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The Trials and Tribulations of Exhibiting - by Chris Davis

The First Show

Saturday 25th October 2014 saw the Slindon Vale railway going out for its first "real" exhibition at the Chichester Lions' show. Its two previous outings had both been in an incomplete state at a 7mm Narrow Gauge Association Open Day and at Amberley - again for the 7mmNGA. In both cases, it was intended as much as anything to show techniques and so on as a work in progress. Of course, these also gave an opportunity to identify and address issues with exhibiting.

By the time we went to Chichester, those issues had been largely addressed so, one would hope, all would be well. Needless to say, Murphy and his Law raised their ugly head although not terminally. The layout still looked good and apart from one or two instances of operator error ran very well.

So, what did Murphy come up with?
The symptoms.
Well, right from the very start, we discovered that none of the points in the right hand station board could be operated from the control panel. It was a very quick and easy job to identify the approximate location where power failed - with all the points on that board failing, it was clearly the common return wire. I was able to find the point where power ceased, but working upside down under the baseboard I was unable to pinpoint the exact cause before the show opened.
The temporary solution.
Fortunately we had plenty of operators so we were able to fully run with a third person switching the points manually beneath the baseboard.
The cause.
First thing on Sunday, I found the error which was a bent pin on one of the 25 way connectors.
The long term solution.
Although I have straightened the pin, it is likely to be weakened and may well bend again. As a result, since I had a spare connection on an adjacent pluggable "choc-block" I have also bridged the accessory operating common return through this as well. I have noted this in the layout manual and also a note to myself to include a good wander light or torch to aid in tracing such errors.

What else? Well, part way through the afternoon a rather long lasting short circuit was created while I was away from the layout, after which we had lost all power to the station throat and the traverser.
The symptoms.
Trains could not run to or from the traverser, nor could they use the run around loop.
Short term solution.
We simply shunted the goods yard area, breaking up and re-building goods train formations while I investigated.
The cause and solution.
After some time spent chasing the red herring of the long term short circuit, when walking around the front of the layout to correct a derailment, I noticed that the section switch for the station throat had been switched off (when running on DCC, all section switches should be left permanently on). I threw the switch and, lo and behold, everything worked perfectly again!
Lesson learnt.
Always, always look for the obvious before pursuing the obscure!

There was a relatively minor problem with a lack of power to the loco spurs in the hidden sidings but since one usually uses "crane shunting" - also known as the hand of God here this was of little consequence. Nevertheless, I will fix this knowing that since it applied to all of the spurs the problem can only rest with one of two wires - the power feed to the switch or the common return. It may well be another bent pin in a plug!

Apart from this, I had been experimenting with better ways of carrying everything in the car. Certainly things were better, albeit not perfect, on the way there but a further tweak for the return journey improved things dramatically. Several of us were suffering tired legs at the very least - for one or two of us, very painful legs - after few hours operating so I will have to acquire a couple of folding high stools which we can use. I have worked out a further loading pattern in the car which will allow for these while also making layout loading a little easier. And, talking of the layout, with both boards now completed, although they are individually very light, the two bolted together are a bit much, so I shall try to devise something to help with this as well.

So, all in all, an enjoyable day. None of the layout problems were critical, the locos and stock behaved impeccably and the assistance with loading, unloading and operating from Club members was invaluable. None of the problems that occurred were insurmountable at the time, and long term solutions were easy to devise. Hopefully most of the problems were seldom visible to the public, many of whom commented favourably, we had a good time and, I feel, did the Club proud.

Chris Davis