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Judging small layouts
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davidbromage



Joined: 22 Oct 2006
Posts: 355
Location: Brisbane, Australia

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 5:49 am    Post subject: Judging small layouts Reply with quote

At every exhibition I have been to, with the exception of the DEMU Showcase for obvious reasons, award winning layouts have always been big with a lot of "wow factor". Judges seem to ignore small layouts regardless of the quality or attention to detail. In fact one judge dismissed small/micro layouts as just "pretentious dioramas".

In recent months I have spoken to several exhibition managers about the lack of small layouts showing the public the internediate step between the "train set" and the typical giant club exhibition layout. It seems we're not alone in this thinking and some way to encourage building small layouts is needed, although the consensus seems to be the judges are unlikely to take any notice of them unless there is a separate small layout category.

What would be a set of objective criteria for judging an operating small layout? Quality of scenery/structures is fairly easy to judge objectively. But how can a judge make an objective assessment of operation and ingenuity, especially if said judge just doesn't "get" small layouts?

Cheers
David
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iandrewmartin



Joined: 22 Oct 2006
Posts: 21
Location: Ballarat, Victoria Australia

PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey David

For exhibition managers I suppose the big draw cards are the big layouts, with long mainline runs, etc...

However, I must say, and my kids agree perhaps because of my liking for them, that small layouts are the way to go. My daughter is desperate for us to have a small layout that we can take to shows.

I would be happy to have the time to simply finish the one that I have at the moment and then move on to learning and perfecting the handlaying of track for the next layout.

However, most people believe that the only way to go is to run round and round when they first see the hobby in the flesh. Because I believe that all they see is the train that runs round and round.

Perhaps it is we the makers of small layouts who need to make sure that they understand the delight that can be had with a small, well designed layout. First mile, last mile and all that.

My disjointed thoughts coming at you from a balmy Ballarat, where we are about to get a really big thunderstorm late into the night.
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Jordan



Joined: 27 Oct 2006
Posts: 1388

PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 3:53 am    Post subject: Re: Judging small layouts Reply with quote

davidbromage wrote:
... award winning layouts have always been big with a lot of "wow factor". Judges seem to ignore small layouts regardless of the quality or attention to detail. In fact one judge dismissed small/micro layouts as just "pretentious dioramas".

...how can a judge make an objective assessment of operation and ingenuity, especially if said judge just doesn't "get" small layouts?


Personally I'm very wary of all this "Judging" business and Layout competitions and awards... a bit like Film or Restaurant Critics... who do these people think they are, that their opinion counts any more than anyone else's?!?
Your comment about "getting" a certain style of layout is also most important, and extendable to other types of layout too:- what if the Judge is a staunch British-outline Steam fan - can he objectively survey a US-outline Diesels layout and 'judge' it without bias? I think not... Rolling Eyes

I think once people get too far into this 'competition' side of the Hobby, they have lost all sense of just getting fun and enjoyment out of it. Confused
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Blackcloud Railways



Joined: 25 Oct 2006
Posts: 2052
Location: Sandbach UK

PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 4:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Judging small layouts Reply with quote

Jordan wrote:
I think once people get too far into this 'competition' side of the Hobby, they have lost all sense of just getting fun and enjoyment out of it. Confused


That's true to an extent, but without the competition currently being run by Steve Warrington in conjunction with the Telford NG '11 exhibition I would not have ventured into 1/12th scale.

Having built my entry I have now started two more modules to go with it, these are not intended for the competition and do not conform to the laid down dimensions but will join onto my competition entry so that it becomes a viable layout... Which would not exist were it not for the competition.

As a newcomer to the scale/gauge combination I have no expectations of prizewinning and only entered because I like building layouts.

