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Medway Festival of Steam and Transport 2012

Report by Alan Wenbourne

Modelzone, at the Medway Festival of Steam and Transport, Chatham Historic Dockyard, was hosted by the Medway Modelling Club (MMC) on Sunday and Monday 8th and 9th April 2012 inside 3 Slip.

Being a local, I set up on Saturday afternoon, arriving just after 2:00pm. The mezzanine deck inside 3 Slip is some 30+ feet above floor level with stairway access (50 steps) at both ends and a lift at the far end of the building. After a little reconnoitre, I discovered that I could drive into the building and get close to the lift for unloading (not sure if this was legal, but it went unchallenged). Terry Plaw of the MMC said I could re-arrange the 12 tables. As there was plenty of space for the eight of us, I did so to enable us to back onto the balustrade, where the power supply was located. John Cowdery and George Foard arrived soon after me. The lift was being well utilized but we did not have to wait too long between trips. One disadvantage of this venue is that it can be cold, because such a massive building is not heated.

The mezzanine, with part of our stand visible to the right
The mezzanine, with part of our stand visible to the right

The lower floor bay under the mezzanine contains all kinds of heavy machinery; presses, guillotines, marine engines, various army vehicles, boats, small submarines, amphibious vehicles, loading shovels, mobile cranes and more.

The rest of the crew arrived and set up on Sunday morning and we had a good day (except for the cold conditions) with a steady flow of visitors showing great interest in the Meccano displays. I noted on several occasions that the Meccano tables were generally busier than any others! The MMC consists mainly of plastic kit modellers and some war games and diorama layouts; other clubs were also represented and there was a model railway layout.

Santiago Plicio's fairground ride
Santiago Plicio's fairground ride

John Cowdery's display
John Cowdery's display

George Foard's display
George Foard's display

Tim Surtell's Lightning Leap buzz-wire game
Tim Surtell's Lightning Leap buzz-wire game

Outside there were vintage and classic motorcycle, car, truck, van, bus and military vehicle displays. A full size saddle tank loco 'Ajax' hauling tank wagons passed to and fro along the dockside all day. Traction engines, steam rollers and scale model steam vehicles were running and on display, and there were organs, live band music, various stalls, and people dressed in funny clothing (Dickens characters*) on parade.

(Editor's note: They were Steampunk enthusiasts — a movement that combines sci-fi and fantasy with Victoriana — and steam! — with a bit of HG Wells and Jules Verne thrown in.)

The usual all year round attractions like HMS Cavalier, submarine Ocelot and gunboat Gannet were open to visitors.

Douglas Windibank's display
Douglas Windibank's display

Alan Wenbourne's London Eye
Alan Wenbourne's London Eye

Andrew Couzens' tanker
Andrew Couzens' tanker

Chris Fry's display
Chris Fry's display

Monday brought rain and fewer visitors to the event, but the mezzanine proved a good refuge for them and our Meccano models were much admired. Due to the weather, the organisers moved the closing time back an hour to 5:00pm which meant we were able to break-down and leave earlier than scheduled after a busy and tiring couple of days. I had some issues with the mass exodus and limited capacity of the lift, which I am reporting to the organisers.

* Some of these characters were wearing goggles, either on top of their heads/hats or around their necks. I asked one young lady, "What's with the goggles?" She replied, "to prevent me getting arc eye when I am welding!" Ask a silly question…

Just part of our stand - it was too long to fit in one photo!
Just part of our stand - it was too long to fit in one photo!


» This article appeared in the June 2012 issue of SELMEC News.

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