Open Days - Tips & Advice

curtis

Registered
27 Nov 2018
261
69
32
Jersey
Country
Jersey
hsbagardenrailway.com
Country flag
Hi all,

I posted a similar question over on Facebook but wanted to seek the wisdom here too. For those of you that have hosted open days for the public to view your garden railways, do you have any tips, learnings or advice to share?

Nikki and I will be doing one in July so want to be as prepared as possible!
 

The Shed

Leuchtturm Garten Bahn
8 Mar 2020
688
139
Darlington
Country
England
www.theshedrailway.co.uk
In no particular order:

Good signage to find the Open Day, ensure travelling visitors have recognisable reference points.

Forewarn ALL neighbours of the day and time of the event, well in advance!

Good parking, either on the frontage of your property, or with friendly neighbours.

Plenty of seating.

Create shady areas, many visitors may well be getting on years, and many may well have traveled long distances.

Meet and greet area, supply of hot and cold drinks and receptacles to drink from, refer to above re travelling.

Signs to the toilet, again refer to above.

Designated and obvious smoking area!

Name tags for the Host's!

Depending on the time of year, supply food appropriate, Hot Soup on a sunny day, don't go down well!

Equally serving salad dishes in the middle of winter, is a no no!

Avoid using a Barbecue, dirty, smelly things, people travelling back from your event, will not look upon you favourably if they have to travel back in their cars that end up smelling like the inside of a rubbish bin, plus many people DO NOT appreciate cremated food!

If providing alcohol, ensure the lowest possible strength, people get silly when having to much to drink, YOU have expensive models, and a great deal of time, money and effort put into creating YOUR garden railway, for some drunken old fool to wreck it!


Above all, good manners, converse with your Guests, be polite and smile a lot!

Edit: If collecting for a Charity, provide a small display and ensure the correct credentials for the collection are prominently displayed.
 
Last edited:

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
22,304
4,312
74
St.Neots Cambridgeshire UK
Country flag
If you have visitors that wish to bring live steam, exclude Meths Burner ones. If they drip Meths because the flame is invisible you will not notice till some track is trashed. Oh uncontrolled dogs is a bit of a no no unless you know the dogs.
 

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
7,386
2,319
68
Hutt Valley, NZ
Country flag
Sad to advise, lock up your valuables. Keep what you want to show, out on the layout, in full sight at all times.
Diplomacy, develop the subtle art of telling all the 'gunnas' and 'you shouldhaverers' where to 'go'.
 

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
7,386
2,319
68
Hutt Valley, NZ
Country flag
Preparation for visitors.

A week out from the visit, mow the lawns, and weed the garden AND layout. Fix any faults, particularly trackwork and electrical. When you can run a train fast around the layout, in reverse, you have suitable track (and rolling stock in good repair).
On the morning of the visit, get out and rake up any stray leaves, and blow/vac any off the track, then test run to make sure. I often leave the test train running. Have a suitable table/space for visiting stock. Shelter/shade, and catering according to season/taste. BBQ for meat patties and snags with bread and butter goes down well with a beer over here (that is to NZ what Fish and Chips are to England). Above all, play the Host role, don't ignore folk (unless ....), and just have fun.
 

Paul M

Registered
25 Oct 2016
8,988
1,312
59
Royston
Country flag
Before you have a proper open day, have a session with just a few friends. Just to make sure things will work out as you expect them to, and to iron out any snags
 

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
7,386
2,319
68
Hutt Valley, NZ
Country flag
iron out any snags
I don't iron snags..... I turn them a couple of times on the barbie, until the skin gets slightly crispy, chuck it in a piece of bread, add onions and tom sauce, knock the scab off a stubby, and tuck in. Oh, after the guests have been served first.

As for open days, I've played Mine Host for over 20 years now.... all the preparation comes naturally.
 

PhilP

G Scale, 7/8th's, Electronics
5 Jun 2013
30,252
3,139
Tamworth, Staffs.
Country flag
I would add:
If possible, get two or three 'trusted' friends, who know your line and stock, to also act as stewards. - Even in an informal nature.
One thing, a crowd of people who know and run trains, another the great unwashed, who have no-idea..

PhilP
 

Ralphmp

Registered
6 Jan 2010
1,255
193
70
Herts
Country flag
It may also be worth checking if you need any kind of insurance cover in case one of your visitors has an accident and is of a litigious nature.
 

Rhinochugger

Retired Oik
27 Oct 2009
32,679
3,889
North West Norfolk
Country flag
I think it's worth resigning yourself to Murphy's Law - and that something will go wrong.

Usually, trains and track that perform faultlessly for 364 days of the year will foul up on the open day.

So, keep it simple, and have a few back-up plans in your head.

It's best to have two operators if possible.

So, what could possibly go wrong? :devil::devil::devil:

  • Wagons uncoupling themselves - solution - remove the offending wagon and run the rest of the train
  • Locomotives stuttering or stopping - solution - have a couple of spares (don't put everything out at once)
  • Derailments - solution - avoid the offending stretch of track if you can (use another loop or circuit
I think derailments are the worst scenario, so a quick assessment as to whether it's the stock (loco / wagons) or track could be worthwhile.

Then you have Joe Public who is quite likely to knock a train off the line - have the cash tin at the ready :p:p
 

PhilP

G Scale, 7/8th's, Electronics
5 Jun 2013
30,252
3,139
Tamworth, Staffs.
Country flag
Insurance is covered, to some degree, by a 'Society' membership..

