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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117. Leaflets Go Again - March 2016

Posted on March 1, 2016 at 4:45 AM

We’d been at the Barton Bridge show. Just before closing time on the Sunday, Fred went over to the table where exhibition leaflets were on display. He collected the ones for our show, and then tidied up those for other events. One of the stewards from the host club told him not to bother.


“What are you going to do with them?” Fred asked.


“Bin them,” the steward replied. “What else?”


“What a waste. Can I take them?”


“Do what you want. They’re no use to us. They’re not for our show. What do you want them for anyway?”


“I’ll keep them safe and put them out at the next show I attend,” Fred explained. “That way, they get a second chance to be picked up.” The steward looked puzzled. He could only see them being used for shopping lists.


Now the Plonkton club had made sure that there were plenty of their leaflets. There were three piles: one printed on pink paper, the others on pastel blue and pale yellow. Fred collected them all together.


“Do they do this so that you can choose whether to attend a pink, a yellow or a blue show?” he enquired with a smile. The steward looked on blankly. He didn’t see any difference between pink and yellow exhibitions. And he definitely didn’t attend blue shows.


“Look at this lot,” Fred said, holding up the stack. “There must be at least a hundred and fifty here. How much has that cost them? If you chuck them out, that’s a complete waste of money and resources.”


It took Fred some time to convince the steward of the possibility that there might any benefit from recycling residual leaflets from show to show. Now Fred had to accept that there was no advantage to that particular club’s show for this year, but it was a benefit to the entire show circuit, as a whole, over the annual cycle. It might help to grow their collective audiences.


Fred pointed out that the Regional Federation had a display-board with transparent pockets in which posters for forthcoming exhibitions were placed. The board was passed on from show to show. Why couldn’t something similar be done for leaflets at the same time? Was it too much trouble? Was a box of leaflets too heavy to move? He thought it was no more so than the display-board.


The show steward offered no answers. He quickly busied himself on other aspects of clearing up at the end of an exhibition.


“Is this passing-on of leaflets something we should take up with the Regional Federation?” our chairman asked. And there was general agreement that it was a matter worth raising at their next meeting.


“Should we take the initiative ourselves and collect residual leaflets at shows Fred doesn’t attend? We could pass them on at club meetings.” We agreed that this was a good idea, but it remains to be seen how thoroughly it is implemented.


116. All for Authenticity - February 2016

Posted on February 1, 2016 at 2:20 PM

Modellers strive to recreate the world in miniature. Some years ago, one layout at the Whirtleborough show had a little bonfire, flickering realistically, with a wisp of smoke lazily drifting upwards. “It’s not smoke oil,” the operator announced, “but a cigarette held in a metal tube below the baseboard. The heat from the lamps pulls the smoke up by convection.”


“Can’t have cigarettes being smoked in a public place,” said the venue’s Health & Safety jobsworth, who just happened to be passing at the time. “It’s against the law.”


“They’re not being smoked by anyone,” the operator protested. “They are just smouldering.”


“You still can’t do it.”


“But they are herbal cigarettes, not tobacco.”


“What sort of herbs? Does the drug squad know?”


It took quite some time for the operator to satisfy Mr. Jobsworth that it was both safe and legal. He went away, unable to be specific as to which regulation was being breached, but convinced in his own mind that a serious crime was being committed.


“But realism can cause problems,” Jim said, recalling an incident at another show he had attended. “About half an hour before opening time, the fire alarm went off. ‘Disconnect your layouts from the mains and leave the building,’ cried the organiser. We all trooped out.


“Through the windows we could see the caretaker staring up at a smoke detector and examining a Gauge 1 layout underneath it.” Jim continued. “Shortly afterwards a False Alarm was declared and we were allowed back in.


“Then the alarm went off again and we evacuated a second time. Once more the area of the Gauge 1 layout was the centre of the caretaker’s interest. But nothing amiss was discovered and we trooped back in again.


“This time the caretaker and the exhibition manager stood next to the Gauge 1 as we all rushed to finish our preparations. The layout under suspicion depicted a diesel stabling point controlled by DCC. As the exhibitor powered up the layout, the locos emitted the appropriate sounds. First the oil, vacuum and air pumps and then the starter motors kicked in. As all the engines purported to be springing to life, they spewed forth plumes of prototypical exhaust. And the fire alarm went off once more. But the culprits were now identified. They were banned from using smoke-oil for the rest of the show, much to the dismay of their builder, who was most proud of the realistic puther that his creations had been designed to give out.”


“Now we’ve got smoke and sound,” Bill mused, “I wonder what the next advance will be. Visitors being showered with soot, ash and glowing cinders from model steam locomotives? All in the cause of authenticity, you understand,” he added with a wry smile.


“It’ll have to be smell,” Jim joked. “Little whiffs of steam oil, hot brake blocks, fishy smells from the harbour, the stink of rotting seaweed. Computer controlled, of course.”


“What I’d like to see,” the chairman mused, “Is little people that open the doors, and get on and off the coaches. And shunting with horses. Now there’s a challenge.”


“That’s not all horses do,” he added, holding his nose and making an appalled face. And with suitably disgusted merriment, we all agreed with that.


115. Who Needs to Plan? - January 2016

Posted on January 2, 2016 at 5:25 AM

At the Friday evening set-up at the recent Highsteads show, the layout opposite ours was in total disarray. They seemed to be short of both baseboards and manpower. Later we found out that the layout manager never clearly announces which members of his team are to attend each day, and in whose cars they and the layout pieces are to travel. All the arrangements are made in one-to-one conversations, and he commits everything to memory.


