Model Rail (UK)

Inside track with Ben Ando

- Ben Ando is the founder of Revolution Trains and a regular contributo­r to Model Rail.

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.

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