After years of operating out of private garage spaces, members of the Greater Waikato Railway Modellers (GWR) have a new home.
They moved into the old Leamington Bowling Club building last November, rapidly filling the space that had previously been used as a gymnasium. GWR president Paul Murphy said when the bowling club building became vacant the group successfully negotiated to secure it, then set about re-painting and refurbishing the space before re-opening to the public.
“This has been great for us,” said Paul. “We had been looking for a permanent place for a long time. It was becoming increasingly difficult for us to move the layouts when we were holding displays. When this opportunity came up, we jumped at it, but because it’s on government-owned land managed by the council, we had to jump through a lot of hoops. It took us nearly a year to secure it.”
The move has allowed the group to set up the latest layout gifted to them from a deceased estate. Paul said it was not uncommon for collections to be passed on to GWR. “We have managed about five estates so far, and have another three in the wind,” he said.
The new premises was officially blessed by Rev Adrian Gover, a man described by Paul as a ‘train nut’ who described his fellow railway modelling enthusiasts as being afflicted with “a particular form of madness for which I’m afraid there is no known cure”. Paul wholeheartedly agrees.
One of their number, Keith Rimmer, was led to the hobby years ago by his wife. Together they designed a curious storage cupboard with a drop-down door which accommodated the layout. Keith now creates a variety of intricate layouts, all of them replicating real places, among them miniature gold mines, a Kiwi Christmas at the beach, and more.
Alf Stubbs is another. He is a former coal mining engineer whose first layout, featuring Middleton Colliery in Leeds, offers as much detail to the underground workings as to the above-ground gear.
The arrival of GWR to the new spot has the thumbs up from Bruce Casey, president of the Cambridge Model Engineers who run the ‘big trains’ at Leamington Domain every weekend. The two are just a short stroll apart and mean that the big trains can delight their small fans as much as the small trains can thrill their big hobbyists just across the lawn.
“It’s great for us to have them here,” Bruce said of the GWR boys. “We can easily have between 300 and 400 people here over a weekend. It works well to have the modellers here as well.”
Railway modelling enthusiasts attached to GWR meet at the new space on Tuesdays, from 9.30am to 4.30pm. Fans can drop by then, as well as call in on Sundays between 10am and 2pm.