North Ballachulish is out at the Manchester show  this weekend, as a current member of MMRS and one of the former exhibition managers there its a sort of homecoming in a way, although my first and foremost show will always be Rochdale.

Its all a bit heavy coming after the Warley weekend and taking Eskmuir down to the NEC., but we enjoy it and look forward to taking layouts out. Eskmuir was for sale last weekend on E Bay (Its now sold) and we got quite a few queries about it which caused me to think how little Joe Public knows about taking a layout out on the road.

That is often echoed by some of the comments which you see both Facebook and the forums where the ill informed have a tendency to fire off when they see a layout which has not a lot happening, things stuttering or anxious operators with soldering irons in their hands who are failing to engage with Mr X Spurt on the barrier (X being the unknown factor and Spurt a drip under pressure). The fact the layout has been dismantled at its last show, bounced around in a car or van to take it home for a good few miles, is probably in storage between shows, has been bounced around in the back of a van or car for a hundred miles again before being put up at the show doesn’t register with Mr Spurt.

Most layout owners are wary of the first hour operating at a show. You can test the layout the night before for all its worth, but its only when you actually start to properly operate it that the dry solder joint, the slightly misaligned track or the mysterious short circuit manifests itself and calls a premature halt, or at best a slight hiccup in operations. Even later in the show, things can move or break requiring things to halt whilst efforts are made to put right.  What is criminal is a layout getting a fault and then the owner doing bugger all about it as I witnessed at a big show a couple of years ago.

I recall taking New Hey to Nottingham and within a half hour of the show opening a short occurred which took out the whole of the down circuit.  The layout ploughed on using only the Up line, and we managed to keep things moving albeit on only half the layout. Despite having a detailed wiring diagram it took Martin Edmondson and myself well over a hour to find the problem, which turned out to be one single strand of wire which had worked out of  in a 25 pin D connector linking the fiddle yards to the front of the layout,  and had touched another wire causing the short to the whole of the down circuit.  Possibly someone had brushed against the cable getting under the layout, possibly it was the layout settling, who knows, but as all things in life, shit happens. We did sweat (and swear) a bit over it though!

As you can see from the images of last weekend layouts break down into quite small bits – its unrealistic after all the man handling and transport to expect them to work perfectly first time all the time. I just wish Mr X Spurt would actually acknowledge that before engaging keyboard warrior mode.