With London decamping to Epsom Downs for Derby Day, those of us with more of an 'iron' horse inclination gathered in Leatherhead for the latest Surrey Groups' open day. Narrow but Nice 2004 followed the same pattern as previous events with all layouts being drawn from within the local OO9 and 7mm narrow gauge Area Groups. With the show being held only every two or three years, this makes for differences between this event and other more ambitious gatherings in that many of the layouts are new or seldom seen on the general exhibition circuit.
Philip Moss's 'Picardy 1917' 0-16.5 layout represented a transhipment yard behind the front line in Northern France. With some interesting scratch built stock amongst the kit built items, the layout captured the busy nature of such an operation.
There is growing interest in First World War modelling, particularly with the introduction of many kits for the locomotives and rolling stock. It's a shame that we don't see more layouts on this theme.
Group Founder John Thorne was showing the 'Ditton Heath' module of his Ditton Railway Company. This was shown at the last Narrow but Nice event as bare baseboards and since then it has been fully finished and now forms part of the full Ditton Railway Company layout. John has applied his usual exquisite detailing to the layout which forms the effective terminus of the line. John tells me there are no plans to extend the line any further!
Mark Fielder's 2mm narrow gauge layouts 'An Clar' and 'The Pizza' will be familiar to some, but I must admit that I hadn't spent as much time as this inspecting them. The painted backscene on 'An Clar' blends seamlessly into the rugged scenery on the layout and depicts a very weather-beaten part of Ireland. Given the small size of the models, operation and shunting is spot on. 'The Pizza', as its name suggests, is circular and about the same size as a large pizza. It is designed to demonstrate 2mm narrow gauge modelling but the quality of the scenery work is also very high.
'Mole End' was in development but contained some interesting tram loco's in 7mm scale. Richard Preece's small 0-16.5 layout is set in East Anglia with some wild looking scenery and, when finished, will represent a preserved narrow gauge station.
David Walker brought along 'Whitemoor' a layout he had purchased from Norfolk Group member Graham Watling. David has added to and developed the layout further and modified it away from its original form. One interesting feature was the end board which had the backscene down the centre, effectively allowing two different scenes to be displayed alongside each other on the same small board.
The 'Steyning Slim Line' was a 7mm demonstration line built by 7mm NGA Publicity Officer David Broome. This featured some simple automatic operation allowing David's collection of trains to operate whilst he stood and promoted the Association!
Fans of Carl Arendt's minimum space layouts website will be familiar with the concepts of the shunting puzzle. Alan Rogers' 'Irkington Yard' was based on the 'Inglenook Sidings' principle and used a simple set of cards to shunt and roster the trains, which consisted of the Bachmann 0n30 locomotives and the tiny Chivers Finelines plastic kits. Although the scenery was not yet fully developed, I'm sure there were enough permutations of rolling stock to keep the operator amused for hours.
If you've chosen OO9 because you think you haven't got room for 7mm narrow gauge, check out Brian Cameron's 'Bodger's Bottom'. This 4ft 6in by 1ft layout has much operating potential and shows just what can be achieved in a minimum space without compromising on reality. The layout also only took about two months to complete, providing a satisfactory result in a short space of time.
Another familiar layout is Anthony Goff's 'Hilvermouth'. This had been developed since its recent appearance at Narrow Gauge South with the addition of a new section in front of the layout which features a winding, very wet-looking river. Although Hilvermouth is a small station, Anthony has built some nice big engines - including a freelance version of the Darjeeling Pacific. It would be nice to see a bigger layout - in length, rather than width - to give them an opportunity to operate some good long trains.
Chris Nevard's 'Arne Wharf' has been featured in a number of publications in recent months but this was my first opportunity to see the real thing. The standard of Chris's work is first class and the overall scene is such that nothing jars or stands out. It would be interesting to see it operate properly as a shunting layout but there is much to learn from this layout. It will be interesting to see whether Chris returns to OO9, I understand the next one is likely to be modern image standard gauge!
Last, but by no means least, was Robert Bough's 'Porthmadog', which features Porthmadog Harbour station sometime in 2008. This makes for an interesting concept as Robert can operate both FR and WHR trains, plus joint services and replica 'heritage' trains, thus covering a wide range of locomotives and rolling stock. Although some work had been done since its last appearance at Narrow but Nice, there is still much to do and it is a big station when you see it in model form. I hope that it gets finished before its 2008 timeframe!
Despite the only trade being Brian and his Members' Sales Stand, there was much to keep us all occupied. These events are always a chance to catch up and "come and natter narrow gauge", as John Thorne puts it and I hope everyone enjoyed themselves. Attendance was, I think, a little disappointing but those that came had a good time, I'm sure. Do look out for the next one, they don't happen that often but are well worth going along to!
(c) 2004 SNGMs