Sunday, 30 October 2016 Tasmania (part 1)

Time for a bit of a run down of my recent "overseas" trip to Tasmania, for the Launceston Model Railway Exhibition (October 22-23).  This was a new exhibition, and when I was invited to host my display, I was more than happy to support this show, as I think they were approaching it with good intentions...quality over quantity (which is often a slight down fall of many other exhibitions).  Anyway, best start at the begining...

I nearly thought this exhibition wasn't going to happen for me.  Firstly, the drive up to Melbourne took twice as long as usual, so I was one of the last cars to board the Spirit of Tasmania ferry.  Secondly, you tend to get a bit nervous when there are three quarantine officers sniffing around the back of your car!  It was funny though observing their change in attitude.  Tasmania has fairly strict quarantine laws for entry (no fruit & veg, no plant materials etc), so when I turn up at the wharf with a car boot full of dried flower heads/model gum trees, there were going to be questions.  Luckily the approach changed from "Nah mate, can't bring those over", to after looking at the diorama's then being more "Geez, they're pretty cool!", so was able to board, eventually.

Arrived first thing Friday morning in Devonport and headed about an hours drive across to Launceston.  The early arrival meant the set up could be fairly low stress and leave plenty of time to chat.  Tassie had turned on some average weather with heavy rain up until lunch (of course it stopped after we had loaded in the layouts and displays).  The venue was Albert Hall, which was a fine venue.  Some great architecture, nice and comfortable with decent carpet and heating, very well lit, and an attached cafe for good food and coffee supplies (did enjoy one of the best toasted sandwiches I've every had!).

Set up ran fairly smoothly with good access for rolling in some large layout storage.  The venue provided plenty of space to gather around the layouts without ever feeling like there were traffic flow issues.  The professional finish of the overall display was quite notable, with all stands using  curtain skirts and standardised crowd barriers, there was a general impression that there was a lot of pride put into the displays (and the grand state of the venue went a long way to helping this feel).  I mentioned the venue was well lit, with additional stage lighting brought in to add extra lighting where required (just another of the professional thoughts).   On to some of the layouts then...

"Rushy Creek" by John Fielding, a NSW HO layout, was one that really worked for me.  It nailed a lot of elements well.  Well lit, great colour balance, simple concept that was executed cleanly, and worked very well as a stage for some excellent loco and rolling stock modelling to roll through.  I think it captured some of that Australian rural essence very well.

"Pipers Creek" by Frank Cross, a Victorian HO layout, was another that showed that keeping it simple can work well.  The curved frontage was a nice touch, and again, a layout that showed good management of the colours across the scenery.  The back scene method was an interesting approach, with the low photo background framed nicely by the taller black wall.  It must have worked well because I didn't really notice it until I reviewed my photos (ie it wasn't a distracting addition).

"Eyarth" by Gordon Brown, travelled across from the mainland for this show.  This is a beautifully modelled British OO layout, that is very lush and picturesque with very typical British scenery.  The setting up of this layout is quite meticulous, with the thought behind all its storage and transport being well engineered, and even the storage boxes are as neatly presented as the actual layout.  One of the beauties of this layout is the large and gracious curve it creates with its end to end running, giving a very nice panoramic effect.

"Totternhoe Mineral Railway On15" by Eamonn Seddon, has been a long time personal favourite layout of mine.  Very different in its theatrical presentation (with plenty owing to Eamonn's theatre background), this exhibition was the final outing for this superb layout.  At more than 20 years old, this layout has toured and displayed exceptionally well, and certainly doesn't look like a tired old layout.  I think the commitment behind how this layout is presented is what keeps it fresh.  The black paint is reapplied after set up at each show (taping over the joins and painting them over each time),  and the blacked out surrounds and black clothing for operators adds a lot of drama to this layout.  It was a pleasure to help set it up, watch it run, and then pack it away for its final show.  The only good thing about this being Totternhoe's last show, was that Eamonn is working on new layouts.  

"Ffrongoch Viaduct" by Eamonn Seddon, was one of the new projects being demonstrated over the weekend (I'm just not sure how to pronounce it!).  The beginnings of a new OO layout that shows how one of these portable layouts starts to come together.  Eamonn also spent the weekend talking about some landscape modelling techniques, although I think there was far more talking than demonstrating!

