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Sunday 14 October 2012

38th Farnham Expo

Initially I did not intend to visit this year. I did have a few modelling items to buy from specialist traders that I could have obtained via the Internet, but it was knowing that 'n' gauge Basingstoke was on show this year that caused me to visit so, a chance to buy as well.

Spread across 4 halls of the local comprehensive school was an outstanding display of model railways to suit all tastes. Traders were in abundance and there was no difficulty finding the items I needed. I do like being able to see the products in reality rather than make judgement from a web photograph so, I am grateful that these small traders put in the effort to attend exhibitions.

Can a model railway be too big?

Basingstoke was huge (for 'n' gauge) representing nearly a mile of the mainline station complex. I don't think I have ever seen such an expanse of track work on a model railway. This is a layout that could only be built by a team, to be operated by a team, for the pleasure of a team who wish to control a railway network.

The standard of modelling, especially the station building was very high. Set in the 1960s it was fun to spot landmarks that still exist today and are well known to me since Basingstoke is my hometown. But, for me, the layout overall did not hit the spot and I have been trying to fathom out why?

'N' gauge is an opportunity to show the railway in the context of the larger landscape that surrounds it. Here on Basingstoke the ornate station building was placed virtually at the edge of the board and because of this was protected from the public by a sheet of clear Perspex, which completely destroyed the illusion.

I lost count of the number of parallel railway tracks. This is a massive station complex with two junctions (three if you include the running lines to Worting Junction offstage), locomotive depot, and umpteen goods yards. The flat featureless railway tracks therefore, dominated the scenery. Greater depth of landscape would probably appeal more, or maybe the whole thing is just too big to absorb in this scale?

I don't want to take anything away from the builders of the layout. I can see the highly creative skills involved and can image it took some considerable time to build.

Other Highlights

I quite liked Portchullin (P4). The atmosphere of a sparse Scottish landscape was captured well and the blue diesels operated at sedate speeds through the station with realistic engine sounds emanating. A flock of free-roaming sheep approached the station with one of them sat between the rails of a siding. This caused great amusement as wagons were shunted towards it. "Anyone bring the mint sauce", cried the train operator.

Portchullin was fitted with a bright, white back scene. Whilst this focused attention on the modelled foreground the layout would have benefited, in my view, from a photographic back scene to give added depth. This worked amazingly well on Brookford, a small 0 gauge branch terminus with a back scene that gave the impression of much greater acreage. (The back scene in the video appears washed out, which is not the case if you saw the model for real).

The layout that appealed most to me was Wellbridge (00), purely for the attention to detail and craftsmanship. In one corner are shops and businesses of the local town with truly mind boggling internal details. The local garage workshop is a joy to behold.

In another corner was suburbia, comprising detached period houses alongside a concrete slab road with gardens full of vegetation and paraphernalia. Even the washing on the lines were billowing in the wind - an effect not easy to capture. Everywhere you looked a scene from daily life had been captured with precision.

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