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Bury St. Edmunds Model Railway Club

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Club History & 70th Anniversary

Celebrations 2019

When the land from our club house in Bury St. Edmunds was required for development in the 1970's, a railway-minded farmer offered the use of a pig shed on his farm in Drinkstone for a nominal rent. The members turned the bare room into a functioning clubhouse, complete with lighting, tea-making facilities and, using parts of the original layout, built a new 30' x 20' one representing GER action in East Anglia during the 1960's, and featuring two large termini, a through junction station and two smaller branch line stations. The layout was worked into a sequence, through a fog of cigarette smoke and the sequence would take many weeks to complete.

Photographs of the layout appeared in the Railway Modeller in the late '70's and was used for some years in Peco's advertising literature. Much of the building and club-owned stock were the work of the late Norman Willis, the club's first treasurer in 1949. Norman was a Great Western man at heart, having been born in Swindon, but he also had a great love of the Great Eastern and the wonderful depiction of Bury St. Edmunds Station (our Abbotsford), with it's imposing lift towers, was his work. Sadly, as there years passed, the membership numbers declined to the point that there were not enough people to run the sequence and it was decided that alterations be made to convert the layout into a folded figure-of-eight design, albeit retaining three of the termini, so that the dwindling membership could still run trains. By this time smoking had been banned and we joined the land fit and healthy. Over the past years, the club saw an influx of new members, (45 at the present time) to the extent that we ran out of space. Our Honarary President and landlady very graciously allowed us use of an adjoining barn, which has been converted, by the members themselves, into a wonderful new clubroom.

We now have three rooms:

  • Room 1 - This has our N Gauge test track and a large OO track, which is currently being added to and re-worked

  • Room 2 - Has a seating and kitchen area along with bookshelves and workbenches

Links to articles about the club's layouts
Here are some links to articles about the club's layouts, which have appeared in The Railway Modeller magazine.

They do make interesting reading.

We were recently emailed by Chris Turnbull, an ex member from many years ago, who has lots of memories of the club in the 1960's.
His email is set out below for your perusal.

"I have just spent a most enjoyable hour browsing your club website which brought back many memories..

I was a member of the Bury MRC in the 1960s and remember the original clubroom well. My parents lived on the Mildenhall Road estate and, although I was too young to join (you had to be 18 if I recall correctly), my father would take me to the clubroom on the bank of the River Lark in Mildenhall Road where I would be in seventh heaven. As soon as I was old enough I joined. The layout first appeared in the January 1964 Railway Modeller (copy attached) and on non running nights I would be allowed to operate the wonderful club locomotives, many of which had flywheels and required a great knack to drive, just like the real thing. They were mainly the work of Roy Clarke who had his own layout in his house at Thurston and which was as much an inspiration as the Broadland Railway. Roy owned Harold Clarke & Co. (photo attached) and had a fine house and a huge layout.

The building of Abbotsford (and also Mossy Green) was, I was led to believe, the work of Jack Hill, a great railway artist and modeller. He did many paintings for O.S. Nock - see:

Jack was a quiet, unassuming man, and very meticulous. He lived not far from the clubroom in Mildenhall Road and was a draughtsman with eastern electricity, if I remember correctly, his painting being his hobby.
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"Abbotsford" - our club's model railway layout from the 1960's and 70's.

Apologies for the poor quality image. It was the only one in existence.

Of all the members of the club at the time, the one who had the greatest influence on me was Norman Willis. He was a lorry driver until his retirement and he would regale me with tales of the road well into the early hours. A great raconteur! Norman's forte was scenery, not buildings, and his techniques for scenic work live on with me to this day. His house in Bishops Road was a treasure trove of all things railway, perhaps the most impressive to a lad such as myself were the many volumes of professionally bound Railway Modellers going back the the year dot.

Many thanks for the memories."

He also included a PDF file of the January 1964 edition of Railway Modeller, which, on page 2 has an article about the BSEMRC. We were then called the Bury St Edmunds and District Model Railway Club.

You can access the PDF from here.


On Tuesday 24th September 2019 Bury St Edmunds Model Railway Club "invaded" Radio Suffolk in Ipswich and were guests on the popular evening programme "Tuesday Takeover! for two hours.
After discussions with BBC Radio Suffolk's presenters Matt Marvel and Jon Wright during the summer and in advance of their 70th Anniversary Model Railway Exhibition at Thurston Sixth Form Campus, Drinkstone Road, Beyton IP30 9AG on 28th September a team of Model Railway builders took over the Tuesday Takeover show for two hours during which they discussed the hobby, the forthcoming exhibition, young people in the hobby, local trade support from the whole of East Anglia and many more subjects.

A very interesting viewpoint on the hobby was put by model railway enthusiast and impresario Pete Waterman and a live discussion was held with Kathy Millatt the lady judge and presenter of Channel 5's programme "The Great Model Railway Challenge". The programme can be heard again by clicking on the player below.
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To listen to the Tuesday Takeover broadcast, please use the player below.


To listen to the BBC recording about our O Gauge layout: Cobbolds Wharf, click here
There is no expiry date for this recording.

70th Anniversay Trip To The North Norfolk Railway

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The North Norfolk Railway's BR Class 4 MT pulling into Weybourne Station
On Friday 28th June 2109, 22 of us visited the North Norfolk Railway in Sheringham.
We were greeted by members of staff with cups of tea and bacon butties on our first train journey of the day to Weybourne Station. There we had a guided tour of the engine sheds and workshops and shown the various renovations and repairs being undertaken there.

From Weybourne we journeyed to Holt back to Sherringham whilst we lunched on steak and ale pie and vegetables, followed by cheesecake and strawberries.

Once we had reached Sheringham, some of us had the opportunity to go on the footplate of the NNR's 4MT loco and photographs to be taken.

For the rest of the afternoon we had the choice of continuing riding along the railway, or sunbathing / ice cream eating on the sea front before heading off back to our homes.

A fantastic day in which we were blessed with fine weather, great company and great memories.

Here's looking to the next 70 years of our club.

These are just a small selection of photos taken by various members during the day. No credits are being attributed, but the photographers know who they are.