Exhibition some helpful advice.
Some years ago, a gentlemen by the name of Ray Arnold wrote a piece explaining the outlines of what one should do when taking a layout to an exhibition. Some of the suggestions are a bit dated now i.e.: a sheet of corrugated card around the front of the layout to hide the uninteresting bits under the layout and tidying things up. I thought though that the basic ideas and suggestion may be helpful for future generations, the article just needed a bit of updating. Most of these suggestion are from the gentleman concerned and through my own experiences on the exhibition circuit with my own layout and helping out with other peoples.
Before we get to the article, there has been various things mentioned on websites, blogs etc about how an exhibition comes to fruition, weather through a club or a single guy setting one up on his own.
The Club or society.
When a club organises an exhibition any profit is usually taken by the organisation and ploughed back into the society. This helps the club to grow and prosper, a great advertiser to attract new members, help build new projects, advertises the hobby and encourages new 'would be modellers' to have a go, thus generating more interest in the hobby and perhaps put on an even better show the following year.
The lone wolf
He organises the event, books the school/hall, books the layouts. Advertises the show. He takes the huge gamble as to, am I going to make anything out of this, a huge gamble. BUT at the end of the day, this helps the hobby to grow and prosper, a great advertiser for the hobby and encourages new 'would be modellers' to have a go, thus generating more interest in the hobby and perhaps put on an even better show the following year.
The outcomes are the same. If it encourages the hobby and makes people want to have a go then I have no problem with either scenario.
Getting back to the original article.
The request to exhibit your layout usually comes with great joy, the fact that you have built something that is good enough that one person thinks other people want to see, calls for something more than its erection and running of trains, for which you do for your enjoyment at home. I am beginning after several years of showing my models around the the local area and to understand something about the visitors to exhibitions. Visitors tend to fall into Five categories.
who will come anyway and is usually the most interested visitor of all, you can learn something from him, if you listen, he can sometimes make your day. He is a rare bird usually 1 – in 300th visitor.
The so called purist
who probably never made anything himself. Most of his knowledge has come from books and magazines, apart from snide remarks, he can be dismissed and is usually sent on his way with the question: have you a model at the show or may I have a look at your layout?
The guy who has done it all
This is the one who bores you to death with, I have helped a friend with his layout, its 150 feet long, I programmed it for him, I built the track, we made this and I helped him with that. Again, ask, can I see this layout? what point motors did you use? have you any photographs? is it being published in a magazine?
The Older visitor
I have a soft spot for the older visitor who is often around in the early morning, talking to him sometimes equates to valuable information and stories from earlier days particularly if he comes from an era you are modelling. Treat him with respect and courtesy.
Form the vast majority rushing about the exhibition without really understanding anything unless you go out of your way to help them, this in turn can bring rewards to both of you and the society concerned. Encourage them to talk and ask questions. These are the people of the future, there son or daughter may grow up to be the next Ian Rice or Chris Nevard.
Therefore, with these people in mind, I offer the following suggestions and is as easy as P-I-E
P for Presentation.
This should take the form of neatness and information although,i am hardly the greatest of person in the world for this. I have realised photographs, informative information, write ups, timetables and the like are a simple way to create a good impression. If you have modelled the real thing, 'then and now' photographs are great. Always cover the baseboard fronts with some type of curtain, it just smartens everything up, a coat of emulsion really helps on any bare wood, i even paint the back of back-scenes, i just think it looks more presentable even when carrying the layout into the hall for setting up. While on the subject of paint, Matt black is a "NoNo" for me, i think it detracts from the subject. If you have a sky backscene then use blue or if your layout is in a country setting,then i prefere green. Think about the underside of the layout rough timber and yards of dangling wires can put off a potential modeller because it looks too complicated. keep wiring out of site.
A banner carrying the layout title and club or society name can be attached to the layout preferable on uprights lifting it above head height so that it can be seen across a busy hall. If illumination can be set in the form of a lighting rig, so much the better. These days, with the price of LED strips being so cheap, its almost a crime not to fit one. Information about the layout should be shown at a decent height so as to avoid to much bending down at odd angles buy the general public.
I for Information.
This should be the maximum you can provide for example;
Where the layout is situated.
The period being modelled
How long it took to build
What trains are running
the sequence of running including some indication to the public of which train is being run and its purpose
keep your ears open and don't hesitate to answer any queries, you often hear someone say "how has he made that", tell them, its a good idea to have a notice either in the show guide or on the layout saying 'question welcome'. Photographers are a big problem, I have no problem with anyone taking photos but a sign saying 'Please ask before taking Photographs' Most of these modern cameras have such a bright flash on them you can't see anything for the next Twenty minutes with a flash going off in your eyes.
