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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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 attend,” Peter chimed in. And not for the first time, he gave us the benefit of his great wisdom – the insight only afforded to those who are completely ignorant of, and totally inexperienced in, the subject to hand.


“Will the Plonkton lot be telling us how we ought to do things?” Jim wondered sarcastically. “After all, they know they are perfect in every respect. We’ve only to follow their example to be similarly successful.”


“Before we dismiss it out of hand, let’s look at what the day might cover,” advised Bill with his usual pragmatism. “Remember the Nether Hamblins exhibition team went on the ‘Grow Your Audience’ training day put on by the Regional Board for Promoting the Arts. And their attendances went up, didn’t they?” So we looked more closely at the suggested topics.


“Is there more to choosing a venue than finding somewhere of the right size that’s relatively cheap?” Adrian wondered. But then consideration has to be given to unloading, sizes of access doors, parking, proximity to public transport, and the availability of kitchen facilities.


Catering and food hygiene regulations were topics where most of us felt ill-informed. Though were we quite sure we weren’t going to poison the visitors to our show. But if a local authority inspector should turn up, would he agree? And what if he didn’t?


We didn’t think we needed to bother with the Criminal Records Bureau and the Vetting and Barring Scheme for the protection of vulnerable adults and children. But again, we didn’t know for certain what might actually be required under statutory regulations.


And while in the regulatory frame of mind, exactly what is the law regarding public liability, risk assessment, minimisation and mitigation? How do current fire and electrical regulations apply to exhibitions? Some shows send round detailed forms to be completed and submitted, while others turn blind eyes to the most obvious of hazards.


Financial Planning and Budgeting seemed a particularly difficult aspect of exhibition management. “As long as you keep expenses to a minimum and charge enough at the door, you’ll be OK,” was Paul’s simple formula. But where does Price Elasticity come in?


“If you always go for cheap layouts, you won’t get good-enough layouts to draw in satisfied crowds year after year,” advised Ken. “And how do you calculate an admission price that large number of people will be willing to pay and yet covers the expenses?”


“And what are the most cost-effective forms of advertising to bring in those large numbers of people?” Jane asked. “We know what we do and the number of visitors it brings in. But if we did things differently, would we get an even larger audience?”


“There’s a lot more to putting on an exhibition than is immediately obvious,” the chairman observed. And we had to agree with him that it might be worth having someone there, if only to confirm that we’re working along the right lines.


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, tongue-in-cheek.


“But isn’t grass just green?” Peter retorted.


“Go and look,” Felicity advised him. “The leaves at the top a swath of grass receive more light than the lower parts, so they will appear lighter and brighter, sometimes almost white. Close to ground level it may be quite dark. I reckon that there are three or four shades for any plant: direct sun light, slight shade, full shadow and back-lit. And each plant has its own basic green, so for any mixed herbage, there will be dozens of tints of green.


“I just mix blue and yellow,” Paul commented. “Add a touch of grey or white to vary things a bit and the job’s done.”


“Ah, yes,” said Jane. “Did you know that yellow and black also make green, but a different range of greens?”


“Black and yellow?” Paul asked incredulously. “Surely it’ll be a dark yellow?”


“Oh, no,” Jane replied. “Think of it this way. Blue is a sort of dark colour. So is black. So the eye can be fooled into seeing yellow plus a dark colour as a green.” Paul was not convinced.


“Only well-tended grass lawns are uniform in colour, mainly because they have a limited number of species and all cut to the same height,” Felicity continued. “Pasture, rough grassland and woodland contain many different species, each with its own range of colours, some of which aren’t even green. And that’s before you consider the flowers and fruits.”


“And don’t forget the shadows,” Jane reminded her. “In sunlight, they aren’t black.”


“Not black?” was Paul’s incredulous comment. “It stands to reason, shadows are always black.”


“Oh, no,” Felicity replied. “In full sunlight, shadows are illuminated by blue from the rest of the sky, so they appear blue-purple. If there’s some cloud, then this reflects some of the sun’s light and shadows are more greyish.”


