Model Engineer Exhibition 2014

Colin Bishop reports

The 2014 exhibition was considered to be very successful from the model boating viewpoint by all those whom I spoke to. This was to a very large extent due to the excellent club stands with a huge variety of top quality models which really did go down well with the visiting public. With regard to the show generally, the content appeared to have widened a little with model railways, fairground rides and horse drawn carriage displays all being featured. This welcome diversity seemed to be offset to some extent by an apparent reduction in the number of trade stands while the absence of a sponsor stand selling magazines and subscriptions was also widely remarked upon.

There was in fact no support from marine traders which was a shame as on the two days that I attended there appeared to be plenty of potential customers. However anecdotal evidence suggests that the cost of attending shows has now risen to the stage where it is frequently difficult if not impossible to make enough to cover the expense, particularly when, as is often the case for most small businesses, normal service has to be put on hold whilst the owners are attending shows. Other factors are possibly that there are too many shows and the inexorable rise of purchasing over the Internet.

Competition entries

Model boaters seem to be disinclined to enter competitions these days but those who did exhibited some very nice work indeed, with no less than three Gold medals being awarded.

I was back on judging duties this year and it was not very difficult to identify the models deserving of the highest awards, plus there were many other models which, whilst not achieving medal standard, were still very good indeed and a real credit to their builders. I did notice a number of models on the club stands which had previously gained awards or which would have done so had they been entered into the competition classes.

An unusual feature this year was the absence of traditional sailing ships such as those of the Nelsonic period. Usually we see several examples, both scratch built and kits, but evidently in 2014 builders were taking the year off. The only exception in the competition classes was the matchstick model of the Cutty Sark from David Reynolds.

Visually, the most impact came from the five enormous battleship models on display. Colin Vass had again brought along his magnificent HMS Warspite which surely has to be the best working model we have seen for some years and is one of the all time greats in my view. It was again entered in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award class and to the disappointment of marine modellers, once again passed over in favour of a model engineering exhibit. It does seem that the rules of this particular class tend to favour pure engineering as opposed to the broader skill base needed to construct something like Colin’s Warspite, which requires a combination of model making and model engineering skills. It may have not won the competition, but it certainly attracted constant interest throughout the exhibition. I have seen it a number of times and still find something new to see on each occasion.

Heading up the marine competition was another version of HMS Warspite, this time a static exhibit from David Brown depicting the ship as in 1931/32 after her first major refit. David’s entries in recent years have consisted of series of medal winning submarine models, so it was very interesting to see his skills applied to a battleship. In fact this model has had a long genesis having been started over 30 years ago, but initially abandoned due to lack of definitive information from the sources available at the time. More recently accurate information has become available prompting David to complete the model to a very high standard indeed. Not content with just depicting the ship herself, he has introduced an educational element showing various tasks being carried out around the vessel and equipment being rigged although it appears that the crew were all on their tea break as no figures are visible. As with Colin Vass’ version of the ship, the more you looked the more you saw and it was well deserving of its Gold medal and the Earl Mountbatten of Burma Trophy for best naval model.

Alex McFadyen treated us to his long awaited completed model of the French battleship Richelieu, various details of which have been appearing on the Phoenix MBC stand for some years now. As a bonus he also brought along his earlier HMS Vanguard and G3 battlecruiser HMS Anson, which was designed after WW1 but never built. The three ships together made a very impressive showing. Richelieu is an interesting design, following on from the RN Nelson class in having her main armament mounted forward in two quadruple turrets. This configuration reduces the length of the armament and machinery spaces in the hull and offers economies in the weight of armour for a given thickness. It does however have drawbacks in that a lucky hit on a turret traversing mechanism could put half the main armament out of action. The two turrets in Richelieu are also separated to reduce the risk of damage to one affecting the other. Another criticism is that the main armament cannot bear astern and the secondary armament is unable to fire forward effectively. With Nelson and Rodney it was said that this didn’t matter as the Royal Navy could not envisage a situation where one of their capital ships would need to fire directly astern. Nevertheless, the three turret layout, two forward and one aft, as fitted to the King George V class and later US and Japanese battleships was probably a more balanced design. Alex’s Richelieu was also awarded a Gold medal although he said he felt that his HMS Vanguard exhibited in 1983 was actually the better model and he should know.

The third Gold medal went to Roger Hoare for his superb waterline depiction of the Battle class destroyer HMS Barossa. The model was displayed under glass and was difficult to photograph, but close examination showed the exceptional quality of the detail work which I think is just about as good as it could possibly get.

There was very little to choose in terms of judging marks between the three Gold medal winners all of which were the very best examples of marine model making.

No Silver medals were awarded this year, but Stephen Duckworth achieved a Bronze with his little gem of a model of Charles Parsons’ famous Turbinia which became famous for ‘gatecrashing’ the 1897 Spithead Naval Review at the unprecedented speed of 34 knots. Stephen’s model was imaginatively displayed in a cutaway dry dock setting and certainly caught the essence of this speedy little craft. He also provided the judges with an excellent set of documentation describing how the model had been researched and built, including the use of relief etching techniques, for which he was also awarded the H C Evans Trophy for research and presentation.

A further Bronze medal went to Keith Nowell for his Topaz steam launch entered in the Kit Class which had been beautifully put together with the very highest standards of varnish work and finish.

A number of Certificates were also awarded as listed in the results table. Richard Chesney brought along his imaginative WW1 Thames Barge diorama made up of a combination of scratch built and commercial items to give a realistic and artistic result. Among the kits was Ray Renowden’s heavily modified and enhanced Mountfleet Models Clyde Puffer which was full of interest and I enjoyed a chat with Ray about the model following the judging. Mick Nicholson’s HMS Walrus was an unusual and well executed subject being a specialist supply ship for RN carriers in the latter stages of WW2, a type of vessel I never knew existed. David Reynolds is famous for his armada of ‘matchstick models’ and holds the Guinness Book of Records World record for the biggest matchstick model built, a North Sea oil platform. His entry into the show was a rather more modest Cutty Sark exhibited on the Eastleigh club stand. Certainly a niche area of our hobby.

And something a bit out of the ordinary!

Many readers will have enjoyed Model Boats Website Forum Ashley Needham’s unorthodox models as featured in the magazine and in the 2013 Special Issue, many of which are based on the Top Gear TV show. Ashley very kindly brought along a selection of these, very attractively displayed, to give visitors a chance to appreciate his clever and effective designs. So, a show which was well worth seeing, but it would still be nice to see more support for the competition classes in future.