E for Example
Set a good example. I think generally, the average viewer stays at a layout for no more than 3-5 minutes, so, this is the amount of time you have to set an example. You want them to stay longer, get a friend to help operate the layout so you have more time to spend with the public answering question and explaining how you made a certain item. Always try and remember who's products you have used, its surprising how quick you can forget. If they stay longer than the 3-5 minutes then you have something they want to see, OK, so your layout may not be there thing, time-scale, era, etc. You still want them to look at say, your methods, ideas. Say, how your fiddle yard works. A lot of ideas are common to all layouts. There is no finer advertisement for you and your society than good running, authentic operation, true to type scenic work and something a little different, I will come to the last one later.
Before going to the exhibition.
Clean your track with a good track cleaner and wipe over or hoover off after. Test your track with a loco that has had its wheels cleaned. After cleaning the track, run through each point at least twice in alternate directions to insure you've not damaged anything while cleaning or nothing has trapped in the point blades. A good thing to use to clean out point blades, frogs and checkrails is an empty washing up bottle to blow out any debris. Clean all loco wheels and pickups, a toothpick is ideal. Ensure all pickups are in contact with the wheels. You don't want to be spending Two hours on the Sunday morning trying to get your 'pride of the line' working, this generally causes lots of “tuts and sighing” from fellow operators and they also tend not to let you forget it. Check rolling stock wheels to insure there is no build up of dirt. Oiling, ideally should be done a few days before so any excess can run off in the box and not on the layout. Grab a back to back gauge and just check each item of rolling stock to make sure all is true.
Couplings can be problematic, anything other than your standard tension lock can become misaligned while in your storage box. Always keep one master wagon in a safe place and check every other wagon against it. Check point blades if you have soldered track, as with constant movement these can come adrift.
This is really a plea, one sees layouts at exhibition where operation is limited in scope, a train arrives engine detaches, runs round and departs again, this can soon become dull so introduce a fruit van or cattle wagon or perhaps a through carriage that is detached and or attached. A pick up goods that actually picks up and or drops off. I'm sure this would add to the average visitors enjoyment, although you may have to put up with Mums dragging off their offspring and saying its broke come on.
This is much more difficult and depends on the owners skills and ideas, however plunging in with both feet is not the answer. Take a look at some photographs of a yard for instance, clutter, lack of old dirt and grease which even my standards could be scrapped off yet the average layout looks as if it has been newly built and laid out. Look at any stretch of grass and its not all green but large areas of yellows and intrudes, especially the scrubby patches of grass which surround the railway. Property roads are not just smooth areas of grey but drastically vary in colour with bits dug out of them and patched over. Buildings often have bits added on or rebuilt in some way avoid 'play school' type houses with 3 windows and a door. Trees are another area, they are all different and are usually far to small on any layout. I like the idea of peering through trees to see various aspects of a layout, i feel it encourages the visitor to take a second glance. Add wildlife, there is nothing that a child likes to do better than try to find Roger the rabbit or otty the Owl.
But not gimmicky. Scrap yards, allotments, gardens, clothes lines with clothes on. Careful not to overload the layout with to many cameo scenes. I feel it can all get a bit to much, try to avoid cars stopped at a zebra crossings with know one actually crossing. Here's the one for me, buses on bridges is my pet hate, what's it stopped there for? is it waiting for a train. How many of your wagons actually have loads on them, even tarpaulins with a company name. How many cow pats would there be in the cattle dock. If all this is done with care and in particular, attention to detail, a layout can start to look good and make sense. Have a go and think up different ideas, try to make the layout look as if it hasn't just been unpacked from a manufactures box. I am well aware that we cant all build a loco from a kit of parts but at least have a go and do something with an RTR to make it individual. Coal in the tender, add a crew, fire irons etc.,
I hope this article has gone some way to help others. Not only the slaves of the exhibition hall but all members of this intriguing hobby of ours. As far as I am aware the original article was something that you received on a disc when becoming a member of the 3mm society. Hats off to Ray Arnold for writing such an informative piece of work. It hit a brain cell with me and have learnt a lot from it.
At the end of the day, we are putting on a show for the public, to me, its no different than a band playing a gig for their fans or a writer putting on a play in a Theater.
Remember, its a hobby, enjoy the hobby and reek the rewards. Now, how to make it “cool”