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.

view:  full / summary

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...

Read Full Post »

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. ...

Read Full Post »

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...

Read Full Post »

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...

Read Full Post »

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 ...

Read Full Post »

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...

Read Full Post »

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?”


Read Full Post »

142. The Micro-exhibition - April 2018

Posted on March 31, 2018 at 3:05 PM

Last week Jim told us about a minor show he’d recently visited. We’d seen notices in the magazines for this show for a number of years, but none of us had actually attended one. Jim told us that at times the place was packed solid, which aroused our interest. Had we been missing a good show for all those years?

“When I got there I found the exhibition was in the ground floor rooms of a house that was the headquarters of a charity,” Jim told us. ...

Read Full Post »

141. Food for Thought - March 2018

Posted on February 28, 2018 at 4:20 PM

A few of us went as visitors to a show in Merle. We’d not been there very long when an argument broke out between a steward and the operators of one of the layouts. Shortly afterwards, the team packed up their layout and left, obviously disgruntled about something.

Later we found out that the refreshment people had told the organiser that even though it was still mid-morning they were running short of food. He had decided to reduce the meal ticket allocation to ever...

Read Full Post »

140. Now Top That - February 2018

Posted on February 1, 2018 at 10:10 AM

While at the Plonkton show, we heard of two of their members who were both competent craftsmen and excellent modellers. They brought their latest creation to each monthly meeting. There was great rivalry between them – a case of now-top-that. Each was striving to outdo the other in terms of difficulty of subject, accuracy of representation, and quality of finish. But above all, they were competing on the ingenuity of design.

It seems that early on there had been ca...

Read Full Post »