Gloucester Model Railway Club’s mission:

To further interest in scale model railways and to provide members with information,
advice and assistance about such railways; to arrange tours, lectures and discussions;
to arrange exhibitions of model railway interest; to obtain for members such relevant
privileges and benefits as may be possible.’


Our History

GMRC was formed circa.1961 by a small group of enthusiasts using the Archdeacon Church Hall of St Mary de Lode in Lower Westgate St, Gloucester. Alan Butcher, a well-known local modeller exhibited there and effectively formed a group with likeminded people who expressed an interested in the hobby. Initially meetings were held in a corner room with layouts been brought from storage cupboards and a corridor to be worked upon during Club night’s and then packed away again. One of the group, Ray Arnold a member of the 3mm Society exhibited a layout called Rodley to some acclaim.

This cadre of founders grew to included Ray Arnold, Godfrey Outram, Geoff Ford, John Boyle, Bert Hawkins, Roger Brown, Tom Couling, Ken Carpenter and John Fishpool. The camaraderie gelled well between them and some good modelling was achieved despite the limitations of the Church Hall.

Around 1962/3 the group felt they needed to move from the restricted premises at St Mary de Lode and following discussions with the Elmscroft Community Association transferred their allegiance to Coronation Grove, becoming an integral section of this community. More space was available, but still layouts had for be erected and dismantled after meets to free the space for others. At this time one member, the Reverend Wilbert Awdry (most famous as the author of all the Thomas the Tank Engine children’s books) was the person that the club gratefully recognised as the most important influence on the membership’s direction and he became our first President.

The ECA building erected during the war, because of bomb damage in Gloucester, was expanded in 1964, with the purchase of surplus Ex MOD Sectional Hutting from RAF Oxford. The GMRC section moved from the original building, into the end section of this new facility, which had been erected by members of GMRC section on behalf of ECA. This was a big improvement giving the members a permanent space of their own to utilise. The first layout to be built was a circular OO-gauge with single branch line, neutral in style so members could run stock of any period and Grouping without it looking out of place. Club nights were exceedingly popular with lengthy waiting times to get a go. The place was hectic and happy.

Soon, an Annual Modelling Competition was started with numerous awards for the likes of scratch built rolling stock and locomotives, scenic diorama’s, buildings and railway structures and railway layouts of the various gauges.

The popularity of the Club flourished with the Club night moving from Monday to Wednesday and back, members building on other nights as well and regular open days arranged to display the skills demonstrated in the Annual Modelling Competitions.

In the late Sixties the Club became a founder member of the original Association of Model Railway Clubs of Wales and West of England. This was a prestigious association pulling membership from all over the SW geographical area. Modelling groups vied to win in the many categories judged at the Annual Show, held at various Bristol locations over time. Its mantra was to produce a regional high-quality exhibition in furtherance of the hobby.

The first major exhibition layout originating from GMRC was 00-gauge known as Castle Hill. It was shown locally at the Guildhall in Eastgate Street and at the Technical College, Brunswick Road during those very early years as a prelude to it being shown at Bristol. The local shows were organised by the GMRC founder members.

Part of the challenge of exhibiting at Bristol was to compete by submitting modelling entries in many of classes being judged. i.e. Locomotive kit and scratch building, carriage and wagon modelling, architectural modelling etc. GMRC did well in these matters successfully winning awards on numerous occasions entered by the likes of Alan Butcher, Ken Carpenter, Peter Horswill and Harvey Whitmore. As the Clubs involvement grew with this regional competition, the GMRC used to hold local competitions at its Elmscroft HQ. Judges were recruited from all aspects of the model railway world through the influence of our President and winning entries would be candidates for inclusion for the Bristol Exhibition Competitions.

Throughout the Seventies the club continued to exhibit at Bristol, but it was becoming noticeable that the GMRC activities seemed to centre around the Bristol show which tended to restrict the memberships time and ability to plan anything locally. Even so, a follow-up layout 00 gauge known as Sevenhampton was produced and exhibited twice to excellent acclaim.

The Exhibition whilst costly to enter, was financially lucrative and the club memberships received regular dividends for their involvement. The downside was that the various groups had to provide manpower to erect/dismantle the show and steward the large volumes of public visiting. Over a period, this became more problematical. Our resources were stretched, both exhibiting and having to provide manpower to the organisation. Some of our membership left because of the pressures. Towards the end of the seventies the club felt that the restrictions of the Bristol based shows prevented us from a wider outlook and a democratic vote at an EGM took the decision to resign from the Association so that we could concentrate on our own independent strategy. The Swindon MRC did the same thing at that time and both of our clubs formed a friendly alliance to support one and another during that end of the decade. Also, at this time, one of our most senior and skilled modellers – Alan Butcher – became a build contributor of fine detail work for Pendon Museum. Several examples of his architectural modelling can be seen at the museum today.

