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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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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150. Show-and-Tell, and UFOs - December 2018

Posted on November 30, 2018 at 9:10 AM

As a change from constructing layouts, or standing around watching other members build layouts, or just sitting and talking, we heard recently that the Wraybury club had arranged an evening of show-and-tell. Every member was asked to bring in a model they’d built. It could be a wagon, or a coach, or a loco, a signal, or a signal box. They could be modified RTR, a kit, kit-bashed, or scratch-built. It didn’t matter what it was, or to what scale, or even if it was unfinished.

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149. Cottage Manufacturers - November 2018

Posted on October 31, 2018 at 7:00 AM

At last week’s meeting we heard two stories about ‘cottage’ manufacturers – those one-man operations that manufacture small quantities of specialist items. The first received an order for one of his kits. He hadn’t a complete kit in stock, so he made one up from bulk stocks of various components. He parcelled it up and took it to the post office. It had just been stamped when he realised that he’d not included a bag of the smallest castings. He went ba...

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148. May We Present - October 2018

Posted on September 30, 2018 at 2:30 PM

The other week we were discussing how exhibitors introduce their layouts to visitors: letting them know what the display represents, its scale and gauge, historical period, geographical location, what’s going, the control systems for locomotives, signals and other moving items, what special features to look for, and so on.


“Some layout teams seem to assume that every visitor has an encyclopaedic knowledge of both real and model railways,” Graham suggested. ...

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147. The Trainless Railway - September 2018

Posted on September 1, 2018 at 5:20 AM

While at the Catfield show, we got into conversation with a chap who claims to have an extensive model railway. He showed us photographs of it. In fact, it is a model of a whole town with a short length of double track down in the valley. All the buildings are from the same company’s cardboard kits. This makes for a scene where the architectural styles, building materials and colourings are uniform. Some are built as intended, but most have been modified or cross-kitted. The builde...

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146. From London to the Coast - August 2018

Posted on August 3, 2018 at 6:45 AM

We’d been discussing the Rumford show. One exhibitor was a fanatical builder. He was there with his latest creation. He completes at least one layout every year, sometimes two. Beautiful they are. The thing is, they’re pretty much all the same. Each is inspired by the SECR. They all have a similar track plan with, as near as damn it, identical buildings. He doesn’t change scale, or period, or season. The only things that are really different are the positions of the...

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145. Your Guide to the Show - July 2018

Posted on June 30, 2018 at 3:30 PM

On the train back from the Highsteads exhibition we all got out our souvenir show guides and started to read them. It was a thick publication, professionally put together, with lots of colour photos on gloss paper. It took us some time to work through it. They must have cost a lot to produce. Thankfully they was given away free on entry.


“I didn’t realise that the S-gauge layout had radio-activated uncouplers” Graham commented. “I wish I’d ...

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144. Railway Modelling for All - June 2018

Posted on May 31, 2018 at 4:35 AM

We had a layout at the Dewcliffe show. Across the aisle there was an excellent model of an outer suburban station, with two through platforms, a bay for reversing DMUs, and an avoiding line for down freight trains heading for the city. The whole thing was semaphore-signalled, with the lever frame at the front of the layout.


Quite early on the Saturday, a lad in a wheel chair arrived and was greatly taken by the layout. He soon noticed that across the front of the layout t...

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143. Join Up. Join Up - May 2018

Posted on April 30, 2018 at 6:45 AM

We were at the Plonkton show the other week. At the club stand there was a chap vigorously trying to attract new members. He collared one passer-by who had paused just momentarily in front of the stand.


“Are you a fellow railway modeller?” Mr Plonkton asked with great enthusiasm.


“Oh, yes,” was the reply, adding modestly, “I do a bit now and again.”


“Are you a member of a club?”


...

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