I’ve spent the weekend down in Aylesbury, operating Graham and Tony Bucknell’s layout Kirkmellington at Railex.

Its been a bloody good weekend – I’ll make no secret of the fact I find Railex the best show in the UK, and IMHO has been for many years, purely on the outsanding quality of every layout in the show. Now there are many other good shows too – York, Manchester, Southampton, Shipley, Wigan, Newcastle and north of the border, Perth, but inevitably at shows there will be something I consider below par there, whereas David Laine has an incredible knack of booking only top drawer stuff.

My opinion of course, and its always entertaining to read the diverse opinion of others on t’interweb. This year is no exception and the nations favourite toy train forum has not let me down in its scraping the bottom of the barrel of thought of some visitors. No “N ” gauge? Its a crime. its the second most popular scale don’t you know. (despite the fact there were three top class 2mm finescale layouts). No “modern image”. Its the same old story at every show – miss a scale/ era/ prototype out of the mix and you get the approbation of every devotee of that particular genre, despite the fact that a good model is a good model, whatever it may be a model of. It rather all reminds me of being a 14 year old in the early 70’s when if band didn’t have a colour such as Black, Purple, Pink or Crimson, or a base metal such as Led in its name, then it was shite. (I had grown out of that by age 16 😉 )

The one thats made my red mist descend this time though is the hoary old chestnut of layout height. The complaint was chiefly from someone who was accompanied by their partner in a wheelchair. Now don’t get me wrong, I have every sympathy for those who are confined to a wheelchair, but the person writing on the forum clearly goes to a lot of shows, and judging by his text, well knows the score with layout heights. Its the conceit though that we should all build our layouts at eye level to someone in a wheelchair which gets me going. I’m 6 foot 3. I’ve built all my layouts at a minimum 4 foot eye level which is a comfortable height for me to work on the layout, and ensure my already fragile back doesn’t get any worse, and I don’t end up in a wheelchair myself. Its also perfect eye level for the vast majority of exhibition visitors, and which is how I want it to be viewed. To my mind there’s nothing worse than looking down at the roofs of buildings and vehicles. its totally false. The best views of a model railway layout come from a natural eye level, not from that of a helicopter, and I believe layouts should be built to facilitate that view for the average person. Harsh? maybe.  A lot of shows loan periscopes to those of a shorter nature to help overcome the issue, and I noticed a few out at Railex. Like a wheelchair itself, its an aid to help the disadvantaged and reduce the inequality, so whats the problem?

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