Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan
The London Festival of Railway Modelling
Report #3I had set the alarm for 6am on Sunday April 2 but I was up before sunrise due to my excitement about returning to the Alexandra Palace for the second and final day of the Festival of Railway Modelling.
Since breakfast wasn't served until 7am at the hotel (Victoria Park Plaza) dining room, I spent a few moments looking over the photos I had taken the previous day. I realized that I hadn't taken a shot of the trains in Victoria Station nor of the impressive Palace building. I made a mental note to take the time that morning to get the missing photos, especially since I wasn't burdened with dragging the VEC case around the tube. My only apprehensions for the day concerned jury-rigging a solution to my "train not moving" situation and getting packed up fast enough to catch the last shuttle bus from the Palace at 5:30pm. (I really had to suggest to the organising committee to run the shuttle until 6pm for exhibitors who needed more than 5 minutes to pack up!)
At 7:30 am I set off down the street to Victoria Station. The inbound commuter crowds were flowing off the trains in waves. I gingerly picked my way throw the flow until I reached the gates to the Victoria tube line. I deftly ran my day pass through the turnstile ticket validation machine, and moved through the gate as though I had been living in London for years. A few seconds later I was standing on the Victoria North platform waiting with hundreds of other Londoners for the next train. The time-to-next-train was flashing on an overhead monitor. The train arrived right on time and I entered the train and took up a standing position across from the sliding doors. There was no point fighting for a seat since the next stop was my connection for the Picadilly train.
I negociated the Picadilly labyrinth without much trouble and took a seat on a bench at the platform. It didn't take more than 2 seconds before a dreadlocked-adorned fellow sat next to me and asked me if I was an American. (It must have been my VECRR jacket that gave him that impression). When I replied that, no, I was from Canada, he joyfully declared that he had been to Canada, Toronto to be specific, and that he really loved Canada. Without losing a beat, he then asked me if I could use a cell phone (mobile in the UK)? "No thanks," I said, "I have everything I need." Before he could close the deal I was saved by the arrival of the Northbound train.
If my recent encounter with a mobile peddlar wasn't enough to whip up my insecurities, I noticed that at the next station, the person standing opposite from me had three packages tucked behind his legs. At the next stop, he bent down and grabbed two bags leaving the third behind. Holy cow! Now my insecurities were starting to clamour for my attention. My mind was filled with images of the London bombings and the repeated warnings heard over airport Public-address systems to report unattended bags. Not wanting to make a scene, I decided that I'd let some other consciencious citizen bring the orphan package to the attention of the authorities. Me, I made a descreet exit from the car at the next station! Better safe than sorry, I rationalized to myself. What was an extra 10 minutes wait for the next train when faced with potential dismemberment (that was unlikely since my imaginary bomb was only 5 feet from me - survival would not have been an option).
There were no explosions during the remainder of my trip to Wood Green station and I didn't read the following day of any police raids on terrorist cells in downtown London. Still, I was convinced that I had had a close call.
Once again, about 35 minutes later, I found myself standing at the exit of the Wood Green Station wondering when the shuttle bus would show up. Once again, I was greeted by a fellow traveller heading to the train show. This time I was met by my American friend who had hunted down the fuses the day before. This guy had no intention of waiting for the shuttle bus, he knew which regular bus line to take to the Palace. Thanks to his local knowledge I had the pleasure of riding one of the new double-deckers that London has been introducing over the last few years. The bus took about 10 minutes to negociate the narrow and steep road up to the Palace and dumped its contents at the entrance to the Palm Court. This time I stayed behind to take a couple of photos of the main building, but not too long since I noticed that my American friend wasn't heading up the steps to the main entrance but making his way around the side of the building to the delivery entrance. So off I ran to catch up, arriving at the door just in time to flash my exhibitor badge at a security guard and slip inside.
As I entered the building, I made my way to the public entrance to ask one of the ladies selling the show guide if it would be possible to have a complementary copy in my capacity as exhibitor. She didn't know if that was allowed but immediately set off to check with her superiors. I didn't even have time to wander five feet from the main entrance when she came back and handed me a copy on the condition that I not tell any of the other exhibitors (especially those who had already paid for their copies).
I was curious to know why people were telling me that I wasn't listed in the guide. I turned to the list of exhibitors and immediated spotted my listing under "Exporail - Canadian Railway Museum". That was fine with me but it also explained why my "Z" buddies couldn't find me...they were looking in the Layouts section for the VECRR. Well, I couldn't have both listings so it only made sense to register under the name of Exporail, the organisation I was there to promote.
It was 30 minutes to opening and I had the time to wander around the West Hall also known as the specialist trade hall. Unfortunately, the tarps were still covering most of the displays. I'd have to find a way to visit the show later (thinking of my pal, Peter Ibbotson). The cantine was open and there was no one waiting in line (or queuing, as they say in the UK). At 9:45 I was back at stand #38, coffee in hand, ready for the mad rush. There was still the problem of the "trains-that-don't-run". All I could do was wait for one or both of my helpers to show up with a Märklin power pack.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode...
Respectfully submitted by
VECRR London Festival of Railway Modelling Sponsors
Stay tuned for Report #4 of the London Festival AdventureZ | Return to London Festival 2006 Home.