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Building a new club layout (and other club related activities)

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  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 26,630 posts
Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 8:42 AM

 We made ours easier - instead of carrying each section (and ours builds to a HUGE layout if we put all parts in - something like 28x160+ feet), they are carried in wheeled carts. It takes 3 trailers PLUS space in the beds of the pulling pickup trucks to carry the whole thing. We now roll out a cart of modules on industrial casters to right where the modules on it will get set up, just lift off, extend the legs, and go. The old way, we used to have to carry each module, which depending on the size takes 2 to 4 people, from the parking lot into the venue, and it took hours to set up a much smaller layout. Now 2 people can handle a cart with as many as 6 modules on it, and it takes far less time to set up an even larger layout. Then there are the nice big venues where we can drive right in and offload the carts right by the setup area, and don't have to move them very far.

The carts are very simple, pretty much all 2x4 construction with big heavy duty casters, 2 swivel and 2 fixed. Rails on the sides, like drawer slides, hold th models. Some are simply inclined to keep the model in, others have a detachable brace across the front to keep the model from sliding out in transport. Some of the older modules that use bolts to hold together when set up, we simply drilled a hole in the side piece and stick a bolt in to hold it. The size of the rack is determined by what fits in the trailer, and how many modules fit on a rack depend on the height of the modules.

                                                       --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 9:49 PM

Randy,

Our portable layout isn't quite that large!Bow It is 6' x 12' and is composed of nine modeles, each 2' x 4'. It is moved in two roughly 2' x 4' x 5' plywood boxes, also on casters. Each box holds four modules, and the last module rides on top. Originally the layout was set up using the two boxes as supports, but recently we built three tables to support the modules. The original setup was too high in the air for most younger kids to see. Everything fits into one small trailer. Set up and take down takes about 20 minutes.

The biggest challenge that we have with it is that it doesn't like to be set up on uneven floors. If it isn't level, we suffer derailments where the modules meet. It has also required a lot of rebuilding and rewiring even though it is only about eight years old. It was designed to be light weight for obvious reasons, but the construction doesn't like the temperature changes that it goes through when it is in the trailer.

Dave

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,308 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, November 21, 2019 2:21 AM

Hi gang,

I have started a dialogue amongst the club Executive Committee about the question of the long term survival of the club. In the past we have been paying our bills with funds from our annual show and sale, and with membership fees. That has worked well for us for many years. However, given that the hobby is aging, it is predictable that the show, and perhaps the club, will diminish in size over time. Obviously if the show shrinks then so will our revenues.

In light of this reality, I suggested that we consider the possibility of expanding the show to include other hobbies. RC planes and cars come to mind immediately, and there is always the possibility of attracting some war gamers.

Right off the start, the logistics present quite a challenge. Expanding the show will require a lot more work and that takes manpower. We are already limited in that regard, so the question is where do we get more bodies? If we invite other clubs to take part they will obviously want a share of the gate. That begs the question of whether or not our share of the revenues will increase enough to justify all the work of organizing a larger show. It also presents the risk of higher losses if the show fails, as it could well do in Barrie in mid Feburary if the weather sticks it to us.

The other option is to stay with what we have been doing for the past 50 years and milk the system until it runs dry. Change is inevitable, so maybe I should reconcile myself to the fact that the club may eventually die. I just hope that I go first!

Does anyone have any suggestions about how to plan for the future?

Cheers!!

Dave

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 26,630 posts
Posted by rrinker on Thursday, November 21, 2019 7:38 AM

 Are there other train shows held locally by others? As in, what's your competition in the model trains only market. The group (not a model railroad club) that runs one of the local shows here has somehow managed to continue to survive despite some rather underhanded dealings with vendors, and the vendors all seem to put up with it because there is simply no other show at that time. The one time a group led by a local club tried to organize a competing show, though not on the same weekend, not even close, these guys basically threatened any of their regulars that if they bough tables at this new show, they wouldn;t be welcome back to their show, so the new show quickly fizzled. Shame is, it was a MUCH nice venue, easier to get to, much more parking, and no having to pass single file between tables because they cram them in so close. The long time show guys were, of course, careful to not come right out and say this in so many words, or put anything in writing, which could have gotten them in legal trouble. 

 I'm not suggesting you become a new mafia don Big Smile How would that work in Canada anyway, to politely threaten someone to pay up their protection money? Laugh  But if the show does well, with not a lot of competition to get vendors, I'd stay targeted to model railroading (or related stuff, most of the shows around here have railroadania vendors and related items like shirts/mugs with railroad logos) and see if you can't attract even more vendors. As expenses go up, you might have to raise the table price a bit. As long as the vendors feel they can still make a decent profit, they won't run off to another show instead. It wouldn't be much, but every little bit helps. And the more vendors you can attract, hopefully the better the turnout, which attracts even more for the next show.