But, a prominent warning-sign, about the dangers (hot engines, oil/grease,) is worth it..

Mentioning the trains are 'powered from the mains' (lies to children) will make some, stop their darling over-enthusiastic, under-achievers from trying to pick up your pride and joy..

Most visitors, will be very grateful, for something to amuse the kids..

Have a great day!

PhilP
 

Ralphmp

Registered
6 Jan 2010
1,255
193
70
Herts
Country flag
I went to one Open Day where the organiser had “booking sheet” for his inner and outer loops. I think it was broken up into 15 minute blocks. This helped make sure that everyone who wanted to run something got their chance and avoided one or two individuals “hogging” the layout.

He also advised people in advance that they could bring a loco to run as long as it fitted in with his control system - in his case DCC, no live steam and no battery locos. This ensured smooth running and no disappointments.
 

curtis

Registered
27 Nov 2018
261
69
32
Jersey
Country
Jersey
hsbagardenrailway.com
Country flag
What a wealth of information - thank you to everyone that has replied!
In no particular order:

...

Above all, good manners, converse with your Guests, be polite and smile a lot!

Edit: If collecting for a Charity, provide a small display and ensure the correct credentials for the collection are prominently displayed.

These were great. I had come on our list already but appreciate the additions and confirmation. I'm actually getting a few t-shirts made up for those that are helping out. We're definitely staying clear of BBQs but were going to have some prepackaged snacks along with drinks available.

Interesting point on collecting for charity - are there specifics you're aware of when collecting?

What a wealth of information - thank you to everyone that has replied!
Above all, good manners, converse with your Guests, be polite and smile a lot!

I'm assuming there are going to be lots of the same questions throughout the day but generally excited to share our hobby.

It'll just be me running. I don't know of any other G-Scalers in Jersey so it'll be all DCC but this is a good callout. Being explicit with no dogs is also a good point! I'll add that.
If you have visitors that wish to bring live steam, exclude Meths Burner ones. If they drip Meths because the flame is invisible you will not notice till some track is trashed. Oh uncontrolled dogs is a bit of a no no unless you know the dogs.
Already done. A few weeks ago we had a family BBQ and the trains ran almost seamlessly all evening. A couple of kinks were discovered in the track. I also realised the blind tunnel straight onto the footpath was a poor design decision on my behalf so decided to have single direction running on the open day!
I would add:
If possible, get two or three 'trusted' friends, who know your line and stock, to also act as stewards. - Even in an informal nature.
One thing, a crowd of people who know and run trains, another the great unwashed, who have no-idea..

PhilP
A couple of friends from the local model railway club will be here to help and support!
Before you have a proper open day, have a session with just a few friends. Just to make sure things will work out as you expect them to, and to iron out any snags
I've also been warned about adding a lot of "do not touch" signs around the garden because apparently - adults and kids alike - need the reminder!
Insurance is covered, to some degree, by a 'Society' membership..

But, a prominent warning-sign, about the dangers (hot engines, oil/grease,) is worth it..

Mentioning the trains are 'powered from the mains' (lies to children) will make some, stop their darling over-enthusiastic, under-achievers from trying to pick up your pride and joy..

Most visitors, will be very grateful, for something to amuse the kids..

Have a great day!

PhilP
 

The Shed

Leuchtturm Garten Bahn
8 Mar 2020
688
139
Darlington
Country
England
www.theshedrailway.co.uk
Interesting point on collecting for charity - are there specifics you're aware of when collecting?
Usually a letter of authentication from the Charity confirming you are a bona fide collection point on their behalf will suffice, does help to boost donations from the more cynical members of the population!

Same as a small display, where people can see where their donation is going to.

We always collected on behalf of which Air Ambulance Service was operating in the County we lived in, youngest daughter was with the London Air Ambulance, middle daughter's husband (our son - in law) is a Air Frame specialist for helicopters.

Air Ambulance Helicopters are regular visitors for upgrades, often funded purely from donations from the public, who could see first hand from the various displays where their donation was being spent.

We were often pleasantly surprised at the generosity from the Guests and Visitors, a little effort went a long way.
 
Last edited:

curtis

Registered
27 Nov 2018
261
69
32
Jersey
Country
Jersey
hsbagardenrailway.com
Country flag
Usually a letter of authentication from the Charity confirming you are a bona fide collection point on their behalf will suffice, does help to boost donations from the more cynical members of the population!

Same as a small display, where people can see where their donation is going to.

We always collected on behalf of which Air Ambulance Service was operating in the County we lived in, youngest daughter was with the London Air Ambulance, middle daughter's husband (our son - in law) is a Air Frame specialist for helicopters.

Air Ambulance Helicopters are regular visitors for upgrades, often funded purely from donations from the public, who could see first hand from the various displays where their donation was being spent.

We were often pleasantly surprised at the generosity from the Guests and Visitors, a little effort went a long way.
Ah, excellent. Yes, we're in contact with the charity we want to support now to confirm the details.

Wow, that's a great relationship you had going on - and sounds very personal. Kudos.
 

Dan

Registered
28 Jan 2010
505
41
Eastern MA
Country flag
I only use double hook and loop couplers for my open houses. My R1 track only uses a 2 axle LGB engine/tender combo. On my larger track I just run LGB engines like the mogul. Also note I use metal wheels outdoors as they give a low center of gravity for small breezes and eliminate cars being 'blown' off the track.