DB says: Your roving southern correspondent was cajoled into attending the Alpine Energy Model Railway Expo in Timaru on Sunday by his mother. Warning: Alas, no NZ120 content.
Attendance looked pretty good from where I was standing - 13 layouts, 7 trade stands nicely-endowed with often-overpriced merchandise, and plenty of paying punters. We weren't alone in lingering at most of the layouts for quite some time (and Mum is no trainspotter), which filled us both with warm thoughts of it being a good show and well worth the $6 admission.
One of the most popular layouts was a fairly large local HO setup that featured loads of animation. Hidden magnets drag boats around a lake, clever Faller trucks and buses navigate the highways as if by magic - even pausing in front of buildings, a chairlift spins up the mountain, skiers run down the slopes, smoke comes from a power station stack and even a volcano erupts from time to time with a deep rumbling that could easily be mistaken for a passing WRX.
The Stamping Ground (below), from NZ120's formerly-own Glen Anthony, also garnered hoards of spectators. This is a neat wee layout comprising two (soon to be three) modules that packs plenty of action into a small space, including animated water wheel, stamping battery and gold digger; ore that is loaded from bins into the wagons and then dumped at the battery; and a couple of trains that purposefully shuffle the wagons around to effect this. Although not a huge layout, it's peppered with interesting scenes and people were easily amused for five minutes before they'd seen all the action. And all running very smoothly with kadee magnetic uncoupling, hidden point operation, lots of wagon-tipping unloading and not a five-finger-shuffle in sight. A really well thought-out and executed layout set amongst captivating scenery.
So that's the takeaway - "lots going on" keeps the punters amused.
Of course another, often easier, way to do that is to simply run lots of trains. The winner here, with about a dozen concurrently operating trains, is the following fairly rudimentary, yet completely mesmerising setup. Yes, every train in this photo is moving, and its all made of Lego, including this nice BNSF doublestack train. The layout is also in the foreground of the top picture. Its big.
I spent a surprisingly long amount of time staring at this layout with a silly grin on my face and Mum liked the blue train out of shot to the right. From what could ascertain, primarily because it was blue.
A couple of other interesting ideas...
A small and achievable N scale layout that could both live at home and attend exhibitions is the two-module Wedderburn (shame it was populated with American rolling stock) below with the station out front and a small fiddle yard hidden behind a backscene. All in about 8x2 feet. Mum lauds praise on the layout's exhibitor, who is doing his best to avoid eye-contact.
I'm a fan of the theatre-diorama-look as well and this (below) is fairly effective for something that's not a huge leap up from the diorama-in-a-night that ECMT presented a few weeks ago (here and more pics here). It is an HO Swiss timesaver-style module billed "as an example of a layout for a small space that can be incorporated into a larger home layout, have a fiddle yard added to one or both ends, or linked to other layouts Freemo style". Good stuff. Just the sort of thing NZ120 modellers should consider for part of a home layout.
Attached to one of the few NZ exhibits:
As a postscript, or should that be pre-script, on attendance after reading Rhys' post, there was a double page full colour spread in the local paper earlier this week (half was adverts from local businesses and a couple of the more distant trade stand businesses which no doubt funded the spread) and there were a few large canvas signs around the town above the main road as well as outside the venue. The hall itself was also on the main road/bypass through Timaru, so a few people may have seen it as they were passing by. It wouldn't surprise me if it was on the radio as well. I seem to remember the Christchurch people doing a really good job of publicising their shows. After all, if you're going to go to all the trouble of staging an exhibition, you might as well have some people turn up, eh?