GMRC’s first Public Exhibition was held in 1982 with great success and aplomb. Held at Elmscroft, over a two-day period and the attendance exceeded two thousand visitors attended

The club’s new 00-gauge layout Great Awdry was conceived during in that period although our Sevenhampton layout was still at that time, operational and our primary exhibit. Great Awdry, the successor to Sevenhampton was exhibited locally and regionally during the eighties. Its design allowed for clubroom operation in a small continuous 12ft x 12ft run but for exhibiting purposes extra baseboards were made to provide a twenty foot plus scenario.

By now, interest nationally was being also focused on the newer and smaller scale of N gauge, so a layout in that scale was planned. This project eventually became the club’s most exhibited layout, known as Fir Coombe. From 1980 to 1989 it was shown at over forty MR Exhibitions nationwide.

Based on the Clubs success in holding bi-annual exhibitions at Elmscroft the members that had operated and built Fir Coombe were challenged to build a new N gauge layout with a different theme in double quick time to be seen at its next Elmscroft show in 1984. This was achieved, and its constructors were Kit Spackman and Harvey Whitmore. This was a layout known as Smalltown and was also exhibited nationwide winning several awards. It still exists today but is not in operational use.

By the late Eighties space was again becoming a problem and members were looking for a solution. It came by way of surplus Terrapin wooden sectional building that had originally be the Drawing Office of the Walls Ice-cream Complex in Gloucester. This had been acquired by the GWR Heritage Railway Group, who had part re-erected it before being required to dismantle it, because of planning violations and lay dormant in one of their storage yards. Burt Hawkins and his son Nigel headed the negotiations between GWRS, GMRC and ECA management. Agreement was reached for it to be erected within the curtilage of the GCC leased land. GWRS gifted the building for the princely sum of £1, it was transported from Toddington and erected by GMRC members onto foundations costing £4000.00 paid for by our President, the Reverend Wilbert Awdry. It opened to use in 1994 and remains our home to this day.

At this time also, ECA formalised a 25-year lease with our landlord GCC. This gave the ECA membership (including GMRC) a secure future. Much improved from the legal risk of a 12-month notice being placed on ECA. The sections could now plan and progress with confidence.

The Club remained popular throughout this decade although faces changed the membership remained steady around 50-60 people. Towards the end of the Nineties a new 00-gauge layout was planned and constructed. It was known as Underwood Junction. Although it was built to a high standard, it never was finished from a scenic point of view and so sadly was never exhibited. It was a time when a revived interest in the larger scale of 0 gauge had been noticed. As costs and equipment from kits to *ready to run” models had become more cost effective and available the club built a layout in that scale. It bore the name Elmscroft Yard and was exhibited locally.

In the same period, a partly completed terminus to fiddle yard 00 layout scale, known as Windrush was donated to the club. Although never intended for exhibiting, the standard of work achieved was good enough for members to convert it for showing. It became the club’s flagship layout and won several awards nationwide over a 14-year period from 1997 until 2011.

A further new 00 exhibition layout based upon a local area near Cheltenham was conceived and built with a view to take over the baton from Windrush. Built by Phil Bird this is still held within the club and is known as Cheltenham South & Leckhampton. It has been exhibited with success around the country. A new N gauge exhibition layout was hatched by Harvey Whitmore around this time. After a long gestation period, the development has seen this project gather momentum and now it is 65% complete. It is known as Whitall and is based upon a scenario of 1939 just days before the outbreak of the 2nd world war. It is another Terminus to fiddle yard design and being based upon the region known as the Marches country it will operate as a GW and LMS joint line.

In the recent past, (2013/18) we have seen a great interest revival in the hobby and has attracted many new club members during this time. Often retirees that recall days of their youth when train sets were the prime source of children’s play time. To cater for this influx of interest the club provided a facility to build a very basic “starter” layout in 00-gauge for new members to learn the skills of model railway layout construction; i.e. base board assembly, track laying, wiring, scenic work etc. This project eventually produced a layout that became a full achievement in 00-gauge known as Great Badton. although originally never intended to be an exhibition layout it did represent the club by being shown at a couple of local shows. The lessons learned by the membership that participated in its construction and operation has led to a new project in the same scale which is now being planned.

Meanwhile our original 0-gauge layout was being rebuilt with a view to update and re-lay better standard track, electronics, and scenic work for the members to enjoy. This is on-going to this day. It will be known as Elmscroft Terminus.