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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129. Shunting Skullduggery - March 2017

Posted on March 1, 2017 at 5:15 AM

There were ructions at the Catfield show last weekend. One of their club members had brought along an American-style switching layout. He was encouraging visitors to have a drive under his instruction. And they were all successful, even though it took some time.

 

One member of the public asked to have a go, but announced he’d do it without guidance as he knew all about shunting and solving shunting problems. However, after quite some time and many, many moves he de...

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128. The Mutual Exclusion Principle - Feb 2017

Posted on February 1, 2017 at 6:15 AM

While we were at the Highsteads shown the other weekend, we overheard a conversation between the show managers of Plonkton and Nether Hamblins. They were discussing the different ways they went about selecting layouts for their respective shows.

 

Mr. Plonkton was insistent that all show managers should use a grid when selecting layouts for exhibition. This grid had the gauges along one axis and historical periods along the other. There was even a third axis allowing for o...

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127. The Orphanage - Jan 2017

Posted on January 1, 2017 at 2:40 PM

The other week Fred reported on a visit he’d made to the Wraybury club HQ. “We went into their storage area. It was full of part-built layouts. Each one had a story. Some had been donated by the widows of modellers, others by folk who were moving away, or by modellers whose eyesight had faded. But most were club projects that had stalled.

 

“It seems that whenever a layout met a technical obstacle, work ceased. Rather than strive, and use imagination a...

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126. Poster Boys - Dec 2016

Posted on December 1, 2016 at 5:40 AM

As is usual at this time of year, we’d been out distributing posters for our forthcoming show. Some shopkeepers have been happily accepting them for years, and yet again expressed surprise that it was all of twelve months since we last asked them to put one up.


But there were other shopkeepers, new to the village, for whom the concept of a model railway exhibition was totally baffling. It was obviously something they’d never come across before. But because the...

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125. Time, Speed, and Movement - Nov 2016

Posted on November 1, 2016 at 3:20 PM

Some of us had been on a club trip to a steam-worked heritage railway. At one of the stations there was a model railway, and we got round to comparing the way the two were run.

 

“It’s surprising how long it takes to fill up a real tender with real water,” Graham commented. “I reckon it was getting on for at least ten minutes, and that was after a journey of only a few miles. We don’t often allow anything like that amount of time with our mode...

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124. The Music of the Rails - Oct 2016

Posted on October 1, 2016 at 2:35 PM

Last week we were discussing how many musicians also have an interest in railways, both real and model. Pete Waterman, Joules Holland and Rod Steward are well-known, but there are countless musicians up and down the country, both professional and amateur, performers and their audiences, who also take great pleasure from model railways. They are not all builders by any means, but they all appreciate the hobby as a craft and as an art.

 

We decided that there are several simil...

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123. Layouts Remembered - Sept 2016

Posted on September 1, 2016 at 2:45 PM

At the Dewcliffe exhibition, there was a married couple with a highly detailed continental layout. Everywhere we looked there were little cameos. None of them had come straight out of the box, if they were ever in a box. No building was ready-to-plant, or a made-up kit. Most of the accoutrements were scratch-built or heavily modified. The numerous figures were all customised. Each had a name, a role in the scene, and a back-story.

 

And the couple had the historical pho...

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122. The Welcome Pack - Aug 2016

Posted on August 1, 2016 at 4:55 AM

Part way through the set-up at Catfield’s new venue, their Show Manager wandered over and presented us with a bulging elephant-sized envelope: our Welcome Pack. We put it to one side as getting the layout up and running was a far more pressing matter.


Once everything was tested and we were ready for the public, members of the team started asking important questions like: Where’s the toilet? Are bacon butties available? How much? Where’s the brew room? ...

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121. The Long-distance Modeller - July 2016

Posted on July 4, 2016 at 4:30 AM

A few weeks ago we heard a story about a modeller in the UK who had a friend serving with the military in a remote outpost of the Commonwealth. He wasn’t a great drinker and he’d visited all of the island’s ‘tourist attractions’ several times. When off-duty, this friend scratch-built locos and coaches. He was fortunate in being allowed to use the base’s workshop facilities whenever he wanted. He was a prolific constructor, and his creations were much ad...

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Jottings at 120

Posted on June 1, 2016 at 6:55 AM

Episode 120 is a milepost in John’s Jottings. The first instalment was made public ten years ago. Since then one story has appeared at the start of every month.

 

It all began some 15 years ago, when I wondered if I had the imagination and stamina to write a monthly column. The best way to find out was to try. Following the maxim ‘Write about what you know’, I decided to base my pieces around a fictitious model railway society, as if written as part of a...

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