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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120. An Exhibition Challenge - June 2016

Posted on June 1, 2016 at 6:50 AM

The other week we heard a story from a club that had staged a ‘gross’ competition as part of its exhibition. The challenge was to create a railway scene in 144 square inches. The competition was open to members of any club, and of no club. The public voted for one or more by putting a coin in the plastic beaker in front of each exhibit. The winner was the model with highest number of coins, not the value. And the vote-money went to charity.


There were some ...

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119. The Grand Inaugural Run - May 2016

Posted on May 8, 2016 at 4:10 PM

Last week, Fred told us about the ceremonial unveiling of a large model railway built by Alan, a long-time friend of his. Alan had retired a couple of years ago and decided that he’d have the time to construct the model railway he’d always wanted. And he’d now got a large loft in which to house his Grand Project.


As he approached retirement after four decades with the same company, he was asked what present he would like. He told them about his modellin...

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118. Working Away - April 2016

Posted on April 1, 2016 at 10:25 AM

The other week Bill had been over to the Church Upton club. He heard the story of how members had been complaining that one of their number was slacking. He didn’t attend many meetings. And for those he did get to, he was often late arriving and left early. They thought his involvement was so half-hearted that he was hardly worth bothering about.


Now the fellow ran a business and was often away from home, hence his poor attendance record. What they failed to real...

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117. Leaflets Go Again - March 2016

Posted on March 1, 2016 at 4:45 AM

We’d been at the Barton Bridge show. Just before closing time on the Sunday, Fred went over to the table where exhibition leaflets were on display. He collected the ones for our show, and then tidied up those for other events. One of the stewards from the host club told him not to bother.


“What are you going to do with them?” Fred asked.


“Bin them,” the steward replied. “What else?”



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116. All for Authenticity - February 2016

Posted on February 1, 2016 at 2:20 PM

Modellers strive to recreate the world in miniature. Some years ago, one layout at the Whirtleborough show had a little bonfire, flickering realistically, with a wisp of smoke lazily drifting upwards. “It’s not smoke oil,” the operator announced, “but a cigarette held in a metal tube below the baseboard. The heat from the lamps pulls the smoke up by convection.”


“Can’t have cigarettes being smoked in a public place,” said t...

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115. Who Needs to Plan? - January 2016

Posted on January 2, 2016 at 5:25 AM

At the Friday evening set-up at the recent Highsteads show, the layout opposite ours was in total disarray. They seemed to be short of both baseboards and manpower. Later we found out that the layout manager never clearly announces which members of his team are to attend each day, and in whose cars they and the layout pieces are to travel. All the arrangements are made in one-to-one conversations, and he commits everything to memory.


“That sounds as if the layout m...

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114. Superfluous Operators? - December 2015

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 12:50 AM

While at the Wraybury show, we overheard an animated conversation between two visitors. One was an exhibition organiser, the other was the manager of a layout he’d invited to his show. The former was questioning the size of the operating team for the latter’s layout. “It’s far more than is necessary” he complained. “We can’t afford free-loaders.”


He acknowledged that the layout information leaflet did give the team size, a...

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113. School for Exhibitionists - November 2015

Posted on November 1, 2015 at 5:50 AM

There was interest in the clubroom last week when a circular came round from the Regional Federation of Model Railway Clubs. It was a proposal for a conference dealing with the organisation of exhibitions.


“Every exhibition manager worth his salt knows how to stage a show. It’s so simple,” Paul commented, though he’s never actually been involved in running one himself in any capacity.


“There’s no need for any of us to...

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112. There is green, and then there is green - October 2015

Posted on October 1, 2015 at 5:00 AM

As our new layout progressed, we got round to discussing the scenic treatment and the choice between light, medium and dark green scatter materials.


“There’s more to it than that,” Felicity advised.


“Why, how many shades of green are there?”


“In Ireland there are supposed to be forty,” Graham answered.


”Aren’t there fifty shades of grey?” Adrian asked, tong...

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111. Badges of Honour - September 2015

Posted on September 1, 2015 at 11:25 AM

The members of the Dewcliffe club were very pleased with themselves at the Catfield show. This was the fortieth show at which they’d exhibited Wyeknotte West. Quite an achievement. The screen in front of the fiddle yard had all the plaques to prove it. For something as basic as a plaque, the wide variety of sizes, colours and styles on display was quite surprising. Some just gave the town and year. Others were more informative, with the name of the host club, the number o...

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