Ellesmere Port MBC Spring Show

DAVE WOOLEY visits this increasingly popular March event

Ellesmere Port Boat Museum has been synonymous with model boat events for many years and is of course situated next to the Manchester Ship Canal. The museum is run by the British Waterways Trust and has recently become much more pro-active. Some of you may have seen the TV series documenting changes in managers and the new ideas being explored in this and other museums. This facility is unique in so much that there are three different levels of water on the site together with a varied collection of historic buildings and waterways craft.
This spring event was started in 2010 with the wholehearted support of the museum staff as of course it is also an additional attraction for the general public and helps raise the profile of the venue as well as promoting model boating.
Anyway, superlatives aside, this year’s March event can go down as a cracking good show. Large numbers attended and there is little doubt it had just about all of the positive features of the late-August weekend event that used to be held at this venue.
This 2011 spring event had a specific theme which you would not miss as you entered the museum complex. Occupying one entire length of one of the locks leading to the middle basin was an extensive and thoughtfully laid out dock system incorporating five very large models including tankers, bulk carriers and a cargo vessel, with no less than ten tugs in attendance, plus an interesting backdrop laid across the lock gates. What was also striking was the almost continuous use of the water by many of the models at the event, so there was plenty of operational model boating activity for the general public to view over the two day opening period.

Many of the tug skippers are no strangers to guiding very large models in confined spaces and in their hands it all looked effortless as 14 foot long vessels were eased through the locks and docks. This activity attracted large numbers of onlookers throughout the weekend as well as for those visiting modellers operating their own models.


This year there were 19 traders on site, all located together on the top floor of the Island Warehouse, thus creating a sort of glorified model shop. Anything from a scroll saw to a particular type of glue, GRP hulls, timber, kits and semi-kits, plus all the sundries required, were available. I cannot list all the traders, but amongst them were Cammett specialising in photo etchings, Component Shop with batteries etc., SHG Model Supplies, Mountfleet Models, Marks Model Bits (MMB) with their new harbour tug kit and a submarine hull, plus Star Loc with a huge range of adhesives. It is important for the success of these gatherings that there be a comprehensive selection of traders and the organisers attracted more in 2011 than 2010.


Ten clubs supported the event with the majority being housed in the Tom Rolt Centre. All the clubs rose to the occasion and displayed the skills of their members in the best ways possible. The top floor of the centre saw excellent displays by Hoylake MBC, Southport MBC and the Life Boat Enthusiasts Society, this last group of course attending many shows, particularly in the north of England .Their large models were sailed regularly throughout the weekend and never failed to impress.
On the lower level of the centre were some well known clubs from the local area including the Liverpool, New Brighton and Wirral MBC’s and in the ‘Archive’ was Derby and District MBC. Here I had the chance to see, prior to launch on the Saturday, Mark Hawkins’ latest 1:96 scale model of the projected G3 super battle cruiser. This has been mentioned before in the Range Finder column and is a model that has been meticulously fitted out and I was keen to get a few pictures of it on the Upper Basin.
In the Boat Hall were Kirklees, Colwyn Bay and Runcorn MBC’s. These clubs have large memberships and their displays reflected this both with their model’s constructional qualities and the ingenuity of their builders.
A trend I have noticed and reflected on during this weekend, is a desire by clubs to develop and project their displays in a much more organised and thoughtful way than sometimes in the past. By this, I mean that cramming a stand full of models is no longer the case. Fewer models, thoughtfully laid out and with a specific theme, can project what the club is all about in a much better way. This is occurring now at many events and the stands are better for this approach.

In the Toll House the host club, Ellesmere Port MBC had set out their own display and particular congratulations to them as they provided most of the ‘boots on the ground’ and infrastructure to make everything happen over the weekend. By working with the museum, the model boating fraternities’ needs were met, the museum had a special attraction for the weekend and the public were attracted because there was something extra for them to see. The event was also well publicised locally.

David E. Owen Competition

For the second year now, this event was been held at the top of the Rolt Centre. Admittedly, this is not the easiest of places to which to transport a large model, but the lighting is excellent. The competition is for statically judged models in Kit, Modified Kit, Semi-Scratch and Scratch classes plus a Best in Show award and there is also a loan section. The judging is to a standard and as such any number of gold, silver or bronze awards can be awarded, rather like the Model Engineer Exhibition and Naviga Section C events. This David E. Owen competition has existed for some years and is synonymous with the museum, even when there have been no model boating events at the museum. Thus, it is now firmly part of this spring event.
It is hoped by the organisers to build on the success of 2010 and 2011 and in future years bring the David E. Owen Competition back up to the level of support that it used to have. The entry in terms of numbers was relatively low for 2011, but was more than compensated for by the range and quality of the models. In the loan section there were some stunning models from the likes of Jimmy Woods and Stan Amos.
The only gold medal was awarded to Les Jones with his early pulling/sailing lifeboat, the Princess of Wales. Taking the only silver medal was Chris Behan and his exceptionally well researched scratch built LCAC-90. Much of the working model engineering is enclosed within the various deck housings and is of course is not subject to the judge’s scrutiny, but is in fact beautifully laid out.

Three Bronze medals where awarded to: Brad Seaman in scratch class with his finely detailed scratch built HMS Glowworm; Reg Preece for his semi-scratch 1:96 HMS Active Type 21 frigate and Mick Knowles for his kit built Amerigo Vespucci.


With the solid support of the resident club and the museum in organising this event, I would say that this was a great success. Speaking to the modellers, the general consensus is that this venue is one of the of the best for model boating in the UK. It combines the museum (which is interesting in itself) with the flow of commercial traffic along the Manchester Ship Canal and the buzz of a show dedicated to the boat modeller. So, you really can’t do better than that.

I would like to extend my thanks to the organisers and the museum staff for making my weekend so enjoyable.