Putting a model railway exhibition together is a bit like a jigsaw. You have the rooms, the traders needing tables, and most importantly the layouts themselves. Some of these layouts will need a fixed size; others may be modular, so can be adjusted to fix the space available. And there are bragging rights – who gets in the main hall and who in the side rooms?
I have spent several evenings putting together a floor plan for the ESNG show. I find that using a CAD program on the computer helps get things right. At least you can rely on the measurements. I have a CAD program on my laptop, but I find it easiest to use 3rd PlanIt, the excellent track planning software. This is designed to draw rectangles and other regular shapes and works very well for putting a show together.
And it is easier to plan when you have exhibited somewhere before. Having used St Joseph’s School last year, it became easier to visualise how things would be set out. So first we get the large immovable objects in place – the catering area is next to the kitchen, our N-mod circuit goes next to it in the middle of the large hall, and the Berkshire NGS group’s N-mod goes into the largest classroom. The N Gauge Society stand and shop have a classroom to themselves – same one as last year. They seemed to fill it well enough!
Next a surprise. I thought Neil’s Bleak Moor would fit across the end of a classroom. But 24′ is bigger than the school, so it has to go along one wall of the main hall. Then we fill in the traders in the main hall. N-Scale CH and Invicta get two slots, the former as a club member and regular trade, the latter as our ‘general’ trader for this year. And Winco go near the fire exit so Benson can stretch all four legs.
We then distribute the remaining exhibits in the remaining space. Burshaw North Western looks a bit tight in one classroom, so they might have to go in the main hall, and Benson relegated to a classroom, adjacent to the fire exit there. The Japanese interurban layout Kuritu is small and narrow, but viewable from both sides. This is a little different from most layouts and needs a little thought. And Ian’s little 4′ x 2′ layout needs to go somewhere where it is not ‘swamped’ by bigger exhibits.
A little shuffling gets most exhibits in place, trying to have at least one layout and one trader in each classroom. The only problem is my N-Club USA layout, Roselle Park. It will be running by April, but far from complete. It would have been good to have it joined up to our N-mod circuit, but I’m not sure there’s room. In the end, I opt for a display in with the Berkshire Group. It may be a non-working exhibit, and I’ll put together some posters on the prototype and the N-Club modular construction. This does free me to do the Exhibition Manager’s job around the place!
So the floor plan looks OK…. But I’ll be looking at it again over the next week or two to see whether we can shuffle things around a little.
What prompted this post? I visited the Erith show today, that is billed as the 2nd largest model railway show in London. I enjoyed the layouts, but I wondered whether they could have planned it a little better (typical arrogance of an Exhibition Manager of a small show, criticising a big one…. ) The points I noted, though, were applicable to all sizes of exhibition:
- Don’t overfill (or underfill) rooms. One looks cluttered and it’s difficult to get to see things, the other looks badly planned.
- Linked to this, have wide corridors between layouts. If there are exhibits both sides, you need room on both sides to view, plus space for two people to pass in the corridor between them. Ideally, you need to allow two wheelchairs to pass each other, or more likely one wheelchair and one person on foot.
- Watch the lighting. Direct sunlight is not good for models, and may cause track to expand too much. But brightly lit rooms are better than dingy rooms. If it is too dark, layouts need their own lighting to be fully appreciated.
- Don’t have any rooms dominated by traders. A mix with a majority of layouts is best. Otherwise it is easy to miss layouts.
- Also mix the quality of layouts and traders. Inevitably some are ‘better’ than others and it is important to give show space to young modellers, beginners and Thomas the Tank Engine. If the stands are mixed, people are more likely to stop and view.
- Model building demonstrations are excellent. I need to think how to get this feature into our own ESNG show.
- Plan the entrance area well – in the winter months it can get very cold for the exhibitors near the open entrance lobby.
If anyone from Erith reads this, I really DID enjoy the show. But the above points made me think about how one plans it all out!