Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

London Festival The London Festival of Railway Modelling

Report #2: Saturday, April 1, 2006, continued

Ok, so where was I? Oh, yeah...

As soon as the public address system announced that the "early birds", those prepaid guests who get to rush in 15 minutes before the official 10am opening, were on their way to the exhibition halls, I dumped all my tools and other paraphanalia into the custom case and closed it up, pretending like there was absolutely nothing amiss in the world. Alas, as soon as the first group of little tykes gathered around the layout there was a little voice that asked "Excuse me. (even the kids are polite in London) Why aren't the trains moving?"

I was done for! I tried to explain that the trains were parked because there was a problem with the power supply...(confused look)... then I corrected myself to say that I had an accident with the trains and that they couldn't move at the moment (equally confused look)...then I took a deep breath and admitted that the control box was broken and that I hoped to fix the problem after the show closed...(disappointed looks all around). Then I asked the kids if they had seen the dinosaurs...WHERE? they all asked...and I was saved.

This went on all day long. Fortunately, about an hour into the event, a smiling gentleman approached with two very large coffee cups in his hands. Without hesitating an instant he handed me a coffee and said that he was sure that I could use it. Boy, did he have that right!

My coffee benefactor was none other than VECRR member Peter Ibbotson. He explained that he had trouble finding me because I wasn't listed in the official show guide. I was disappointed to hear that since I had paid the money to get listed. I'd have to check this out when I got a chance. Peter was "officially" helping out at the MERG display (Model Electronics in Railroading Group) in the other hall. He explained that since there were 15 other guys at the MERG stand, he could slip away pretty much any time he wanted during the day.

Peter also asked why the trains weren't working. I provided him with the long version of my short (circuit) story. His answer was to offer to bring a Märklin power pack the next day. I felt like hugging him but I felt that that would put too much stress on his British reserve. In a moment of lucidity I asked him to bring a power bar as well since I needed to plug the halogen light into the power transformer which meant that I needed at least two outlets.

As the day wore on, Peter came by at regular intervals with coffee. He even spelled me for a good bit of time so that I could go on potty breaks (at least that was my excuse...I was really wandering around - after a quick potty break - the halls taking in the sights and sounds of a distincly British model railroading show). Of course, I returned with coffees in hand for Peter. And so it went all day long.

The crowds were heavy and very appreciative. I met many modellers and train lovers who told me that they had some Z at home but had never thought of a track plan. Everyone took photos of the VEW and many even asked permission to do so. Amazing!

The couple who had helped me over the last kilometer to the show came by several times. They were especially appreciative of the VEW and wished me a very good holiday in London since they were not returning on Sunday. Wonderful hospitality!

A fellow exhibitor, an American who had recently been transfered by his employer to London, came by to see if he could help with my "why won't the trains work" problem. I explained that I couldn't do any toubleshooting since I only had one fuse left in the power transformer. Once it blew, that was it, no hope of running trains. Well, believe it or not, about 30 minutes later, he returned with a little bag of 250v 250 milliampere fuses. AmaZing! I only wish that I had written his name down so that I could thank him publicly here and in my future Ztrack report. (If you are reading this report by chance, send me an email!)

Did I say that the sun was shining in London? Well, we couldn't have had a more beautiful day for the show. Sunlight was streaming through the huge stained glass window and also through the translucent roofing material. I was told that the roof had been replaced due to a fire that had ravaged the Palace several years earlier. Soon, the sun was getting low on the horizon and the colors of the window had begun to take on a decidedly red hue. It was time to put the dust cover over VEW and rush out to get the shuttle bus before it was too late. However, once again, Peter Ibbotson came to the rescue. He came by to ask if I'd like a lift to King's Cross tube station. Are you kidding? You bet I would!

Peter had parked his Lexus in a lot not too far from the Palace. He explained to me that the lot for the general public was much further away and at the bottom of a rather steep climb. With the apparently difficult car access to the venue, I was impressed with the heavy turnout. The drive to King's Cross (which was on the way to his place, I was assured) took at least 20 minutes in heavy traffic. I was in awe of Peter's driving ability as he passed within whiskers of wiping out the side-view mirrors of cabs, buses and other motor vehicles on the narrow roads. Peter was a wealth of knowledge concerning the various buildings and other landmarks we passed along the way. For the curious amongst you, Peter is a software consultant and his Z railroad is DCC.

As I very carefully got out of his car at the tube station, Peter gave me very solemn instructions to keep to the left on my way to the Victoria line connection which was quite some distance away. Good thing I listened to him because the way to the Victoria line didn't even remotely resemble a pedestrian route, but more like a construction site and any wrong turn would have been disaster. Nothing beats local knowledge!

The ride home went fast and without incident. Marthe and I had a terrific supper at our hotel with our son, his fiancee and her sister. I seemed to have successfully gotten over my jet lag and hit the sack at a very reasonable 10pm local time, ready to leap to my feet the next morning at 6am and undertake another exciting day at the Festival.

There's still lots more to share so stay tuned for part 3.

Respectfully submitted by
Jeffrey MacHan
Chief Imagineer - VECRR
International Ambassador - Exporail

VECRR London Festival of Railway Modelling Sponsors

Exporail Micro-Trains Line Ztrack Magazine Märklin

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