John's Jottings

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 they needed to deal with paying customers, it was seldom convenient to start explaining things.


“Perhaps we should compile a simple leaflet, “Felicity suggested. “Leave it behind for the shop people to look at in slack moments.”


“It would need a whole booklet,” Jim said. “There’s so much to include, like scale and gauge, and region and period. Then there’s scratch- and kit-building, DC and DCC, signalling, operation, traffic, and scenery and backgrounds, and baseboards and electrics and control panels. And what about demonstrators, and static displays, and railway- and model-related societies, never mind all the different manufacturers, and the suppliers of components and raw materials? Where do we start?”


“Start with far less detail than that,” Jane pleaded. “The essence of a model railway exhibition needs summarising in a few simple terms – words that are not based on knowing what constitutes scale, or modelling, or anything more than the existence of railways, or readers ever having been to any sort of exhibition. Can it be done?” That challenge silenced us all for a while. As far as I can remember, no other topic has ever done that before.


Eventually Bill broke the hush. “Exhibiting model railways is one of our club’s core activities,” he said. “So we really ought to be able to come up with a broad description.”


“But isn’t that the problem?” Jane asked. “We’re so used to model railway shows in all their rich variety that we overlook the core essentials – those features which are common to all such exhibitions.”


“Each show has its own feel, features and character,” Graham observed. “There isn’t a single formula.”


The discussions went on for quite some time. Various ideas were suggested. Some found favour, while others were dismissed. Among those considered worth of inclusion were building miniature scenes, representations of trains that move backwards and forwards, and visitors to the exhibition who watch, talk about, and enjoy what is on display.


“But in what language should the leaflet be?” Ken enquired. “For some of our shopkeepers, English is not their mother tongue, even if they were born in this country.


“Use lots of pictures,” was Jane’s suggestion. “And keep everything simple.”


“Creating a suitable leaflet is quite a task,” our chairman agreed, “but perhaps its needs to be done. We could submit it to the Regional Federation for wider use. So I issue this challenge: Describe a generic model railway show in a hundred words or less, using no more than three pictures, in a way that is accurate, informative and encourages people to want to attend the event.” And with that task set before us, we decided it was time to pack up and go home. It’ll be interesting to see what solutions appear. ... And who provides them.

 

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