“Doesn’t it just go to show,” the chairmen suggested, “that it’s a good idea to have periodic reality checks? Just to make sure that the models we produce have some basis in the real world, and that they’re not replicating what we’ve seen in other models, or how we think we remember the world outside the railway room?” And we all agreed with that.


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 of its show, a logo, and so on. We wondered if the various plaques yielded clues as to the financial position of the various exhibitions and the organisers’ perceptions of the status of their shows.


Reading the plaques in order we could see how the Wyeknotte West team had first done their local shows. And then, as the quality of the layout was increasingly recognised, they’d been invited to travel to ever-more distant events, each resulting in exhibitions even further afield, including the near continent.


Now at Catfield, Wyeknotte West had been awarded, quite deservedly, Best-in-Show. And they’d been presented with a special plaque to add to their collection. But it was much larger than the others – getting on for A5 size, specially engraved and mounted in a wooden frame. The team were delighted at this recognition of the excellence of the construction, operation and presentation.


However, once the official party had gone away and the applause had died away, there was much bickering within the operating team. Some thought it was showing-off to have the plaque on public display. They wanted it put backstage for now and then kept in the clubroom, while others were quite happy to have it on display at least for a time. Chaps on neighbouring layouts got involved and pleaded with them to have it on view for the duration of the exhibition. This compromise won the day.


But disagreements continued. Where should it be put temporarily? There was no obvious space for it to hang on the fiddle screen. And anyway, using bits of string or wire to hold it in place was far too crude for a layout that was Best-in-Show. The only other place available was the goods yard, but this would spoil the artistic effect of the scene and stymie shunting. The neighbouring layouts suggested that they could always lift it off to shunt.


And what would happen when they got back home? Should they pull off all the other plaques from the fiddle panel to make space for the new one? Or leave it behind when they next went out.


By contrast, we know of one layout where the owner, confident in the sublime quality of his creation, and in anticipation of many plaudits it would earn, had built a small shelf into the layout specifically on which to display each trophy that he would undoubtedly receive. But such rewards never came his way.


“What to do with a trophy is always a dilemma,” the chairman observed. “Brazen display can give the impression of recipients being big-headed, upsetting the public and other layout teams. Keeping an award secret could imply that the accolade is considered worthless and so offends the awarding committee. And visitors often like to know who has won what, both at that and previous shows. So perhaps a small discrete plaque would be in order.”


And we thought this was a good compromise. We’ll have to wait until we win something ourselves to find out how it works in practice.


110. The Leafleteers - August 2015

Posted on August 1, 2015 at 1:35 PM

It’s one of those tasks that many clubs don’t undertake; a job that few of our own club members really enjoy. But if we are to get a good attendance at our show, we’ve got to let the public know when it’s on. To have a show with only a small audience is unfair on the visiting layout teams, as well as being a financial disaster for us. So we go out and deliver leaflets door to door throughout the village and beyond.


A couple of weeks ago some of us were comparing and commiserating over our grazed knuckles and trapped fingers. Fred came over and we noticed his hands had no wounds.


“Not done your leaflets yet? Been throwing them into bushes?” we joked. “Using them to light your log fire?”


“No,” he replied. “I use a leaflet pusher.” He showed us a length of hardboard. “You fold the leaflet over one end, place its end against the letterbox flap and then push it through. The leaflet goes all the way without getting crumpled. It’s magic. No more scuffed knuckles and lacerated fingers.” We got interested.


“If it’s too short, it won’t reach through thick doors with bulky letterboxes and draught-excluders,” he continued. “If it’s too long it won’t fit comfortably in my trouser pocket to carry. Between nine and ten inches seems about right.”


“Why are there indentations and a central hole near one end?” Adrian asked.


“The shaped sides provide some grip. The hole is large enough so thumb slips into it if the pusher is snatched by a ravenous dog. You can wrestle with the hound and win! Before I made that modification, I’d lost an earlier pusher to a dog. I wonder what his owner thought when they found the chewed up remains of a leaflet and a mangled piece of hardboard. But I’m sure it made the dog happy.” Fred passed the pusher round for us to examine.