Alongside Eamonn for the weekend was Simon Handby (Eamonn and Simon being the organisers behind this new exhibition).  Simon brought along a static display of his under construction Tasmanian OO layout, which highlighted some very nice scenery and structure modelling, as well as a long line of under construction locomotives and rolling stock.  Simon also is quite capable in casting, with a range of Tasmanian OO (4mm) loco bodies and rolling stock available.

The next small stand was hosted by Steve Oppermann, with a display of Ghan railway, as well as some discussion about basic electronics for model railways.  The Ghan history was a good read, and the stand seemed busy throughout the weekend with simple electronics for model railways being explained, such as installing point motors.

Now I don't usually take much interest in some of the antique models displays, but alongside me all weekend was John Rush with a well preserved collection of Triang railways (with an OO and TT layout on display).  Like all of the other displays, it was a clean display, and my first collection of model railway stuff was a box full of Triang equipment bought from a garage sale, so it was interesting to actually spot a few of the items that I started out with quite a few years ago.

I was located on a busy corner of the exhibition with my display of gum tree modelling and dioramas.  Plenty of interested viewers stopped to get lost in the dense bush, with a few finding the hidden koalas high up in the tree tops.  I know I've had a busy weekend when I come home hoarse from talking to people about how to model this type of scenery.  I'm always grateful for the comments on the work I display and hope that it serves to inspire many others to get their hands dirty and have a go at some of these techniques.  I had plenty of the "you must have patience" comments, but that's not so with my modelling.  I need patience to do my day job, but my modelling is just fun.

Another of the travellers was Alan Beaumont from SA, who made the trip across and down with his 3D printing display (which by the way, will be one of the demonstrations at the 13th Australian Narrow Gauge Convention, being held in Geelong in 2017...I had to get a plug in somewhere!!), as well as his latest layout "Dunquickly".  There is always plenty of curious onlookers to observe the 3D printing process in action, and Alan is more than willing to share his knowledge on the subject.  I think what I like about Alan's use of the 3D printing, is that he isn't restricting himself to just printed locos and rolling stock.  His layouts utilise many custom construction pieces generated in CAD and printed for application.  It's great to see someone thinking about the broader capabilities of this sort of technology.

Simon Chandler hosted a nice display of some Tasmanian Sn3.5 modelling.  Some nicely captured prototype scenes were on display, with the small square layout, "Lalla and Tulendeena" designed as four modules that fit in the back of a Holden Commodore.  A good layout to demonstrate that plenty is achievable in a small space, and doesn't always need a truck to transport it.

"Urmston Road" by Colin Jolley, was a British OO layout that presented some typical British urban railway modelling.  I will tell of an amusing day with Colin when I do part 2 of this trip report, but his layout is very well detailed.  Slightly unfortunately for the visitors, this layout is detailed on the four sides, but only two were visible over the weekend.  The layout also features a lot of lit interior details that would have been missed by many with the well lit Albert Hall. In any other dimly lit exhibition hall all this extra effort would have been more evident.

There were a couple of other layouts on displays that I either forgot to take photos of, or the shots came out too blurred to use.  Those other layouts included a nicely finished shunting plank by Doug Colbeck, "Penguin" (Tas OO) by Max Chandler, the very large industrial "East Tamar" by Steve Williams, and a good collection of Hornby tinplate models from Jaicob Ford.  

Trade stands at this show were limited (not such a bad thing, as I believe that the attendees paying to come into an exhibition are paying to see models and layouts, not a mass of shops), but Branchline Models was another of the travellers coming from Victoria with a range of supplies, Petrarch's Book Shop had a good range of print on offer, and local hobby shop Tiger Models had a selection of bits to browse.  Possibly could have benefited from one or two more trade stands just to add some shopping interest for the modellers visiting this show, but I can appreciate some of the logistic difficulties behind that given the travelling from the mainland issue.

I think the weekend ran very successfully.  Several thousand visitors passed through the doors and most seemed engaged and entertained by what they saw.  There were a number of conversations about what other opportunities there were to explore with this exhibition, so I feel it is going to become a recognised and valuable show for the Tasmanian model railway enthusiasts.  Most importantly, the organisers and the exhibitors they invited were a great bunch of people.  Plenty of laughs were shared during the weekend, as well as plenty of ideas.  The packing up part at the end of every exhibition is never much fun, but we got it done pretty efficiently, but most importantly, we beat the Tassie rain that was threatening once again.

Part 2 of this report will be done hopefully in the next few days, and cover a trip to the Don River Railway prior to my return back home to Victoria.