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The History of Redditch Model Railway Club

The Beginning.

Redditch Model Railway Club was formed on 1st June 1967 by a group of twelve members. The club has grown from strength to strength, and now has five fully-operational exhibition standard layouts, a membership of 30 and hosts and an annual exhibition. For over 55 years the Club has been based in the new town of Redditch, around 15 miles south of Birmingham. Following the initial meeting to gauge support for the Redditch Model Railway Club, within days a large double lock-up garage  shown to the left had been found to the rear of a local shop and the first official meeting of the club took place on June 1 1967. Here 12 members met, including founder member Mick Clements. Mick has held the position of Club Treasurer from day one, and to mark his long service to the club Mick was made President of the club in 2005. Since that first meeting much has changed. In 1970 the club relocated to an attic room in the Smallwood Alms Houses as redevelopment of the town centre meant that the original double garage was no longer available. This was then the Club's home for the next 27 years and it allowed the creation of a permanent layout, which even now - nearly 30 years after its dismantling - enthusiasts still remember with affection.

The years of change.

In the late 1980s it became clear that the club needed to move forward to survive and the emphasis of activities changed from the permanent layout to the building of our first exhibition layout - Arrowmouth, which is based in the 1960s on the Hest Bank area. It was started in 1989, attended its first exhibition in March 1992 and, thanks to a refreshing of the scenery and track work together with regular attention from the members, it is still on the exhibition circuit today. In 1967 the Redditch Model Railway Club staged its first model railway exhibition in Redditch, and this has now become an annual fixture of our calendar. After the construction of Arrowmouth the Club went on to build Gorcott, a slightly smaller Settle and Carlisle-based layout. Like Arrowmouth, the era of this layout was very much 1960s, featuring the steam to diesel transition era. Like Arrowmouth, Gorcott became a regular on the on the exhibition circuit and has been exhibited at shows as nearby as the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition at the NEC and as far away as Wakefield in West Yorkshire, and Ipswich in Anglia. As well as homing in on the north west in the 1960s, club projects have also taken on a Somerset and Dorset Railway theme through the enthusiasm for this much-lamented cross-country line of Mick Clements. We have built a total of four exhibition layouts based on an S&D theme. The latest is Chilcompton (shown to the left), which was first exhibited in February 2001 and is a scale representation of the real station on the S&DJR with curves at each end to reach the fiddle yard which is shared with our Dagnell End, Oakenshaw and Norgrove layouts. Modelling a prototype has meant many happy hours researching it including a number of field visits to both measure and photograph what is left of the real station site today.

Taking the Club to new levels

In 2004 the Club took the brave decision to create a totally new model railway exhibition. After searching for a suitable location without success, the club found the Cocks Moors Woods Leisure Centre in Kings Heath in South Birmingham, which is an ideal venue because of its proximity to the M42/M40 motorways and its 16,500 sq ft halt which allows the whole show to be contained within one room. The Club held the first Birmingham Model Railway Exhibition in September 2005, and it has developed into a high quality and friendly show with a good reputation. Unfortunately after five events the exhibition was found not to be financially viable. Finding a home for a model railway club is not getting any easier, and in 1997 we had to leave the Smallwood Alms House and took temporary residence at the nearby former Methodist Church that was used by several voluntary groups. It gave the Club a base, but we didn't have much space to build new layouts and so it was, that due to the structural condition of the Church, the Redditch Model Railway Club became homeless again in 2006. The Council threw us a lifeline with the offer of one of their Enterprise Units on a local industrial estate, the only snag was the cost of commercial rent and business rates - a lot different to the free double garage we started out with in 1967!  However, we now have 24-hour access to our club rooms with the option to load and unload vans under cover when we take layouts out to shows, but most importantly we have space to build new layouts and develop our existing exhibition projects.

The future

The move to the industrial estate has also seen us encourage a handful of new members and productivity has increased as we now meet twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday evenings - after all, we are paying for the clubroom so why not use it? We don't usually have a layout up and running on club nights, but we are an active group of modelers and regularly spend the evenings building buildings and scenic items for our current project, Norgrove. This new fictitious layout is based in South Birmingham in the 1970's and construction will take a number of years to complete. Construction started on this layout in August 2020 and followed the more or less competition of our Oakenshaw and Smallwood layouts. The latter is based on fictitious mill town in West Yorkshire in the 1960s. Construction of this layout started slowly in 2010, but Club Members have also built Smallwood and refurbished the scenery on both our Arrowmouth and Dagnell End layouts since then. The Club had a self-imposed deadline to complete Oakenshaw in time for an appearance at the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition in 2014. During June 2014 Oakenshaw was photographed by Trevor Jones from Hornby Magazine and the layout was featured in the October 2014 edition of that magazine. During 2013 the started another layout project called Smallwood. This is an end to end layout designed more for one day and smaller exhibitions. The layout is based in the 1970's and will be controlled totally using DCC and is designed as the test bed for a much larger project set in the same era. As a club we are always open to new members and, whilst we might not always have trains running, there are always plenty of projects to get involved whatever your modelling abilities. We've got an exciting future ahead with four layouts to maintain, Smallwood to complete and the start of another called Norgrove, so why not get in touch and join the team?