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Have just spent an enjoyable few hours at the Abingdon MRC annual event, an event that seems to be growing every year.
With the recent correspondence about exhibitions, it was good to see Abrail had a good balance of layouts and trade (roughly 50/50). With all the trade stands on the outside and the layouts in the centre of the hall it made for a logical and easy separation of the two as far as the public are concerned. The layouts were very good with a variety of gauges on display. It was good to see that virtually all the people running the various layouts were responding and talking to the public and welcoming young children. Also, it was good to see plenty of action on most layouts. I wonder if the exhibitors have been reading the modelling press recently?
As I have said in the past, I go for scenery as much as railway content and praise, indeed, must go to 'Nettlecombe' builders John and Jane Jacobs for their stunning village on their 009 layout, 'Nettlecombe' captures beautifully the countryside of my childhood and is a wonderful balance between railway and scenery.
My favourite layout of the day? well it had to go to 'Tecumseth Junction', an American themed layout. Now, I profess to knowing very little about American diesel locomotives, they all look pretty similar to me, but that could be levelled at many regions and countries. What attracted me to the layout was that it was DCC. The operator, Andrew Nibbs, was friendly and quite willing to talk about his considerable experience of DCC and, interestingly, the differences between running a home DCC layout and an exhibition DCC layout. For instance, his loco consists (double headers to you and me) were quite normal for prototypical US formations whereby one may see 2, 3 or 4 locos running together. Andrew told me he takes the motors, flywheels etc. out of the second loco for his exhibition layout as it would be quite time consuming to keep programming in and dissolving consists. Andrew's way means that the trains look realistic but he has a spare set of motors, flywheels etc., should he need them.
Although I have never been a great fan of US layouts the, DCC locos with their sound, lights and bells are very realistic and add another dimension to the layout. I must confess, though, that I would switch the bell sound off. One big difference between the US locos and British outline DCC with sound 'on board' is the price. The 'all singing, all dancing' US model costs only £80, whereas its British counterpart is retailing at around £130. I know all the arguments about production runs etc. but it does make one think.
As for the trade stands, there were plenty there from which to purchase bits and bobs. I do not like to be too critical but many of the 'shop representative' stands had locos and rolling stock but were a bit thin on lineside and accessories. I did not find one trade stall with a decent DCC section which I think is poor. DCC may not be for everyone but I am convinced it will be the dominant system in the near future (I remember as a 35mm film user saying that digital cameras would never catch on…Doh!), but this is the second show I have been to recently where the trade stands seem intent on pushing locos and rolling stock to the detriment of all the other things that make up model railways. I am sure there will be someone to contradict me but I am just relating my perceptions.
Anyway, Abrail was a very good day out and a well run exhibition. If it continues to grow like it has over the last few years, it may warrant two days. Well done to Abingdon MRC.