Back in January I received an email about the Great Model Railway Challenge, a new TV show for Channel 5 in the UK. The idea was broadly a bake off for trains. I was abroad so just forwarded it on but the NMRA British Region President, David McLaughlin, met the Executive Producer and apparently raved about how good I would be as a judge. David then rang me and encouraged me to get in touch with the production company. I phoned the Exec Producer, went to London a couple of times to meet them and had a screen test and was lucky enough to be chosen as a judge. My friends are now all calling me the Mary Berry of model railways.
To cut a long story short, the filming has just finished! There were 5 heats with 3 teams of 5 or 6 people each week and a final, all filmed across 6 weeks. Unfortunately, it was a key time at work but I was blessed with an understanding boss who let me have the time off!
So what’s it been like?
One of the key complaints I heard across the internet when the idea was being touted (as an aside – what a negative hobby this can appear to be when you read some forums – thankfully it’s not at all like that elsewhere) was that the TV channel wanted to take the mickey out of the model railway community. I can assure you that this is not the case in filming. They have treated it as a serious endeavour and tried to show the trials and tribulations evenly as well as the achievements.
It’s been stressful for the teams as creating a working model railway in 24 hours is a big ask even without being on TV with the requirement to stop and be interviewed regularly or just to be quiet whilst someone else is interviewed in the same room. They’ve all done really well, had some really innovative ideas and produced some amazing work in the time. Each week is themed and we’ve seen a huge variety of layouts, even within the same theme.
There were two presenters and two judges and plenty of time to go around and chat to those taking part. I had some great discussions on everything from bootlace crimps and TouchCab to water products and animations. It’s been great! I also got to know my fellow judge, Steve Flint, editor of Railway Modeller really well but he hasn’t dared use that Stern Steve face on me yet!
The peacocks were fairly noisy (not a phrase you hear every day) which did cause some pieces to be recorded several times before several airplanes flew over and made us do a few more takes but overall it has been great fun and I’ve learnt a lot from everyone taking part.
Being behind the scenes on a TV programme has been fascinating and the production company and crew were a really great bunch. A lot more goes on behind the scenes than you realise and there must be weeks of footage to edit up now.
Once the programme airs, I’ll put out some behind the scenes posts but until then, I can only talk about it and post a few photos of me driving the diesel loco there!