A Wild Wood Surprise
It's a tradition of Southport Model Railway Society (i.e. we've done it more than once) to attend the Teddy Bears' Day at the West Lancashire Light Railway, just up the road at Hesketh Bank. And not only attend, but contribute with several layouts to delight the visiting public.
I usually get a phone call around February from the organiser, which goes something like this:
Gordon: Hi, it's Gordon, how you doing?
Me: OK, you?
Gordon: Fine. It's the Teddy Bears' Day on May the [insert date here], can you help with some layouts again?
Me: Yes, I'm sure we can.
Gordon: Good, excellent, see you.
Me: Bye. Message ends.
It's all that's needed to galvanise SMRS members into a frenzied period of wondering what on earth we can do this year. Fortunately I have a reliable sub-group of members who can contribute layouts, labour or better still, both. This year Terry submitted his N-gauge layout 'Sandale' and Mike his unnamed 009 layout, whilst Frank offered his services as driver/operator and Hilary as assistant relief operator. In addition to the onerous coordinator role, I was rostered to run Hundred End, the railway's own 16mm layout, with the assistance of such other local members of the 16mm Association as might show up.
The Teddy Bears' Day has the unique selling point in that if you bring a bear (for preference an inanimate one) you travel for half-price. You also get to encounter several bears in the woods at the far end of the line. This year one youngster, just a little too smart for his age, declared loudly that the bears were not real, but merely grown-ups in disguise. This was vigorously denied by the guard, who demanded to know the evidence for such an outrageous suggestion. A risky strategy, but fortunately said child was distracted by a well-placed parent or guardian, and the secret (that they are real animals) was safe for another year.
But back to the engine shed. The weather was fine with a breeze, which although cool, was limited in velocity, so the shed's impersonation of a wind tunnel was not fully demonstrated, for which we were grateful. After some first-aid with a screwdriver and a soldering iron, all layouts were declared operational and made ready for an onrush of enthusiastic visitors. And we were not disappointed, with steady interest being shown all day. Also a full half-dozen 16mm members turned up, so live steam was on offer almost without a break. And apart from a couple of derailments of the all-important sweetie train, there were no mishaps to speak of.
I await the next phone call. In the meantime, if any SMRS member fancies the opportunity to show off their latest layout in a friendly, informal setting, complete with realistic 12" to the decibel scale sound effects from the likes of Irish Mail and Montalban, I'm all ears.