This year the Japan Rail Modelers (JRM) were honored to be invited to show our layout at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Sakura Matsuri (Street Festival) in Washington DC. Presented by the Japan-America Society, the festival is the largest one day japanese cultural event outside Japan, with over 140,000 people attending in a 7 hour period in past years with good weather. This years blustery, but sunny and warm weather brought out record crowds with estimates at well over 160,000 visitors!
This year, high winds threatened, but calmed by later in the morning (after tossing a block's worth of tents when first set up in the very early morning) for a blustery, but sunny and warm day, with large crowds filling Pennsylvania avenue and the adjoining streets that the festival was held on. This was JRMs first time doing a show outside in the elements. The festival provided us with a 10' x 30' tent for the layout to keep the sun (and thankfully no rain) off of us. Wind was our only problem, but luckily we were located in the center of a block that was much more protected from the winds. winds only caused a few train wrecks due do buildings blowing over or vehicles blowing onto the tracks, but members were prepared with carpet tape, rubber cement, and tacky putty to secure items. A few trains were derailed by wind itself at some vulnerable spots, but after discovering these we were able to reschedule and reroute trains to run well!
The crowds were truly astounding! At times the crowd around the layout was 3 deep viewing with more outside waiting to view the layout and wondering what all the excitement was. Visitors stayed viewing the layout for very long periods which is particularly difficult to achieve in open public events and with the size and density of crowds the event had. The JRM layout may have been the most photographed item outside the the cherry blossoms themselves. Cameras from professional to cell phones and disposable cameras were constantly snapping away. The public's comments were wonderful and the layout was enjoyed by those of all ages and nationalities. Many japanese nationals expressed surprise and delight at seeing japanese model trains running in public in the US. The popularity of the layout with kids was very apparent by their rapt attention with open mouths! We made a lot of kids cry when parents tried to pull them from the layout to move on, always a sure sign of success!
For this event we added a few extra detailed items to the layout scenery including a new cherry blossom park in old town, a set of cherry trees and viewing crowds at our hilltop temple, and a small street festival in the front of the layout! Spectators enjoyed finding the new details added to the layout for the festival.
Hopefully we also have made contact with potential new members in the Washington DC metro area to join in with the JRM gang.
This, sadly, looks to be the final showing of the old JRM layout. After over 20 setups over the last 5 years, we have decided to move to a more sectional style of layout. The new layout will be about the same size and have a similar set of features, but allow us to setup and break down the layout in a much more rapid fashion as well as allow us to do more detailed scenery and simpler components to transport. We hope with this allow the group to do more and different shows as we hope to be able to set the layout up with 2-3 members in an hour or so. We also hope to be able to integrate ttrak modules as well as some scenery only diorama modules into the new layout, when desired. We hope to have the new layout up and running by this fall for the annual Lions Club train show in Rockville MD.