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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135. The Underground - September 2017

Posted on October 31, 2017 at 6:05 AM

There was one layout at the Catfield show that was of an ingenious double-deck design. The visible portion depicted a rural junction station. The lines in each direction curved and dropped to the lower level, where there was a complex of junctions and storage loops, all hidden from view of both public and operators. Some trains would disappear into the tunnel at the Edinburgh end, to re-appear some time later as the return working. Other trains, like loaded coal wagons would only run in t...

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137. A Pile of Paperwork - November 2017

Posted on October 31, 2017 at 5:55 AM

Have you seen all this?” our secretary had asked a couple of months ago as he spread out a whole sheaf of papers on the table. “This has all come from the organiser of the Salchester show.” We leafed through them and took our pick.


“This sheet is about meals and overnight accommodation arrangements,” Ken announced. “It wants to know who is vegetarian, vegan, or allergic to milk, gluten, nuts, and so on.”


“T...

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136. The Doubtful Daisy-chain - October 2017

Posted on October 1, 2017 at 6:00 AM

On arrival at the Wraybury show with our layout, we found that no electrical cables had been laid out, even though setting up was well under way.


“You’ll find a socket somewhere over there,” one of the organisers said, with a gesture that was wide enough to encompass most of the known universe. “You all have your own way of setting out cables, so we’re letting you get on with it.”


We erected the layout and ran out our ca...

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134. Strictly Not Entertaining - August 2017

Posted on July 31, 2017 at 2:40 PM

It’s not often that dance and model railways appear in the same sentence, but it happened last week. We’d been discussing Plonkton’s new layout – a beautifully-modelled grand terminus set in a county town. But it didn’t hold an audience for long.


At first we couldn’t work out why. But then it dawned. A passenger train came in, the loco was changed, and the train left. A freight would arrive, shunt and depart. The full potential of th...

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133. Get It Write - July 2017

Posted on July 1, 2017 at 1:45 PM

At the Dewcliffe show, the newly-appointed Editor of the Regional Federation Newsletter had a small stall and was making himself known. He was trying to meet as many officers from as many clubs as he could and persuade them to write short reports about what the clubs were up to and their future plans.


“Your predecessor always mucked up our contributions,” was a common complaint. “Some were so garbled that they were unintelligible,” another person sa...

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132. Spelling It Out - June 2017

Posted on June 1, 2017 at 3:40 AM

We’d been at the Catfields show. One exhibitor obviously had a thing about pre-grouping covered vans. On his ‘historical’ layout he’d got examples from most of the railway companies in the British Isles, each proudly displaying its company’s livery and lettering.


While the owner was on his lunch break, his understudy started to form up short groups of vans. When he saw the owner re-enter the hall, he marshalled the vans into a single train in...

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131. An Invitation Declined - May 2017

Posted on May 1, 2017 at 10:35 AM

You really ought to go to the Specialist Narrow-gauge Trade Show,” Fred was told by a friend he’d met recently. “But do bring plenty of cash and make sure your credit card is well-funded. There’ll be so many lovely things to buy.” Fred showed little enthusiasm.


“But you used to be such a regular visitor, and you’ve bought lots of stuff in the past,” said the friend. “We’ll all miss you.”


...

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130. Seeing Double - April 2017

Posted on March 31, 2017 at 2:55 PM

At the Whirtleborough show, we heard the Plonkton show manager again talking about his procedure for selecting layouts for his exhibition. He was adamant. “You mustn’t have more than one layout representing the same company or era. There must be a good mix of scales and gauges, and of operating styles at well.”


“I remember visiting one show where one builder was exhibiting two models of the same place. The key difference was that one was set in LM...

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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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