Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

London Festival The London Festival of Railway Modelling

Report #6

Well, dear fellow Valeasians, we are sadly coming closer to the end of this wonderful tale of adventure at the Festival. Let's wrap up the day's events.

During the fading hours of the Festival, several interesting visitors came by. One gentleman remarked having seen the VEC in Model Railroader Magazine. He wondered why I hadn't brought the entire layout. That gave me the opportunity to explain my role as Exporail Ambassador and the need to keep the VECRR under glass at the Museum. I showed him the custom case for VEW which allowed me to fly to London with the layout "safely" stowed away in the baggage comparment. I pointed out that the cost of shipping the VECRR to Sinsheim was $2200, to Utrecht about $4000 and that the bill for extra luggage for VEW (26 kg) was $40! Any other questions?

Quite a few visitors were interested in Micro-Trains and asked where they could buy MTL products. The answer, at least as far as London was concerned, was M. G. Sharp. They were not at the show. Maybe Eric Smith should encourage them to participate at next year's event, especially now that MTL has a new range of track and leading edge locos and rolling stock. Too bad that the GP35 and oval of track they promised me didn't show up. I'm sure that MTL would have been a hit at the show.

About 3pm on Sunday afternoon a lovely young lady armed with a Canon EOS 20D digital camera stopped in front of Val Ease West. She held back about 10 feet and just stared at the layout. After a time, she approached and asked if she could take some pictures. Certainly, by all means! Well, she must have spent half an hour at the layout taking pictures from all angles, close-ups of the trains, buildings, and the dinosaurs. She asked all about the layout and how it was made. We were having a lovely time when another gentleman arrived, also decked out with a large digital camera. They knew each other. It appears that they were both reporters for local newspapers. The gentleman wasn't interested in the layout but the young lady was fascinated. I never did get the name of her paper (a local weekly) but I was happy that there was some journalistic interest in my work.

I was asked a myriad of questions over the weekend. Most involved the time it took to make a layout like VEW. Several people wanted to build a coffee table or shelf layout for their flats. Others wanted to know about Exporail and quite a few mentioned that they would try to include a visit to the Museum on their next trip to the Colonies. The kids wanted to know if the train could go any faster, naturally.

But the most intriguing question I was asked came from a local model club member. After chatting for a few minutes he asked, "What is in it for you?" That really took me off guard. I had to think a bit before I answered. I'm in it for the pleasure of experiencing contact with people of all ages from all around the world. Sure, I like to share the passion of a hobby but, deep down, I just like meeting people. My model railroading adventures have certainly gotten me out of the house, no doubt about it.

Well, the day had come to a close. Just like our North American shows, several vendors and layout groups had started to pack up with 15 minutes to go. I didn't bother since I didn't have much to pack up and there were still visitors in the area. But once the PA announced that the show was closed, I went to work packing up the trains, collecting my posters, coiling the cables and carefully packing everything inside VEW and then transfering VEW into the custom case.

Just as I was closing the last combination lock on the case, crewmember Peter Ibbotson came along to collect his throttle and power bar. I asked him if he'd mind dropping me off at King's Cross Station once again. No trouble, he replied. Just at that moment, who came along but Marthe, my son, his fiancée and her sister. Very thoughtfully, they had decided to come and pick me up.

Thanks Peter for your generous offer of a lift but the family is here and it's time to go. Hopefully, we'll meet again...Paris in 2007, maybe?

************ Some last thoughts *****************

My Festival experience was one of the best so far, right up there with my NMRA championship in 2001, San Jose with the Sutfins in 2000, and Sinsheim and Utrecht with Terry Sutfin.

Believe it or not, the registration package for next year's show arrived in the mail on Thursday! It's something to think about. I know that Marthe wants to return to London. She had a terrific trip and we had a wonderful week.

I never did find a British Railway pocket watch. In fact, I couldn't even find any on eBay. Very strange!

The rest of our trip in London included several highlights:

  • a visit to the British Museum (free entry), seeing the Rosetta Stone,
  • high tea,
  • watching the crowds watching the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace,
  • taking the bus tour of London to see the sights: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the parliament buildings, etc.,
  • a 30 minute ride (flight)on the London Eye,
  • a tour boat ride along the Thames to see London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Millenium Bridge, the Tower of London, the Globe Theatre, and many other historically important sites,
  • a visit to the London aquarium (next to the Eye),
  • several cab rides,
  • wonderful dining at Uno's (Japanese) and the Landmark Hotel (Indian buffet) and a French restaurant that served chocolate pudding that was to die for,
  • a visit to T. Rex at the Museum of Natural History (free entry),
  • a visit to London's premier rubber stamp store (across from the British Museum on Burly Street),
  • browsing at York (London) Cameras (Canon specialists) and finding a lens hood for my 10-22mm ultra-wide angle zoom lens,
  • several stops at downtown cafes for lattés,
  • browsing at Alexanders on Saville Row,
  • shopping at Harrod's,
  • experiencing a $30 fish & chip dinner at Harrod's "lunch bar",
  • watching the commuter trains arrive and depart at Victoria Station,
  • discovering Boots Pharmacy where I bought throat spray, cough syrup and lozenges (my scratchy throat flared up into full-fledged strep throat, with enough coughing to keep me up three nights running. Finally antibiotics brought the darn thing under control),
  • taking a trip in a London ambulace and spending 3 hours in Queen Elizabeth Hospital Emergency Ward. Marthe had slipped getting into a cab and suffered a rather nasty gash on her shin. The step was rather high and the soles on her new shoes were rather slick. No matter what they say about British health care, the ambulance service and the emergency care was top notch. (Note: Marthe is doing very well, thanks to the attention she received at the hospital in London),
  • and of course, attending our son's wedding in a charming Victorian registry office on a beautiful sunny day and meeting our new daughter-in-law's parents. (Note: Marthe hurt herself AFTER the wedding and we all managed to be on time for the celebratory supper at 6:30 pm).
The flights back home went relatively well. KLM is recognized for their customer service. I did notice that one passenger in particular was concerned about my coughing, but then again, I noticed that lots of people were coughing.

The final leg of our return trip was on a charter bus from Montréal airport to Ottawa train station where we took a cab to our home. It was about an hour after arriving at home that I noticed that our passports were missing. I must have dropped them in the bus. Try as I might, there was no way to reach the bus driver since KLM's service desk was closed. When I reached them the next day, they gave me a completely useless phone number. Then, just as I was about to report our missing passports to the Canadian governement, we received a phone call from the bus driver. He had found our passports and could drop them off in a few minutes since he actually lived nearby.

How about that for a happy ending!


Thank you for letting me share this adventure with you. I hope that you have enjoyed reading these episodes as much as I have had reliving the wonderful experiences of the Festival and London in the Spring. Thanks to Peter Ibbotson and to my generous corporate sponsors without whose support I'd be doing my taxes instead of flying around the world having so much fun.

This is a great hobby!

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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