John's Jottings

As overheard at a model railway club, somewhere in Cheshire, and jotted down by John Millington. The names and locations have been changed, but these stories are based on true conversations.

Archived editions (1-77, see nav-bar at the top of the page) were originally published via the Cheshire Railway Modellers website, but from December 2012, issue 78, the Jottings can be found here in blog form.

John Millington is a nom de plume. The author's true identity is disguised to enable him to continue collecting material for the articles.


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142. The Micro-exhibition - April 2018

Posted on March 31, 2018 at 3:05 PM

Last week Jim told us about a minor show he’d recently visited. We’d seen notices in the magazines for this show for a number of years, but none of us had actually attended one. Jim told us that at times the place was packed solid, which aroused our interest. Had we been missing a good show for all those years?


“When I got there I found the exhibition was in the ground floor rooms of a house that was the headquarters of a charity,” Jim told us. ...

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141. Food for Thought - March 2018

Posted on February 28, 2018 at 4:20 PM

A few of us went as visitors to a show in Merle. We’d not been there very long when an argument broke out between a steward and the operators of one of the layouts. Shortly afterwards, the team packed up their layout and left, obviously disgruntled about something.


Later we found out that the refreshment people had told the organiser that even though it was still mid-morning they were running short of food. He had decided to reduce the meal ticket allocation to ever...

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140. Now Top That - February 2018

Posted on February 1, 2018 at 10:10 AM

While at the Plonkton show, we heard of two of their members who were both competent craftsmen and excellent modellers. They brought their latest creation to each monthly meeting. There was great rivalry between them – a case of now-top-that. Each was striving to outdo the other in terms of difficulty of subject, accuracy of representation, and quality of finish. But above all, they were competing on the ingenuity of design.


It seems that early on there had been ca...

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139. Modelling Fraud - January 2018

Posted on December 31, 2017 at 5:40 AM

There was disquiet at the Whirtleborough show. Words like ‘unfair’, ‘cheat’ and ‘fraud’ were said. It was after one of the awards went to a beautiful layout that ran faultlessly. But after the presentation, it transpired that the exhibitor had commissioned various people to build the baseboards, the track, the buildings and scenery, the electrics, the locos and most of the rolling stock. All he’d done was co-ordinate the project, sign a vast number...

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138. The Magic Locomotive - December 2017

Posted on November 30, 2017 at 5:40 AM

Just before Christmas, Fred and Jane visited a model railway exhibition. This one was billed as a family show. And indeed there were many families there, with lots of layouts for them to drive, shunt, works signals, etc.


In the centre of the main room there was a carpet on the floor, surrounded by a low sectional plastic fence. Two ovals of G-scale track had been laid on the carpet, each with loops and sidings. Two youngsters were sitting on the floor, engrossed on drivi...

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135. The Underground - September 2017

Posted on October 31, 2017 at 6:05 AM

There was one layout at the Catfield show that was of an ingenious double-deck design. The visible portion depicted a rural junction station. The lines in each direction curved and dropped to the lower level, where there was a complex of junctions and storage loops, all hidden from view of both public and operators. Some trains would disappear into the tunnel at the Edinburgh end, to re-appear some time later as the return working. Other trains, like loaded coal wagons would only run in t...

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137. A Pile of Paperwork - November 2017

Posted on October 31, 2017 at 5:55 AM

Have you seen all this?” our secretary had asked a couple of months ago as he spread out a whole sheaf of papers on the table. “This has all come from the organiser of the Salchester show.” We leafed through them and took our pick.


“This sheet is about meals and overnight accommodation arrangements,” Ken announced. “It wants to know who is vegetarian, vegan, or allergic to milk, gluten, nuts, and so on.”


“T...

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136. The Doubtful Daisy-chain - October 2017

Posted on October 1, 2017 at 6:00 AM

On arrival at the Wraybury show with our layout, we found that no electrical cables had been laid out, even though setting up was well under way.


“You’ll find a socket somewhere over there,” one of the organisers said, with a gesture that was wide enough to encompass most of the known universe. “You all have your own way of setting out cables, so we’re letting you get on with it.”


We erected the layout and ran out our ca...

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134. Strictly Not Entertaining - August 2017

Posted on July 31, 2017 at 2:40 PM

It’s not often that dance and model railways appear in the same sentence, but it happened last week. We’d been discussing Plonkton’s new layout – a beautifully-modelled grand terminus set in a county town. But it didn’t hold an audience for long.


At first we couldn’t work out why. But then it dawned. A passenger train came in, the loco was changed, and the train left. A freight would arrive, shunt and depart. The full potential of th...

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133. Get It Write - July 2017

Posted on July 1, 2017 at 1:45 PM

At the Dewcliffe show, the newly-appointed Editor of the Regional Federation Newsletter had a small stall and was making himself known. He was trying to meet as many officers from as many clubs as he could and persuade them to write short reports about what the clubs were up to and their future plans.


“Your predecessor always mucked up our contributions,” was a common complaint. “Some were so garbled that they were unintelligible,” another person sa...

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