Then we went on to discuss letterboxes that are hidden behind ivy and others protected by low hanging-baskets. Flaps that are so highly sprung that they are difficult to open, those that won’t close once opened, and those that fall off. One member was trying to effect a repair when he was challenged by the householder. And then there are apertures variously blocked with paper-back novels, cushions, scarves, socks. And vicious sleeping dogs.


One advantage of delivering leaflets on sunny evenings is that you get to meet potential visitors and can explain a little more. It is surprising how many have or have had a model railway, or perhaps know someone who would be interested to whom they’ll pass the leaflet. This means that more households get to know of the leaflet than leaflets actually delivered.


One householder returned his leaflet saying that he’d be away. (It’s surprising how many erstwhile recipients are about to go on holiday for the duration of the show.) But, as he pointed out: we hadn’t wasted 0.5p on a leaflet that wouldn’t generate a visitor. But as Ken made clear, it meant he had to walk further to reach that additional ‘last’ letterbox.


The chairman had listened to our conversation but said nothing until the pusher reached him. He slipped his index finger through the hole and ostentatiously spun it round like a six-shooter before thrusting it into his pocket. “Fred,” he said with a pseudo American drawl, “Fred, you must be the fastest leaflet-slinger in the west.” And we all agreed with that.


109. Consequences of Retirement - July 2015

Posted on July 1, 2015 at 2:05 PM

The other week we heard about a chap who had been a stalwart of neighbouring club for decades, most of that time as its secretary. We were told that after much consideration, he had finally decided that it was time to withdraw from active involvement.


He brought back all the club property of which he had been made custodian over the years. It included minute books, contact lists and a whole archive of various files, of course. But he also brought in curtains and dustsheets, locomotives and rolling stock, controllers and power-packs, together with all those little gizmos that help layouts operate smoothly. There was exhibition stuff: A-sign boards, street banners, display boards, lighting, voting boxes, club brochures, and so on. He told the new secretary that all were now his responsibility.


“Where am I going to put all that?” the new secretary had asked. “Acting as a repository wasn’t in the job description when I was elected. I haven’t got the room.”


“We can’t just leave it in the clubroom, can we?” their chairman had asked. The members agreed that most of it was far too valuable or delicate just to be left lying around. But none would give any of it house room. Their wives would not allow it to clutter up their home.


“Can’t you keep it for us?” the members implored the retiring secretary.


“Not a chance,” he replied. “We’re moving into a bungalow.”


“But there’s so much of it.”


“Hadn’t you realised that? You’ve all seen it in use at one time or another, probably even used it yourselves,” the old fellow retorted. “If it didn’t worry any of you in the past that it was all kept in the home of the secretary, why should you suddenly get so concerned about it not being in the home of the new secretary?”


But of course, the members hadn’t got that far in their thinking. Items always appeared when needed and just disappeared again afterwards. If they had thought about it at all, the other members had assumed that it was stowed safely somewhere in their storeroom.


At least their old secretary brought the club stuff back. We’d heard of another club where their show manager had had a ferocious row with two of the committee members just a few weeks before their exhibition. He was so upset that he resigned on the spot and walked out, taking his show files with him. Nobody else had any idea of who was exhibiting, or what other arrangements he’d made on their behalf. They were really left in the lurch.


“They’ve only got themselves to blame,” Fred said. “Isn’t it up to all club members to have a general idea of what’s going on, what arrangements have been made, and so on. If it’s just down to one person, then things can go on fine for many years, but then they can suddenly go wrong. Dramatically, very wrong. It’s no good someone shrugging their shoulders and saying ‘Oh, Buggins does that. It’s not my job. It’s nothing to do with me’”


“Does it not behove every club member to find out what’s planned, who’s doing what, where equipment is stored, and so on,” the chairman observed. “It’s no good just leaving it to the committee, or even worse, to individuals. Folk should think more and get involved.” And we all agreed with that, though it remains to be seen if certain of our members act on this suggestion. We all know of at least two club members who rarely think about anything and don’t get involved at all, don’t we?


