Of course there are always bright sparks - certain spectacular models on display, certain engaging and informative clinics presented, certain captivating layouts revealed. But the overall sense of each show remains somehow less than it could be.
Supertrain 2012 was a well organised, well presented, and well attended show. Four soccer fields worth of it. Was it as big as the Amherst show in Springfield, MA? No. Does it need to be? No. Supertrain was advertised on the radio, had 19 huge banner ads hanging from highway overpasses around the city, and sported a crew of dedicated friends-of-the-hobby working tirelessly to ensure its success. Modellers and/or displays came from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Washington state to my personal knowledge. There were probably others I missed meeting...
Free clinics introducing various aspects of the hobby to newcomers ran for several hours on both days. Many live demos of techniques were going on nearby, such as making trees, weathering, structure building, super-detailing rolling stock and so on. A large area was set aside for kids to play with trains, Lego and other appropriate amusements. Members of the South Bank Short Lines group assisted many children in assembling their own cardstock structures; a station and an engine shed.
A wide array of layouts were on display, ranging from efforts by young children and families to large clubs. A great selection of manufacturers and vendors from around Canada and the US were also present, with staples like Athearn, Soundtraxx, Bowser, and Badger showing their wares.
How can a city of 1M people put on a show that attracts nearly 15,000 visitors while a city with nearly 2.6M at the core and another 4M in close proximity can only manage 20% of that attendance? How is it that there are nearly 3,500 active model railroaders in that same small city? I'll put it down to the efforts of the Calgary Model Railway Society. The people from the CMRS, local operating crews, and associated club members that I met before, during, and after the show were all enthusiastic and willing to share their time and knowledge. Despite many of them having home layouts and regular operating sessions that demand their time and attention, they understand the value of positively presented public events and the associated efforts necessary to make them happen.
Thanks, Supertrain, for changing my mind.