The best exhibitable 4mm finescale layouts and models tend to be P4.
If and when it is ready, Orchard Wharf (the current MRC EM project) will go straight on the exhibition circuit.
It will never be best in terms of singleminded dedication because it’s the result of inclusive teamwork by people with different skills and aptitudes. It could nonetheless be a very good 4mm scale exhibition layout. Why? The combination of theme, scenic content, and operational interest. We’re putting on a show, with a stage and actors following a script. That is one formula for a good exhibitable layout — when considering shows aimed at the public at large. It’s EM gauge, and that adds something for those who are genuinely interested in railways and modelling and have learned the awful secret of 00.
So much for the general show. Playing devil’s advocate: perhaps the selection criterion for a special interest show like Scaleforum or the EMGS events is simply that the track and wheels are fine, and it doesn’t matter whether anything moves. Those who wish to admire skillful craftsmanship to fine tolerances can do this better if the trains don’t move around too much. That’s OK if the show is essentially a meeting point and a market place for those who model to such standards, and if they can afford the cost of a show that makes no serious attempt to seek a wider audience. An inward-looking event in other words (and this is not intended as a criticism).
I wonder how many members of the general public do attend such events. I think a 00 modeller might see an EM layout at a general show (or even in a magazine) and follow up by researching EM on the internet. Then they may choose to attend a specialist show. If I was not specifically interested, I think I would find the lack of variety in scale and prototype a bit boring. Equally I would definitely find the trains falling off the track a real turn-off. But if it’s a chance to meet up with others with the same interests and find out whose trains are falling off the least (or more sensibly, how practical some of the more outre approaches actually are) then that’s fine. The layouts might as well be unfinished — often there is more to learn!
If these specialist events are essentially inward-looking then they need to be funded by the membership, because there won’t be families coming along to underwrite the costs. That suggests combining resources is a good idea. Almost everything needed by S4 and EM modellers is the same and many traders are catering to both. Why not assign the choice of layouts equally by floor area to the two societies?