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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160. Keep Off - October 2019

Posted on September 30, 2019 at 9:45 AM

While at the Foxhanpton exhibition, a visitor noticed that a locomotive had become partially de-railed and some of its wheels were bumping over the sleepers and ballast. The operator was unaware of this until the concerned chap stretched forward and made to return the wheels to the rails.

“Get off. Keep your hands to yourself,” the operator shouted angrily at the well-meaning fellow.

“But I was only re-railing it,” he replied, upse...

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159. Electrickery - September 2019

Posted on August 31, 2019 at 10:35 AM

One of the members of the Barton Bridge club was adamant: Cab control with common return just did not work. From many years’ experience he has concluded it was the cause of all sorts of electrical problems. If a controller failed, it had to be because the system used common return, even if the cause was actually a broken wire. If the electric light signals operated incorrectly, it had to be a direct result of using common return, even if the reason was a fault in a relay that was pow...

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158. The Railway Story - August 2019

Posted on July 31, 2019 at 5:15 AM

At the Plonkton show, we overheard one member of a club that had better remain nameless, beefing on about how he had taken over five hours of video of the club layouts, made them into a CD-based presentation, and offered them to club members. He proudly premiered his production one club night. After about five minutes, members started to drift away and resume work on their layouts. He only managed to sell three copies. Over the following months, he couldn’t even give away his surplu...

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157. The Expert on Everything - July 2019

Posted on June 30, 2019 at 2:35 PM

The other week we heard a story about another club. It seems one knowledgeable member examined a newly-constructed control panel. He was disgusted at what he saw.

“You’ve not installed enough point switches,” he commented.

“Which ones are missing?” asked the chap who was fitting the panel to the layout.

“For a start, you’ve missed out one for that cross-over,” the self-appointed club exper...

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156. The Featherweight - June 2019

Posted on May 31, 2019 at 2:10 PM

While at the Farthing Gate show we heard about a member of another cub who came into the clubroom with a six-foot long lightweight baseboard. As one might expect, there were comments about it being too long to carry without inflicting a hernia. But it was indeed very light. He then brought in a second board, equally light, and fixed it to the first. The track was down. The tunnel mouth was in place. Blocks of foam gave a rough impression of how the landscape would look.

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155. Snow and More Snow - May 2019

Posted on April 30, 2019 at 2:15 PM

There were three snow scenes at the Merle exhibition. One had taken the simple solution. Everywhere was covered in white scenic scatter, deep and crisp and even. Only the rails remained uncovered. Obviously the frequent passage of trains had kept them clear during the recent snowstorm. But nothing else seemed to have moved since the blizzard had passed. Even the runners on the children’s toboggan left no ruts. The skiers left no tracks. Nobody had put a foot anywhere to violate ...

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154. Weighty Problems - April 2019

Posted on March 31, 2019 at 5:35 AM

There was a real expert on one of the layouts at the Salchester exhibition. He would explain to all and sundry why only certain engines were allowed to go along the lightly-laid branch line or enter the even lighter-laid lines in goods yards. He explained in great detail the GWR’s system for categorising the weight restrictions for their routes and how cab-side symbols were used to indicate the route availabilities of each of their locomotives. This was reflected in the livery detail...

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153. The show-runner - March 2019

Posted on February 28, 2019 at 5:45 AM

A few weeks ago we heard about a nearby club. For many years, the organisation of their show had revolved round one member. He knew how to do everything, be it putting up the banner on the front of the hall, getting leaflets printed, or placing posters in shops for miles around. Everybody else seemed quite happy with this situation. They just accepted that somehow all these tasks, and many more, would be completed on time, and were thankful that they were not involved in any of them.

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152. Speed-visiting - February 2019

Posted on January 31, 2019 at 6:20 AM

On our way back from the Whirtleborough show, Felicity commented on the speed at which some visitors go round an exhibition. It made her wonder what they’d actually seen. They’d either got photographic memories, took masses of photos to examine later, or they just didn’t look, study and assimilate. She wondered what they learnt and what benefit they got from attending.

“Very little, if anything, I should think,” Graham commented. “Perhap...

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151. Festina Lente - January 2019

Posted on January 1, 2019 at 1:00 PM

While at the Skelham club’s recent show, we heard some of the history of a layout they were exhibiting. It seems that it had been started several years previously, but the original team had hit snags and lost interest. Progress had stalled at the track and bare boards stage. After languishing in their store room for some time, a trio of new members got it out and decided they would complete it. So work resumed.

It wasn’t long before ballast was down and scene...

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