The point being that some competitions can stimulate further interest in the hobby.
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ruedetropal



Joined: 22 Oct 2006
Posts: 830
Location: Accrington, Lancashire

PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

competition thes days tends to be a turn off, but I do like a challenge, and I am also planning a module for the challenge laid down by Steve, but owing to other events going on will probably not be able to enter competion and take to Telford. I was already planning a new layout for next year at Rawtenstall, and this challenge just adds to the fun.
I suppose because my modelling is very different, it doesn't attract the same type of attension as more convential layouts, and it upsets me that so many exhibitions have a very limited range and variety of layouts and are crying out for something different. Continental/American and narrow gauge layouts tend be very badly represented at exhibitions, unless the exhibition manager is open minded, but there are too many in the hobby with a very narrow view on what constitutes an exhibition layout.
This weekend is Wigan exhibition, and as I can check the club website for details, I can see that for me therre is very little to interest me. I like the show, but given the weather might give it a miss this year.
I sometimes wonder if this narrowness of type of layout on show might not be helping the hobby.
In my opininion I would like to see some guidelines, suggesting that there should be a variety of scales, gauges, countries, and possibly a guaranteed few layouts not previously seen in the area. In the North west there was a central listing of available layouts, but this is no longer maintained. Such a list would make the task of planning an exhibition easier.
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Simon Dawson
Will try anything once, looking for the ultimate easy to set up portable exhibition layout, preferably French narrow gauge and with lots going on, not necessary on the rails.

http://www.rue-d-etropal.com
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jim s-w



Joined: 31 Aug 2010
Posts: 46
Location: solihull/stourbridge

PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What do you mean by small?

Size of a box file? Less than 15 feet?

With shows moving from schools and church halls where there are nooks and crannies to fill and into gyms the small layouts are less attractive to show organisers because they are expensive!

Think about it. My layout will have 60ft of scenic, 3 vehicles and a team of about 7 to 10 people.

For the same frontage, lets say you fill it with 5 foot layouts. Thats 2 people each, and 1 vehicle each. total 24 people and 12 vehicles.

Having said that - I do agree that shows should have a broad range, I actually thing the opposite of you though in that I find shows have far too many small layouts and really spectacular layouts are in short supply.

The other thing is that the unofficial boundaries are blurring. It used to be micro layouts are very highly detailed and big layouts are 'fun but dumb' at least in the detail stakes. However with the new generation of very highly detailed very big layouts such as Liverpool Lime Street, are the little uns struggling to offer anything different?

Just my 2p

Jim
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Blackcloud Railways



Joined: 25 Oct 2006
Posts: 2052
Location: Sandbach UK

PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

While the big and spectacular layout is, without question, going to be a crowd puller and work out cheaper (foot for foot) than the same frontage of small layouts it is unlikely to convince newcomers to the hobby and those considering taking it up that they can build a layout as an advance from the toy trains temporarily set up on the dining table.

A small layout, ie one that can be transported, set up and operated single-handedly, is far more likely to convince such newcomers that they can do it too. And we need newcomers to the hobby, it's hard enough getting youngsters away from computer games as it is and a lack of suitable layouts to tempt them into having a go themselves does nothing to help.

As Simon has posted, shows such as Wigan can find themselves with an expensive venue, filled with big layouts, but nothing to interest avid modellers because there's a limit to how many times you can watch a train go round and round in circles. Very often large layouts have plenty of sidings full of wagons but only use the main line circuits, the pointwork might as well be soldered up solid and the yards just part of the scenery! I will not be going to Wigan either but I will be going to Prestatyn instead where there is a small show the same weekend, with small layouts and much better opportunity to have conversations with the operators.

A good mix for a local club event is one or two big layouts, as the crowd pleasers, backed up by as many smaller layouts as the venue will accommodate. This is what I have aimed for over the previous three years at Crewe and all three shows have turned a healthy profit (average 2K) which was divided between the charities we have supported.

As posted elsewhere on this forum the fourth CRM exhibition has been cancelled but this is nothing to do with the viability of what is basically a small layout show.

Apologies for the long winded post, but this is a topic I feel passionate about and, even though I am also actively involved with large modular layouts as well, I have to stand up and be counted in favour of one-man layouts.
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jim s-w



Joined: 31 Aug 2010
Posts: 46
Location: solihull/stourbridge

PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Bob

I dont think there is any link at all between the size of the layout and the operational interest. Some small layouts are just as dull to operate as some large ones.

