, it is a good opportunity to meet up with others in the trade – both fellow manufacturers, retailers and those incredibly talented artisans who form the ‘cottage industry’ side of the hobby.
Many are friends as well as collaborators (and occasional competitors) and there is a social side to exhibitions that can be both enjoyable and fruitful; I suspect numerous collaborations or commissions are the result of a late night drinking agreement.
Needless to say, these chats can also involve some serious gossiping and there seem to be very few secrets in the world of model trains.
Exhibitions are also a great place to unveil new products as there is usually a buzz about them, and you can immediately gauge reaction to whatever it is you’re planning.
However, fun as this is, there is one further benefit to attending shows that is arguably even more rewarding.
At heart, most of us are ourselves enthusiasts and modellers; and taking a short break from the stand to have a look around the show is one of the more enjoyable parts of the weekend.
Not only is it inspirational to see some of the high-quality modelling consistently achieved by clubs and individuals, and a pleasure to watch the enjoyment on the faces of both visitors and exhibitors, but also for smaller companies like Revolution there is a genuine thrill in seeing one (or more) of our products ‘doing their turn’ on someone else’s train set.
But are shows perfect? No, of course not.
There is a fine balance between realistic operations and having enough trains running to maintain interest which some layouts do not always get right. I have seen some operators treat questions from non-enthusiasts with condescension, which can be hugely disheartening to someone starting out. Visitors too can be rude, pushy and, dare I say, sometimes in need of a shower
Railway modelling has boomed during the pandemic as bored lockdowners seek new indoor pastimes. I suspect this year’s post-lockdown shows will mean a significant number of new entrants to the hobby in attendance, so let’s make them welcome, encourage their interest and keep them entertained.