Ty’n Y Ceunant was never designed as an exhibition railway; the 48” x 15” board started as waste from another project but fitted neatly onto a Workmate - perfect for modelling and even better for domestic harmony. But after our first article in 009 News - July 2009, an exhibition invitation arrived and after some quick thinking, a hitherto “through” board with a simple halt and junction was adapted with three additional hidden cassette bays in the wings. The idea was to store six or seven rakes of stock, each in a cassette. These would be moved by hand between the three cassette bays allowing a variety of trains to run on and off the main board whilst operating.
At the Heywoods Permanent Way exhibition we discovered that movement of delicately balanced cassettes from one end of the layout to the other was fiddly, risky and took too long. Please recall the Sesame Street principle of assuming a maximum audience concentration time of two minutes for each little cameo - we lost too many customers during the cassette shuffling and had to get things moving faster. By Day 2, we had permanently fixed three cassettes and opted for propelling trains back to start positions at the end of a completed 12 movement operating sequence.
Chatting to the public, particularly the kids, without being diverted or forgetting the movement sequence was a challenge. When a visiting mum started on about the child behavioural psychology portrayed in the “Thomas the Tank Engine”, model operation fell apart and the Idris Mining quarry diesel inadvertently arrived in the passenger loop to unload sheep and take on boiler water while her 9 year old offspring loudly announced all mistakes! We are now better prepared to talk whilst operating, using a credit card sized aide-memoire defining each exhibition movement based on control lever settings, Combi controller direction setting and a simple slider denoting the number of the next move in the sequence. Amnesia defeated!
Having made many of the novice mistakes, we suggest that a couple of hours spent planning track layout, train movements and stock before cutting the first baseboard component of an exhibition layout is definitely worth considering. However, hindsight is also quite useful!
We have since exhibited at Chasewater, Bloxwich, Lichfield and finally at Warley in 2014. We have most of the wrinkles sorted out now. However, the loose cassette concept has been firmly scrapped and the fiddle yard ends are now permanent!
Research Subjects at Amerton:
Above: RNAD van and ammumition wagon end
Left: Ruston diesel
Wherever possible, original subjects were found to model to add to the layout's "history". Published railway histories, internet photos and site visits all helped. Steam fairs and exhibitions also provided good subject matter for the numerous vehicles that appear from time to time on the layout. Much is also based on personal knowledge and memory of the era.
Above: The dreaded rolling stock cassettes. Although we never lost anything "over the side", we had a few close calls!