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London Model Engineering Exhibition 2018

A sobering thought that this marked fifty years of us visiting the ME exhibition in its various incarnations, a landmark shared with one of the stallholders we spoke to. In turn we moved from Central Halls to the Seymour Halls, then out to Wembley and then Alexandra Palace. Over the years, the number of trade stands specifically aimed at model engineering has dwindled to almost nothing with most of the household names from the past vanishing forever. Memories of the first visit was the smell, coal fired locos indoors, diesel fuel from the races on the railcar track and the very distinctive meths from the smaller engines, heady days. Electric aircraft are still flying, but now RC polystyrene jobbies that do unbelievable manoeuvres compared with the RTP ones of days long gone by.

Why this dose of nostalgia, well visiting the ME is often a journey into the past as most of the model exhibits would not have looked out of place at any time in the previous fifty years. What has changed are the laptops, digital photo frames and as on the MHC stand, video projectors to give the public a far better handle on what goes on. The tethered hydro video produced by our ‘fast lady’ when not racing always had a ready audience where they could relate to the boats on the stand. Tony Collins and his band of helpers had brought together a series of boats that clearly illustrated the classes we run, along with a pole head and cable to ward off some of the odd questions.

Tony, Sonia, Norman, Sue awaiting opening.  Lt Cmdr Roberston's 30cc 'Pook III' George Stone's 10cc Rodney

Providing a stark contrast were the two vintage boats from the same period, Pook III a typical 30cc four-stroke and  ‘Rodney’ that was tiny by comparison. ‘Rodney’ and its sister ‘Lady Babs’ changed tethered hydros forever and left the likes of Pook as museum pieces at a stroke, not without a degree of controversy though as related in a previous article. Whichever flash steam boat is on display always draws a number of spectators as they find the whole concept difficult to visualize.

Blackheath and Victoria have developed quite different styles of boats over the years although transport difficulties prevent some of the more monster models being displayed. Phil Abbott has recently rescued another typical Blackheath boat from obscurity, ‘Michelle’, which he is in the process of restoring. The only problem is that he has more of these boats than steam plants, as they were made to be removable to see service in several hulls. He does have the original plant, which again is in the process of refurbishment. It would be great to see Paprika or Loki alongside one of the North Eastern steamers that are nearly twice the length.

We are currently scanning another tranche of the Westbury photo archive, so it was a great help to us to have Phil, Keith Reynolds, Jim Free, Norman Lara and Pete Dirs putting names to faces on a number of prints, as well as identifying boats and venues. The first time we have had a positive ID on another long lost venue, Wimbledon Common, home of the Kingsmere Club.

That's um what's his name All Alone Chatting to Dave Smith and Ray Cox

The restoration of the theatre and studios at Alexandra Palace is still ongoing so lots of hoardings, but what a lot of people and coaches there were. No doubt the snooker in the West Hall is a major draw now and the hospitality areas were teeming until the call went out for them to go in for the match, then we had the bars and food concessions to ourselves.

Nothing on the shopping list this year that any of the stalls could provide, so all too soon it was time to subject ourselves to the traffic chaos that is the Bounds Green Lane junction. Still raining, which might account for the fact that we never stopped until we arrived at the traffic lights, normally a 30-45 minute crawl. A change from some of the horror stories we have heard (and been involved in). Very positive comments from the Hydroplane Club stand and definite signs of interest from potential new recruits, so thanks to Tony, Sonia, Norman, Pete, Jim and Sue and all the others who helped ‘put the word about’