                                          --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • 615 posts
Posted by davidmurray on Thursday, November 21, 2019 11:09 AM

rrinker
Are there other train shows held locally by others? As in, what's your competition in the model trains only market.

Randy:

There are a variety of Model Train shows within a 75 mile radius of each other in Southern Ontario.

Bowmanville in October, Whitby in November, Belleville in December, Barrie in Feb., and Lindsay in April all spring to mind.

Plus Toronto Convention Centre, and west of Toronto at various times.

We don't consider the other shows as competitors, but rather as friends.  Most clubs who host shows all take part in some other shows, and have a table of flyers for shows we both attend and don't attend.

Dave

 

David Murray from Oshawa, Ontario Canada
  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 26,630 posts
Posted by rrinker on Thursday, November 21, 2019 1:37 PM

 Well, they are all a month or more apart, so I wouldn't consider that competition either. If I considered shows within 75 miles of here, I'd have to include Timonium which gets mentioned a lot around here, the one I mentioned in my last message, and a couple others nearby. None at the same time. It's just that the one  mentioned seems to think they own the city they are in and will tolerate no competition, even though their shows are Fall and Spring. What they are is afraid, because all it takes is a more comfortable venue where atendees can actually stand and look at what each vendor is selling without constatly being jostled and they are done, no vendor would keep coming back. For those that have been to Timonium but not this one, imagine if the aisles at Timonium were half as wide as they are. You can't really stop and talk with a vendor, even in the middle of a transaction you might get shuffled halfway down the table. A more open and relaxed environment would surely drive more sales. I haven't been to this show in years, the overcrowding just drives me nuts.

                                      --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,308 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, November 21, 2019 7:53 PM

Hi Randy,

Competition from other shows isn't an issue. There is nothing else happening within a couple of months of our show.

Attracting more vendors might be a challenge. Most of the vendors who are within a reasonable distance of Barrie already attend the show. There are a couple of vendors that we know of who aren't willing to come to Barrie in the middle of winter despite the fact that the show is quite well attended. We have invited them more than a few times but they aren't interested. Barrie has a reputation for bad winter weather which it doesn't really deserve. The weather for our last three shows has been sunny and clear. We always have a couple of new vendors every year but most of them are individuals looking to sell their private collections.

Aisle space is dictated by the fire codes, and the local Fire Marshal is a stickler for following the rules to the letter. All the aisles are minimum 8' wide and they have to be straight. The aisles run both north-south and east-west so it is reasonably easy to get around the show. It does get a little crowded by about 11:00 on the Saturday morning but people can still move around. Any bottle necks are usually caused by parents with the double wide strollers.

We could make the show much bigger in the venue that we are using, but the added cost isn't justifiable unless we attract a bunch more vendors. Last year we didn't have to turn anyone away.

Dave

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 26,630 posts
Posted by rrinker on Friday, November 22, 2019 7:05 AM

 Sounds like you are doing just fine the way it is then, if there is high attendence. That keeps the vendors happy (if enough of them buy). There's another show near me that always was known for having lots of hi-rail and tinplate, but there was plenty of scale stuff too. The last time I went, there was very little scale stuff, and plenty of tables selling all sorts of non-train stuff. I haven't been back to compare attendence, and I didn;t always go year after year, usually it was one of those "well, I'm not doing anything else this morning" type of things. I don't know if adding all the non-train stuff has helped or hurt them, but I was always on the dence and not a regular simply because there was so much hi-rail stuff that i wasn't really interested in.  So consider that - branching out may actually turn people away instead of bringing in more. If you're drawing solid crowds and a solid group of vendors year over year, I'd keep going the way you are. Take hearsay for what it's worth, but if you have a demonstrable decline in attendence not explainable by weather or other events outside your control - then consider alternatives. 

 If you do end up having to expand the horizons a bit - sonsider keeping the non-train stuff apart from the train stuff. This is something I always liked about Timonium, it's an all-scales show, so you get all the scale stuff as well as tinplate and hi-rail, but they keep the tinplate and hi-rail and large scale and, a couple of times, REALLY large scale, apart from the scale stuff. I end up looking at it all anyway, but if I were there for only scale trains, I wouldn;t have to wander past table after table of stuff I wasn;t interested in, and likewise if I was there for some hi-rail stuff, I wouldn;t have to go past all those tables to scale stuff trying to find what I was looking for. At least, that's how they used to do it, I actually haven't been there in a few years to see if the new show runners have kept to the same formula or not.

                                              --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,308 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, November 23, 2019 7:50 AM

rrinker
So consider that - branching out may actually turn people away instead of bringing in more.

Very good point!

rrinker
consider keeping the non-train stuff apart from the train stuff.

Another good point!

The club's response has been cool to expanding the show. The concensus is that we will deal with the problem if and when it becomes a problem. At least, if anything, we will have an idea of what to do if we do end up needing more revenue.

