A model railway club marks 50 years since its inception this month. Richmond and Twickenham Times editor DAVID RANKIN finds out why the club has proved a long-lasting local fixture.

Model railways evoke many memories of childhood, but for some the pastime becomes a fascinating pursuit, almost an obsession – a statement proven by the fact Twickenham and District Model Railway Club (MRC) celebrates its 50th anniversary later this month.

At a golden exhibition to rival the best shows from the past 50 years, the club is doing 20 layouts for enthusiasts to enjoy, with three representing table-top sets from the early 1960s, when the club was founded.

Club leader Grant Alderson said: “One of the club’s first opportunities to exhibit a layout came in 1962 at the Twickenham Fair.

“Things were far from ideal – the boards being supported on beer crates and the track powered by a nearby street lamp.

“The club’s first exhibition, in January 1963, was a one day show in All Hallows Hall, Twickenham. Early exhibitions were small events – the 1965 exhibition boasted a mere five layouts and two traders.”

Over the years, the club has held 28 exhibitions, variously at All Hallows Hall, St Mary’s Hall and Twickenham stadium, Queen Charlotte Hall in Richmond, Walton leisure centre and now at Feltham Community College.

Since the club was formed in 1961, it has attracted almost 600 members and built at least 30 layouts.

The model railway magazines have featured 13 of their layouts and carried dozens of articles by members.

One of the club’s keys to success has been to change with the times and adapt to people’s tastes.

Once upon a time a trackside sheep was ample decoration, but now entire towns spring up around layouts.

The origins of Twickenham and District MRC can be traced to the latter part of 1960 when a notice, proposing the formation of a model railway club, appeared in the shop window of Hodgson’s Toys and Models in Whitton.

Names were collected and an inaugural meeting was called for May 11 at Whitton School.

On that day, 38 people attended that first meeting and by June 30 the club had signed up 43 founder members.

Meetings continued at Whitton School, then moved to the Richmond Community Centre in Sheen Road.

There it remained until 1984, when the redevelopment of the building, as a Waitrose supermarket, resulted in a move to the Richmond Adult and Community College, in Parkshot, Richmond.

Unexpectedly, in early September 2004, the club was given three weeks’ notice to quit, as the rooms they hired were to be refurbished.

The group looked in trouble, as the layouts needed a lot of space to be stored, but luckily one of the founder members was aware of a Scout group in Whitton whose hall was free on Friday nights.

Since then, the club has invested much time and money in building storage facilities and an infrastructure that, for the first time, gives members a clubroom tailor-made to their requirements.

Model railways come in many shapes and sizes, with the scale of models and tracks standardised into groups called gauges, so trains can be swapped from one layout to another. The club currently has layouts in N, OO, O and G scales and have a multi-gauge running track in 12 gauges from Z to G. There is also a reference library which includes DVDs and a small workshop area.

The club celebrates the occasion with an exhibition from 10am to 5.30pm on May 21, and from 10am to 4pm on May 22, at Feltham Community College.

Visit tdmrc.org.uk or call 01932 783253.