Organising an Exhibition - An Interview with One Model Railway Club


Organising a model railway exhibition is one of the hardest things a club can ever undertake. A club with lots of experience at this is One Model Railway Club based in Stowmarket, so we asked them all about it.

How did you first come to organise an exhibition?

The Club originally started in 2005 and two years later we held our very first exhibition; what an experience that was! However, despite a steep learning curve and a lot of hard work, that first show was judged to be a success and meant we could afford the rent on our club rooms for another year. Following on from that we decided we would hold a show annually.  We are very proud that 2017 marks our 10th anniversary show. 

How do you go about choosing a date for the exhibition? Do you check for others nearby?

Because we run an annual show we try to keep to the same date, i.e the last sunday in september, as it makes it easier for everyone to remember. However we do check dates of other shows in the area and the availability of the the community centre we hire. Although we tend to book this a year in advance to ensure we can get the hall on the day we require and just as importantly the evening before so we can set up. Most clubs hold exhibitions on the same weekend each year, so you can usually check previous years to get a good idea of weekends with little local competition.

Do you find it hard getting enough layouts? How do you go about it? If you get offered too many how do you pick those you accept?

We don’t usually find it hard to get layouts for our show, and as we tend to approach them we normally have the correct number we need, however if we do have extra layouts that we can not fit in it is handy to keep them on a reserve list in case anyone pulls out. The other thing we do is then offer any surplus, first refusal at the following years show.  The actual layouts we choose is based on what will give the exhibition a good variety of sizes, gauge/scale and interest. Most layouts are found by networking, i.e going to other shows, word of mouth and a knowledgeable exhibition manager. Ours Chris Ridgeon has more years on the model railway circuit than he would care to disclose!!

There are also online layout registers where you can browse to find that unique layout to make your show extra special.

What unexpected costs are there to running an exhibition?

When setting up a show it is important to plan every detail to ensure it is budgeted for. The main items being rent for the hall, insurance, catering and printing plus exhibitor expenses. If you have other clubs nearby who run established exhibitions it’s worth asking for recommendations for any items you don’t have, and some associations, such as Chiltern Model Railway Association have equipment and insurance available to their members.

We have always held our exhibition at the Needham Market Community Centre which is well equipped and gives us exactly what we need within our budget, and to attract exhibitors we offer a free homemade lunch so there is the additional cost of this.

How do you set your exhibition apart from others?

We pride ourselves in trying to provide something for everyone and, although we are not the biggest show on the circuit, the feedback we have received over the years leads us to believe we are one of the friendliest. We offer a range of layouts in various scales and gauges, traders who know their business and demonstrators who are always keen to encourage people to have a go at something that they might find daunting.

It is important to have something new each time, be it a layout that’s been off the exhibition circuit for a while or a new or upgraded favourite.

What advice would you give to other clubs looking to hold exhibitions?

In regards to other people wanting to organise a show: it is a lot of hard work. The key is to start at least a year in advance, advertise everyone you can, and be prepared to do lots of chasing as emails/phone calls tend to go un-answered! We also learnt early on the importance of having quality refreshments and we serve ploughman’s and sandwiches as well as our popular homemade cakes and, of course tea and coffee. Also make sure your venue has enough electricity points, you will need more than you expect.

When is your next exhibition?

This years exhibition is on Sunday 24th September. Returning for a third year will be our popular weathering expert and we encourage people to avail themselves of his services by bringing their own stock to the show and see it weathered before their eyes.

For events in your area see the events listing page.

Thank you to One Model Railway Club for their help, more information about the Club, can be found in their club listing or on their website.

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