108. Was It Unfair Competition? - June 2015

Posted on June 2, 2015 at 6:40 AM

Members of one well-known society had a large layout at the Church Upton show. But none of them ever went for a look round the rest of the event. They knew that, without any shadow of doubt, they were the best modellers in the whole hall, if not the entire region. There wouldn’t be any worthwhile knowledge or technique or inspiration to be gained by looking at any of the lesser layouts or demonstrations. Between them, their members knew all about railways and every craft involved in recreating them in miniature. They were recognized as masters of displaying their creations to the public, so why should they move away from their pitch?


However, they were annoyed when the popular vote for the Most Entertaining Layout went to another exhibit. They were beside themselves with incredulity when the award for the Best Presentation, as judged by their fellow exhibitors, didn’t come their way. And they were furious beyond belief when the organisers of the event presented the Gold Medal for Best in Show to yet another exhibitor.


After a brief discussion, an irate delegation stormed off to the organiser’s office demanding to know why they hadn’t got a single prize. They accepted that mere visitors may not have appreciated the technical quality of their work. They suggested that the other exhibitors might not have voted for them out of envy or spite. But in their eyes, it was just not conceivable that the organising committee would allow them to be passed over.


They insisted on a recount. So the Exhibition Manager gave them the voting papers. They complained about having to carry out a menial task that he should have got right first time. There was no apology when the delegation’s count exactly matched his.


They demanded an explanation of the Panel of Judges’ decision. The Exhibition Manager remained calm as he went through their checklist. They were unimpressed by it. There were so many criteria that they considered as irrelevant, and key ones that had been omitted.


The Manager then asked the delegation about the features of the three winning layouts. They didn’t know what he was talking about, or even where they were in the hall. So he told them to go and look for themselves, to judge them, and evaluate them against the checklist. Only when they had studied them carefully would he discuss matters further.


The delegation went off in high dudgeon. This was no way to treat the eminent representatives of a long-established and respected club. And they made sure that everybody in the hall heard of their displeasure at both the results and how their complaint had been treated. But they didn’t get any sympathy. None what so ever. And they couldn’t understand why. So the operators busied themselves in running trains, and the off-duty members huddled at the back of their pitch rehearsing their grievances.


Needless to say, the recipients of the three awards were all highly delighted. None had known that there was any element of competition in their attendance. To them it was not important. What mattered was the experience of the visitors. Were they excited, enthralled, inspired, motivated, encouraged and glad they had been? From the comments we overheard, the public were most definitely satisfied, on all counts.


“Does it not all go to show,” the chairman speculated, “that what satisfies the expert modeller may not always please the paying public? I wonder if it is because they have different and potentially irreconcilable objectives in attending an exhibition. But the best exhibits surely satisfy both camps.” And we agreed with his analysis.


107. Does It Count? - May 2015

Posted on May 1, 2015 at 4:45 AM

When Graham came into club last week, he’d brought in his ‘homework’. He emptied a bag of freshly completed jumper cables on the table at the side of the club’s new layout. Every end was fitted with a pluggable block.


“This cable’s got three ends,” Adrian complained, as he extracted one from the tangled pile.


“Mine’s got four,” Jim exclaimed. “Any advance on four?” he joked.


“How do we know which one goes where?” Bill asked more pragmatically.


“Look at the pin patterns,” Graham replied. “Some of the pins and sockets have been reversed. They’re all different. So all you’ve got to do is to mate them correctly with the ones on the baseboards.” We smiled at the thought of mating actually going on at our club.

And under the baseboards, of all places.


“If we should find where one end goes,” Adrian asked, “is there any way of knowing where the other end goes, or do we just have to try them all in turn?”


“Each fixed terminal block has a unique number next to it. It’s black on a yellow panel,” Graham explained. “Then just read the pin pattern.”


“How confusing,” was Paul’s immediate response. “Is there a key to translate between pin positions and numbers?”


“You don’t need one,” Graham said. “From the right, the pins represent one, two, four, eight, and so on. Any pin has twice the value of the adjacent pin to its right. You just tot up the values.”


“That’s even more confusing,” shrieked Peter. “Just a numbered label would do.”