“That sounds as if the layout manager thought he was controlling a spy ring,” Fred observed with a smile. “Maybe each operator was only told what he needed to know, and was kept in the dark about the overall plan and everybody else’s role in it. Perhaps he did not want information to fall into the wrong hands, just like in espionage novels.”


It seems that the layout manager’s arrival at Highsteads had been delayed and no other member of his team knew enough of the arrangements to make alternative plans. They did eventually sort themselves out, but being ready was a close run thing on the Saturday morning.


Perhaps the layout manager was not a very good planner,” Jane suggested. “If he didn’t make plans widely know, nobody was in a position to criticise them.”


While discussing this over lunch at Highsteads with some other exhibitors, we heard of a different club and layout manager who took a contrasting approach. Once he knew which operators and cars were available for each day, he’d draw up a Travel Plan, setting out drivers, their passengers and cargo. Copies were circulated a couple of weeks before the show. And woe betide any team member who hadn’t read and acted upon them.


Another sheet gave participants all the information they would need about the exhibition: address of venue, name of exhibition manager and his mobile number, dates and times of opening for exhibitors and for public, the ‘team sheet’ for each day, their pick-up and arrival times, arrangements for unloading and loading, car parking, lunch and drink arrangements, and so on. Every team members’ address and phone numbers were also included.


“This seems like administrative over-enthusiasm on his part,” Paul commented, dismissively. “Totally unnecessary. He’s just a control freak.”


We were told this procedure had come into its own when the layout manager was taken ill. Everybody in his team could find out quickly what he was down to do and when, so that alternative arrangements could be made with the minimum of fuss. Even the reserve member knew at once who was picking him up, at what time and where. The weekend went just as smoothly as when the layout manager was there. Indeed, it even drew questions as to why they needed a layout manager in the first place.


But of course, for arrangements to run smoothly, in spite of last minute problems, someone has to sit down and systematically draw up the scheme, and then confirm with his team that all was do-able, and they were happy to put the plan into operation.


“It can be a problem for layout managers to find the middle way,” our chairman observed. “Super-efficiency can be off-putting. But on the other hand, incompetence can be more disastrous. The former only annoys some of the exhibition team, while the latter can jeopardise the standing of the layout and the club with both public and exhibition managers.” We agreed that getting the balance right was indeed a fine judgement. As our chairman put it: “Acting like an 007 is no way to deal with an 00-16.5 !”


114. Superfluous Operators? - December 2015

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 12:50 AM

While at the Wraybury show, we overheard an animated conversation between two visitors. One was an exhibition organiser, the other was the manager of a layout he’d invited to his show. The former was questioning the size of the operating team for the latter’s layout. “It’s far more than is necessary” he complained. “We can’t afford free-loaders.”


He acknowledged that the layout information leaflet did give the team size, and the floor plan showed how they were disposed around the layout, and their roles. But he was not convinced just how many people needed to be involved in the various aspects of the presentation.


“Cut the number down,” he insisted. “We can supply chaps to help you out over lunchtime. The people I have in mind pick up layout operations quite quickly.”


“You realise that they’ll need to attend training sessions at our clubroom,” the layout manager pointed out. “It took several hours for even the best of our members to become sufficiently fluent to perform in public.” But the show organiser saw thing differently. He wasn’t into ‘quality of performance’, just keeping something running.


Now we’ve seen the layout in question and it is unusual in several respects, not least the provision of team members dedicated to greeting visitors, explaining what was happening, showing them details they might otherwise miss, and answering their questions. This leaves the operators backstage to concentrate on running trains to a demanding and intricate schedule. The chaps out front engaging with the audience wae an integral part of the original concept of the layout, and without them the layout looses one of its essential features.


“If we don’t have a full team” the layout manager explained, “it would be like staging Romeo without Juliet; The Lonely Gentleman of Verona, Goldilocks and the Two Bears, Snowhite and the Four Dwarves, Three Brides for Five Brothers, or Ali Baba and the Zero Thieves. All are entirely logical, but each is lacking essential components that provide a reason for performing them in the first place.


Had the organiser seen the layout for himself? He hadn’t. Had he watched the video? Oh no. Why was the layout invited? He’d just heard good reports of it and how popular it had been with visitors. So popular, in fact, that the informants had not realised that the ‘explainers’ weren’t just chatting with the public to stop themselves getting bored while waiting their turn to drive.

The show organiser could not believe dedicated PR people were all that important. But it was an aspect of the layout that visitors really seemed to appreciate. Even if they had approached the layout with no great enthusiasm, they left with a far better understanding of what the scene portrayed, the working of industrial sidings, and ways of depicting aspects of both on their own models. Many went away smiling, delighted with the attention they had received, the information so freely given, and the inspiration available.


“Isn’t this the difference between an exhibition and a show?” the chairman asked. “The former is like an old-fashioned museum, where visitors had to make sense of the displays all on their own, with a little help from printed labels. On the other hand, shows are where exhibitors help others to improve their modelling. This involves both talking and listening.


“Some layouts permit it, and have operators sufficiently skilled, that driving and talking can take place simultaneously. However,” he went on, “for many exhibits, concentrating on driving precludes interacting with the audience, and visa versa. Don’t you think a dedicated person out front is a great advantage?” And we had to agree, he’d got a point there.


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.