With so many shows these days there is also no reason why there cant be a specific small layout show. (anyone here remember Kettering Micro Diesel?) I do wish though that people would stop insisting that because there are not that many youngsters in the hobby there are a lack of newcomers. Theres always a steady influx of newcomers to the hobby its just they are not young. This is not a childrens hobby. Its just not cheap (or sadly, instant) enough!

I think every show should definately have something that makes people think 'i can do that' but a show where people go home thinking 'i have paid to get to (and into) this show and its just like what I have at home' isnt going to cut the mustard either. How many total newbies go to model railway shows anyway? I suspect most people are already involved in the hobby before they ever go to a show. Sure you will get some locals who come along for a day out but they are never going to take up modelling anyway. If I go to the Severn Valley for the day I have a nice time but I am not going to start restoring a 9f in my shed!

Yes a show should have something acheivable but it should have unacheivable too. We are in the entertainment business putting on shows. How many other branches of entertainment just show you what you have at home?

Cheers

Jim
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giles b



Joined: 25 Oct 2006
Posts: 2228
Location: London

PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I visited a show recently that I go to each year. This time the organisers had gone for fewer, but larger layouts. For me this was a retrograde step. If the theme was not a primary interest of mine, then that was a lot of "unproductive floor area" in the show.

With many of the large layouts some crews were having problems, and had very little moving - again one problem resulting in a lot of inactive space, once the viewer had exhausted the scenic possibilities withing range. One huge N gauge US layout had a couple of switching areas with miles of plain track in between, but as the switching areas had the most use, the linking track had very little spectator appeal (narrow baseboard, no backscene). They had the added disadvantage of being in a gloomy hall, and had no lighting on the layout. I don't mind large layouts - they can be spectacular, but I think a balance is needed. The economics of large v. small layout expenses was interesting, however.

As a newbie, I used to visit the annual London shows at Westminster in the 1960s and 70s convinced I could never do as well. Then techniques were simplified as new products came on the market, and my experience grew. Now I find I've been overtaken again as other people's standards have risen to overtake my skills. It's an ongoing process and, I suppose, what keeps us in the hobby.
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ruedetropal



Joined: 22 Oct 2006
Posts: 830
Location: Accrington, Lancashire

PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see the temptation for big layouts as they might work out slightly cheaper. A big van is a big van and some medium sized layouts cost as much to transport. Small layouts should be transportable by car, and that should be a consideration when building the layout(another challenge to make it more interesting) .
But it is not just a case of size of layouts, its the lack of variety. I just checked the wigan exhibition website, and there were a large number of OO , some EM and P4, a few N, a couple of O gauge and a few others. Not much variety in terms of scale and gauge, especially as that is what is says in the heading paragraph. The North west has a healthy group of G1 modellers, and is becoming more popular. Narrow gauge, in all scales is popular as well, and there are a lot of potential exhibitible layouts within easy travel distance and therefore not expensive. I did also note that the exhibition is sponsored by the magazine British Railway Modelling, and the layouts being exhibited possibly reflect that magazine. It also annoys me that the northern BRM annual exhibition only has British theme layouts yet the London exhibition has a better variety. Again it is assumed that those living north of Watford are only interested in what is happening in their own locality.
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Simon Dawson
Will try anything once, looking for the ultimate easy to set up portable exhibition layout, preferably French narrow gauge and with lots going on, not necessary on the rails.

http://www.rue-d-etropal.com
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giles b



Joined: 25 Oct 2006
Posts: 2228
Location: London

PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to get back to the original question in the first post here - how can the builders of small layouts make them desirable to exhibition managers looking for "talent" for their next show?

My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that either the operating pattern should be realistic and interesting, or the models themselves should be out of the ordinary, perhaps scratchbuilt or inventively kitbashed.

Building a micro layout is certainly a challenge in terms of creating a setting where relistic operation is possible, but it can be done as witness the minimal length terminal station in one of Carl Arendt's recent Small Layout Scrapbooks. In my own experience, the track plans used on Southery, Mettrick and to some extent, Futtocks End were all capable of realistic and interesting operations (to public and operator). Likewise, Ste Emilie, which was essentially two simple layouts on one baseboard has been cited as enjoyable to operate by those who helped me at past exhibitions. On the other hand, the Greenbrier RR was not too successful as a show layout, being too long and thin with the capability of only one train moving at a time. I never operated my Ile de Sarreau layout (it was a competition entry with a limited overall size) which was sold after the competition as it was built in a scale I was not interested in. However I had made plans as to how it could have been developed. had I decided to keep it.