“Dangling labels make it more likely to cause tangles and get torn off,” Ken explained. “The pin-code uses what’s already there.” He’d obviously seen the benefits of each mating pair having a unique pin pattern, but he’d not realised that there was a deeper underlying logic.


The argument about the relative merits of ‘real’ numbers and pin-codes continued for some time until the chairman intervened.


“Both forms of representing numbers are equally valid in mathematical terms,” he announced, much to Peter and Paul’s astonishment. “It’s just that one is in so-called Arabic or decimal notation, and the other is in binary.” Neither Peter nor Paul was convinced. Along with much else, they don’t do Arabic, mathematics, decimals, or binary.


The rest of us quickly realised that if a pin represents a binary 1, and a socket a binary 0, then 4-way block with a single pin at the right-hand end reads as 0001 and represents no eight, four or two, and just a single one. So that end was to go into terminal block Number 1. 0101 signified no eight, a four, no two, and a one, so it was Number 5. And trust Graham, the corresponding baseboard blocks were numbered in strict numerical sequence from left to right with representations in both decimal and binary notation.


106. You cannot get the staff - April 2015

Posted on April 1, 2015 at 5:05 AM

There was a chap in the next aisle to us at the Highsteads show. On the Friday evening, he’d arrived with a friend to set up his layout. But it was obvious that the chap was only there on sufferance. On the Saturday, the owner was operating single-handed. It was the same on the Sunday.


“It’s been murder doing this all on my own,” he complained. “I’ve not been able to get lunch, and nobody has brought me a drink.”


“Has your team let you down?” we enquired sympathetically.


“I mentioned I was coming here one club night,” he replied, “but nobody’s turned up. Not even the chairman. What’s the good of belonging to a club if they won’t help out a fellow?”


“Didn’t you ask around before you accepted the booking?”


“No. I thought they’d realise I’d need assistance?” he replied.


“Did you clearly tell them you’d need help? Did you make sure that there were people actually willing and available? Did you announce who was on the team and on which day they would be required?”


“No. It’s a club,” he snapped. “They should be willing to come without all that palaver. It’s just a village society you know, not a military operation.”

“I put the layout up at a club meeting so that they could become familiar with it, but only a couple of the members had a go, and even they’ve not bothered to show up,” the soloist continued. “I thought at least they’d be coming.”


“Didn’t you check?” He just shrugged his shoulders.


By the end of Sunday, he was all in. His back was aching, his legs were leaden, and his brain hardly functioning.


When it came to packing up, the poor man was distraught. It really took two people to dismantle the baseboards, but he struggled on his own. One board crashed to the floor and smashed some buildings. We went across to help him with the others.


In shear frustration, he was all for abandoning everything where it lay and to go home without his layout. We calmed him down, helped him collect the damaged pieces, separated the other baseboards, carried them out and stowed it all in his car. He was most grateful.


“But I can’t lift it out on my own,” he moaned. “I’ve got to do that tonight as I’m taking my wife to hospital first thing tomorrow morning.” We’ve no idea how he managed. Perhaps he had a kindly neighbour.


“A classic problem of the over-enthusiastic or novice exhibitor,” the chairman observed. “Hobby or no hobby, appearing at an exhibition is a task that requires planning. And if you’ll need help, the first task is ensuring that you’ve a full complement of willing and competent helpers. It’s very simple: ‘No Team’ equals ‘No Go’.” And we all agreed with that. We wondered if the chap had learnt his lesson. But on that we could not agree.


105. Is it what it says? - March 2015

Posted on March 1, 2015 at 5:20 AM

Some shows are for the general public, with a range of scales, eras and styles. Others are for the specialists. But all are billed as model railway exhibitions. A little while ago, we heard of one family who saw such a sign outside the town hall, and having some time to spare, decided to go in and see what railway modelling was all about.


They were most disappointed. There were endless aisles of specialist traders selling kits, materials and tools. There were two large test-tracks, but the chaps manning them neither explained what they were testing, nor why, nor what the results were. Tucked away in a dark corner was a small scenic layout. But it wasn’t running any trains.


“Complete waste of time,” the father complained at the pay desk as they left.


