Sunday 10 March 2024

Keighley Model Railway Show; Woodbank Exhibition, and the future of the hobby

So hey, have you heard?  The model railway hobby is dying, because it's only for, and by, a load of old folk who are dying themselves, and nobody else is into it.  That's why Hattons Model Shop closed, and why the Warley show at the NEC has cancelled, and-

-bugger that.  Tabloid nonsense and doom-mongering, and the usual wave of negativity in certain sources online.  

There's plenty of young people and families model-making, and interested in it.  The start of March saw the Keighley Model Railway Club hold their big show at the Woodbank Garden Centre, near Bingley.  We went last year, and whilst it was impressive, it was also unbearably hot, being housed in a series of greenhouses in the early summer.  This year they've learned their lesson, and had it in early Spring.

So this post is some snaps of some of the layouts at the 2024 show.  Truth be told, they were all brilliant, I just didn't get chance to photograph them all.  I don't attend that many exhibitions, so this isn't going to become a regular feature of the blog (I know many other, excellent, model railway bloggers do that sort of thing), but I really wanted to share this one.

Wardwood (4mm)

BR Blue, somewhere in the West Riding, so plenty of local interest.  Lot's of action, nice big layout, nice use of proprietary kits for buildings.

Newcroft (7mm)

I really, really, love this Leyland van.  The quality of the weathering job is superb!

I also really liked this view over the platform, it gave the impression of watching the comings and goings, whilst waiting for a train, with the Transrail 37 ticking away on the next platform.

Technically I suppose this is 'my era', the early to mid 1990's, when I was a wee lad, but I've never felt that drawn to it (the old railway dying off in favour of privatisation).  All that said though, this is a lovely representation of what I remember of places like Wolverhampton and Walsall at the time.

I also really liked the use of the gloomy old train-shed to screen the exit of the line into the fiddle yard, and the brightly-attired figures in the foreground to draw the eye.

Whiteoak (7mm, narrow gauge)

I've seen this one before, but it never ceases to impress.  Narrow gauge industrial action in 7mm scale (actually a lot of 7mm layouts at this show- must be something about the premium balance between detail for a show, and size that can be managed at home).

Very nice 'Tin Turtle' (armoured simplex tractor).

Again, atmospheric and full of little details.

Hope Street (7mm)

Very nice pre-grouping goods yard.  Plenty of cameo scenes to get attention (the row of shops were particularly good).

I was really taken with the coal drops.

Lovely details on the horses.

I've a soft sot for heavy horses like Shires and the like, the ones on this layout, and their attendant drivers and carts, were very nicely done.

St.Johns (4mm)

A very nice seaside scene, with a quiet beach as a foreground.

I particularly liked this scene, the footpath and the culvert under the line.

Nafferton (7mm)

A really nice, large, continuous-run layout somewhere on the Eastern Region.  Lots of trains racing around, a nice scene with a station and level crossing.

My favourite viewpoint; look at the rippling on that river!

What my father-in-law remarked was a very Benjy shot, as if Id been stood in the river in my wellies for the pic (something I do a lot of with the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in real life).

Loughborough Derby Road (7mm)

This was one of two large layouts, certainly the most imposing.  A terminus to fiddle-yard with an intermediate station, a viaduct, track weaving through the countryside... massive, busy, and very impressive.

Loved the little cameos and viewpoints modelled.

The viaduct was great, with the dropped-down scenic section.  I think the only thing I struggled with here was the lack of backscene making photography a but tricky.

There were more layouts than trade (that said, I managed to pick up a few bargains, a lovely little signal box kit for £6 which I'll be building for a future post on the blog, and I wish I'd gone back for the Hornby "Evening Star" for £45).

The whole show was really good in fact, the variety of layouts was interesting and eye-catching, and varied in subject matter.

As for the 'dying hobby for old men'?  There were youngsters operating a number of the layouts (including a really nice 4mm standard & narrow gauge layout with two kids younger than our three operating).  Loads of families walking around taking a genuine interest; to be honest, I was most re-assured when me and Elder Child were nearly cannoned-into by an excited 5-year-old girl and her apologetic mother, the girl squeeing over the boxed Hornby Mallard she was hugging like a teddy.

I'm not worried about the future of the hobby.  Yes, maybe there'll be fewer mega exhibitions, and cost-of-living is a massive concern (but that's why there's a flourishing market for second-hand, almost nothing I buy for my projects is new).  But a cursory trawl of YouTube will find a great many younger modellers.  I think the future of the hobby is in safe hands.


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