What seems to be coming out of all this is that the smaller the layout the more thought about how it will be operated needs to be put in before the track is laid. That said a decent scenic treatment will not go amiss, and give visitors soemthing to think about between trains. In passing I'd mention that the design of the fiddle yard may be as important as the "onstage" tracks. Having recently extended the fiddle yard on Lazy River from one to three tracks, I found exhibition operating much more enjoyable.

On the unusual model/prototype front, this is an area where light/narrow gauge lines may come into their own. However the further from mainstream one goes may bring diminishing returns. To take an extreme example, an Emmett layout where "Nellie" and co. are running, may not warrent more than one visit to a specific area in the layout's life. In other words, build something really unusual and be prepared to travel or receive limited invitations.

As someone who has tended to build minority-interest layouts I've sometimes found it a problem generating show invitations, particularly in the early days of a layout. Partly for this reason I've currently got away from narrow gauge, in favour of a small US style layout with the advantages of hands-off switching and remote controlled points. At present the record on this layout is three shows in as many years, with another invitation next year, which probably means I need to improve the layout to make it more desirable to the next exhibition mamager that crosses its path.
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jim s-w



Joined: 31 Aug 2010
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Location: solihull/stourbridge

PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi

Its quite simple, a good layout is a good layout, Doesnt matter the size, shape or era being modelled.

Cheers

Jim
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jimread



Joined: 26 Apr 2008
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Location: NE derbyshire

PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a small 0 Gauge layout that I have taken to few exhibitions, at the last one, Woodthorpe in Nottingham there was a queue of children waiting to have a go for most of the afternoon. I operate from the front and the layout is only 700 mm or so high so it's quite easy for them to see what they are doing.

It never ceases to amaze me that a 6 year old can soon get the hang of quite complex shunting movements and accomplish them fairly easily.

I also meet the 0 Gauge enthusiast who has never seen anything this small working 'properly' and many go away determined to do something for themselves.

It's a whole new area for exhibion managers and I agree that they should take more notice of the small or micro layout.

Jim
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ruedetropal



Joined: 22 Oct 2006
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Location: Accrington, Lancashire

PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

height of layouts is another issue. The trend for layouts which are higher off the ground I think has not helped. Some operater claim that it is easier on their backs, but many of my layouts have low backscene so I can operate them sitting down. I also tend to use tables supplied by venue, so I don't have to transport them.
I like to experiment, and luckily Rawtenstall have asked me back each year because I always bring something different. Getting the balance between ease of transport/setting up, operator interest and public interest is the biggest challenge, and my past 2 or 3 exhibits have been continuous run. The large size of my models makes them more visable and there is usually enough to look at for the public, but less for me to do.
If I can combine something with an oval of track, with some sidings for shunting then I get the best of both worlds. This has worked well on a couple of occasions, and I will try this again. The problem is that modelling in large scales requires more space.
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Simon Dawson
Will try anything once, looking for the ultimate easy to set up portable exhibition layout, preferably French narrow gauge and with lots going on, not necessary on the rails.

http://www.rue-d-etropal.com
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mog



Joined: 31 Oct 2006
Posts: 450
Location: Mansfield Notts UK

PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's funny that there is assumption that the essential 'crowd pleaser' is a great big roundy with an endless procession of trains. (I keep seeing it repeated in magazines and on DVDs) I find them incredibly dull and despite best efforts to appreciate them, always find myself drawn to the smaller layouts where I can really appreciate the 'picture' and the detail. Stuff moving helps for me, but it's not essential - i must be a bit odd! Very Happy
Mr Glover keeps turning up at the few shows i go to with really smart 'small' layouts, so maybe once the foot is in the door, the smaller layouts will get return invites?
I dunno - never exhibited ever so not the best position to opine?
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