“All we’ve done is paid to come into a shopping centre” the mother said. “Do you pay just to get into a shopping mall? There might be some entertainers, musicians, displays, even a model railway. But you don’t pay to get in just to shop, do you?”


“We’ve run the event this way for many years,” the steward explained. “It’s always been considered a great success.”


“Well, it isn’t this time. We won’t be coming again,” the mother retorted. “Not to this show, nor any other.”


“What did you expect?” the steward enquired, most mystified.


“Lots of trains running,” dad said. “People to explain what’s going on. Things for the children to do.”


“There are shows like that,” the steward conceded. “But they are more fun events than proper exhibitions.”


“So model railways are for rich and miserable so-and-sos, then?” dad suggested.


“This show is for dedicated S-gauge modellers,” the steward responded. “It’s not intended for the general public.”


“So why did you let us in? Why not warn us that this event was not really for families?” mum asked. “It said nothing about this being a specialist show on the sign outside the town hall.”


“It’s not our job to stop people coming in,” the steward countered.


“No, but you could advise people so that potential visitors aren’t disappointed,” the dad suggested. “Otherwise aren’t you getting our money under false pretences?”


And we sympathised with the father’s analysis. We turned to the chairman to see what he might say.


“Does it not go to show that exhibition managers should make sure that shows billed as being aimed at ‘families’ or ‘the general public’ have a content that is actually just that?” the chairman responded. “If they don’t, I wonder if show organisers could be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act.” We agreed he had a good point.


104. That Fender - February 2015

Posted on February 1, 2015 at 11:05 AM

There was a fender in the storeroom when we went into club a couple of weeks ago. Now it is well known that weird things do get put in storerooms, but in our case they usually have something to do with model railways. And it wasn’t just any old fender. It was heavy, made of brass, and decorated with knobs and rails and spindles. And in pretty good nick too.


We asked around, but nobody knew anything about it, until the caretaker dropped by.


“You lot are noted for finding uses for all sorts of odds and ends,” George started explaining. “My sister was throwing it out. She’s had a make-over of her front room and it no longer matches the decor. Thought you might find it useful. Do with it whatever you like. Yes, whatever you like. I’m not fussed. No use to me. Don’t want to see it again.”


Now none of us live in houses where a big brass fender would even fit in, never mind match the decor. So what were we to do with it?


Oh, just take it to the tip,” Paul suggested.


“Leave it out on the pavement at the front of the hall for the scrap metal man,” Bill said. “His wagon’s due round tomorrow. He’ll pick it up.”


“Weigh it in at the metal yard. We might get some brass for it,” was Adrian’s suggestion.


“Make boilers and tanks out of the tube,” was Fred’s option.


There was then a whole series of jokes about fenders, offenders and defenders that were all very amusing at the time but excruciating in retrospect, so they won’t be repeated here.


While we were all putting in our three-hap’th worth, Ken had quietly dismantled the thing. So now we were discussing the fate of an ex-fender - a pile of brass section, castings turnings, and lots of bolts.


“Hey, this corner pieces is cast brass,” Fred exclaimed. “And the knobs and spindles are turned solid too. Good workmanship. Pity if it were just scrapped.” And we all agreed that it had been well-designed, craftsman built, and must have cost a pretty penny when new.

“See if the antique shop along the road will give you anything,” he said.


So we helped Ken put it all back together again. And then we realised just what a quality piece it was. Every bit fitted perfectly. No need for fillets of solder to fill gaps, or slivers of micro-strip compensate for mis-measurement, or grinding down to make up for poor forming. If only we could make up brass loco kits to the same standard.


The following meeting, the treasurer was pleased to report that the antique shop had offered him £30. But before we’d decided to accept this, the treasurer announced that he’d actually sold the fender for £50, to a neighbour. The chap was delighted. It fitted his period decor perfectly.


“Does it not all go to show,” the chairman mused over coffee, “that one man’s rubbish is another man’s gold? Or in this case, brass. To stop things being peremptorily condemned as waste, all that is needed is a little thought and imagination, plus a modicum of time, a pinch of patience, and perhaps a bit of serendipity.” And we all agreed with that.