Thanks for your input.

Dave

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,308 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 12:05 PM

Strange how second thoughts can come back to haunt you.

Tuesday night we finally got around to sorting through the buildings, cars and other bits that have been donated to the club. There were about 10 large boxes containing built structures, unopened kits and rolling stock.

I must be picky. Most of the assembled stuff fell under my definition of 'junk'. There were some scratch built structures mostly made out of fluorescent ceiling light lenses. They were hideous! There were probably 25 assembled buildings of the DPM kit style. Almost all of them had obvious gaps at the joints and had glue all over the place. None of them had been painted. They were just slapped together right out of the package. There were about 40 cars. We saved four of them. I'm sure you are getting the picture!

We decided to save some of the 'Main Street' style buildings. I'm not sure why because we don't have any space for a Main Street scene. The rest we will try to sell for a couple of bucks each at our show in February. If they don't sell they will be going to the dump.

Now the reason behind my opening sentence. When we first moved into the new clubhouse 2 1/2 years ago we said that we would not accept any donations for the simple reason that we didn't have the space to store them. However, after seeing the first couple of offerings a couple of the guys decided that we could make a few bucks from this stuff and so we changed our decision. Fast forward to last Tuesday night. With all this crap spread out over just about every flat surface we could find, including four folding tables, there was hardly room to move! After going through everything we still had 10 boxes of stuff that we had no space for, although granted it was all nicely sorted now. I think the only things that will actually end up on the layout are a few small shantys and the four box cars! Other than the unopened kits, I doubt that we will get $100.00 for the rest of it!

Just so you know, I decided to not point out the mess that the clubhouse was in.Zip it!Smile, Wink & GrinLaughLaugh

Cheers!!

Dave

 

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 10,308 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, November 30, 2019 5:21 AM

We got some good news on Friday about the venue that we rent for our February show and sale.

The first thing was that the hosts are giving us quite a bit more space than what we had anticipated without increasing the rent! The extra space will allow us to widen the aisles to about 10' or more, and it will allow us to have more space around the display layouts.WowYeahThumbs Up 

The second bit of good news is that our hosts can now supply the barriers that we need to put up around the show. The show is held in a huge greenhouse, but we only take up about 1/3rd of the total area. That means that we have to put up something to control the access to the show. We were looking at renting crowd control barriers but that would have set us back almost $1000. That's a big chunk of our profits! Now, they won't cost us anything!Thumbs UpThumbs UpThumbs Up

The third bit of news is that we were concerned that we wouldn't be able to get power to all of the vendors and exhibitors who need it. Our hosts said very simply "tell us where you need power and you will have power". That will mean that they will have to drop about 20 power cords from the 25' ceiling because the Fire Marshal won't allow unprotected cords to be run across the floor, and buying enough cord protectors would be costly.YesYesYes

We are happy campers!! Our hosts have saved us close to $1400 in potential expenses.

Dave

  • Member since
    February 2015
  • From: Ludington, MI
  • 450 posts
Posted by Water Level Route on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 1:25 PM

Dave,

That is great news!  Seems they appreciate your business as much as you appreciate their hospitality.

Mike

  • Member since
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  • From: Bradford, Ontario
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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 2:34 AM

Water Level Route
That is great news!  Seems they appreciate your business as much as you appreciate their hospitality.

They should appreciate our business! We estimate that they will get at least $20,000 in sales in their own gift shop and greenhouse over the two days. That is based on 1/4 of our paying visitors spending an average of $35.00 on greenhouse and gift products in their store. It might be much higher!

We also give our visitors a coupon worth $6.00 off of a minimum $30.00 purchase in the greenhouse shops and the visitors love it! That certainly offers something for the ladies who might not otherwise attend our show. That draws people in to the greenhouse shop.

We also spend about $1500.00 on radio ads which obviously mention the greenhouse.

We also give them a share of the admission revenue above a certain attendance level. The greenhouse doesn't seem to mind that at all.

Now, before any of you start suggesting that we are giving them too sweet a deal, you have to remember a few facts:

- One is that they have not increased our rental costs in over 6 years.

- The second is that they have increased the space that we can use this year (2020) by about 33% for the same $ as the last six years.

- The third is that they are letting us use their crowd control barriers at no charge which is saving us about $1000.00.

- The fourth is that they are willing to put power drops wherever we need them in the greenhouse space. That is no small task! The ceilings are 25' high.

- The fifth fact is that there is only one other suitable venue in the area. Georgian College has a similar space available but at a much higher cost and they don't offer the alternate attraction that the greenhouse does. Also, they charge for parking and their parking lots aren't big enough to begin with. To add insult to injury, when we approached them a few years ago their attitude was 'take it or leave it'. We left it.

All in, we are getting a fair deal, and most importantly we are meeting or exceeding our net revenue goals.

Cheers guys!!

Dave

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