As you will have no doubt figured out already, I'm a big fan of these challenges, and like micro-layouts generally. However I'll admit that Pizza layouts don't generally hold a great appeal to me, they can be tricky to make realistic and can be rather predictable, I see their main purpose to serve their builder; as an exercise, experiment of new scale or technique, or a useful test track. That is not meant as a criticism of the genre, just that I find part of the appeal of micro layouts is the challenge of an interesting and workable track-plan fitted into a realistic setting, the Pizza has less scope for this.
This year though the challenge entries were of the usual high standard, and demonstrated some original ideas and superb skills.
The winner of the challenge was Southern Cross Sand & Cement, by Des Trollip. This 009 layout features a sand and cement plant (as the name suggests), and with a siding and a spur off-scene it could be described as a fully operational layout. However it is the detailed industrial buildings and plant, and well observed colouring, that makes the layout stand out.
Train Set for Christmas by Daniel Figg caught my eye as being particularly original! It uses a dolls-house scale of 1:12 (I think) with "T" gauge - the Japanese produced 3mm gauge trains. I reckon that is around O gauge to scale? I believe this won a Junior Award. Inspired!
Chapel Mills is a well modelled and somewhat more typical pizza in 009 by Chris Seago.
However my favourite, and a layout I have watched the development of on the NGRM-Online forum, is Four Seasons in O9 by Chris Dack. The name is taken from a type of pizza of course, but Chris has taken it literally - and modelled the same scene in each of the four seasons. I admire his dedication in this - I'd be bored by the second scene! He has really captured each season well - check out details such as the level of the river, and the size of the log pile, as well as the colouring and scenery. Chris has even mounted the circular layout on a motorised base - the viewer can press a big red button, which makes the entire layout rotate to the next scene.
That's enough of a menu I think. Slow progress on the Skylark but hope to have an update soon.